Liberty Utilities expects customers will see higher electricity bills this winter

Last modified: 9/23/2014 1:14:20 AM
Liberty Utilities is expecting its customers’ electricity bills to increase this winter by nearly 50 percent.

The utility is planning to double its energy charge to 15.4 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity, from the current rate of 7.73 cents.

Liberty announced yesterday that it filed with the state Public Utilities Commission seeking approval of the rate change, which would go into effect Nov. 1. The company has roughly 43,000 customers in the Salem, Hanover/Lebanon and Charlestown areas.

Liberty’s average residential customers – those who use roughly 665 kilowatt-hours a month – would see their monthly electricity bill increase by about $50 overall under new rates, said company spokesperson John Shore.

“We are very aware that this rate increase may be a hardship for some of our customers,” Shore said in a statement. “So we encourage them to take advantage of the bill assistance and energy efficiency programs that we offer.”

The PUC won’t rule on the requested rate change until tomorrow, he said.

The state’s consumer advocate, Susan Chamberlin, said she is very concerned about the filing. “It is a large increase,” said Chamberlin, who added that she hasn’t yet analyzed the company’s energy bid process. “People should consider their competitive options to see if they can get a better price.”

Public Service of New Hampshire won’t officially file with the PUC until December for a rate change that will take effect Jan. 1. But last week the company predicted its winter rate would remain relatively steady and the company forecasted its energy charge would come in at roughly 9.61 cents per kilowatt-hour, a slight decrease from the current rate.

Unitil won’t file with the PUC until October for a rate change that will go into effect Dec. 1, according to a company spokesperson.

Liberty’s upward rate request is caused in part by the region’s limited natural gas pipeline capacity, Shore said. Many of New England’s power plants use natural gas to generate electricity. Over the winter, the demand for natural gas to heat homes rises and it puts a strain on the pipeline. The heating customers get precedence, which means during the coldest days some electric generation plants may have their natural gas supply interrupted, Shore said.

That market scenario drives the prices when Liberty goes into the open market seeking bids.

“The price is set by the market,” he said. “The market generators are predicting that . . . it may be another cold winter and the prices are going to go high.”



(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at amorris@cmonitor.com.)




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