Town hall on utility hike rates opens discussion on managing high energy bills

  • Donald Kreis, New Hampshire’s consumer advocate, and Leah Richards, an energy assistance program director with the county Community Action Program, were part of a panel to discuss the rising electric rates in the state at the Discovery Center in Concord on Thursday evening, October 27, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Published: 10/29/2022 5:14:58 PM
Modified: 10/29/2022 5:14:38 PM

When Milford State Rep. Maria Perez’s solar panels broke and she couldn’t get them repaired, the numbers on her electricity bill startled her. Her first month’s bill was $350, the second was $420, and the third was $438.

“We either have comfort and pay our bills, or put food on the table, or we pay for medical insurance,” said Perez, who said she was forced to choose between basic necessities due to utility rate increases.

Eversource and Liberty have set their energy supply rates at more than 22 cents per kilowatt hour since August, nearly doubling the previous 10 cents and 11 cents respectively. Unitil’s rate will go from 10 cents per kilowatt hour to 26 cents – a whopping 160% increase – in December.

Perez and other Granite State residents worried about paying their utility bills attended the N.H. Utility Rate Hike Town Hall in Concord to learn about the resources available to assist them through the winter and to brainstorm the next steps.

New Hampshire Renews, a campaign to inspire a greener economy, hosted the event at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center to discuss how recent utility rate increases affect everyday life. Donald Kreis, the state’s consumer advocate, Leah Richards, an energy assistance program director with the county Community Action Program, and Dan Weeks, Vice President of Business Development at ReVision Energy were the panelists.

Laconia resident and former State Representative Mo Baxley said she unplugs all of her appliances and electronics while not in use. To save money on her energy costs, she keeps just her refrigerator plugged in.

Energy costs have an impact on more than just households.

Anne Grossi, a Bedford resident, discussed the challenges faced by small businesses such as family-owned restaurants. She said a restaurant she frequents in Manchester, which has just been open for two years, is barely making it with the utility costs rising.

“Their electrical bill has more than doubled since the rate rise,” said Grossi.

One of the most commonly asked questions throughout the discussion was whether there was another affordable way to obtain energy services.

Kreis reminded people that they are not required to accept such exorbitantly high default energy service rates.

“There are other competitive energy suppliers you can switch to, but there are pitfalls that come with it,” Kreis explained. “If you switch to a competitive supplier, you are going to end up in a commitment for an extended period.”

A list of utility companies by town can be found on the NH Department of Energy website.

Aside from switching suppliers, focusing on renewable energy and breaking down obstacles to increase the production of solar, wind, and other alternative energy sources will help customers reduce their electricity bills.

Solar energy contributed 16% and 20%, respectively, of Vermont’s and Massachusetts’ total in-state electricity net generation in 2021, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. However, solar power generated just 1% of the electricity used in New Hampshire.

“I think engagement in elections, legislative proceedings dealing with issues like community power ” is needed to change the situation, said Weeks.

With winter quickly approaching and energy costs risings, making sure Granite Staters have the means to heat homes was an immediate priority.

Under certain conditions, customers are shielded from utility provider disconnections between November 15 and March 31.

Richards advised people who receive notices of utility disconnections to get in touch with their county Community Action Program, which can help them with their energy needs.

While discussing next steps, Erika Perez of the NH Youth movement, who has no relation to Maria Perez, said the approaching elections offer the public an opportunity to have their concerns addressed.

“We can get them on camera to ask – ‘Will you vote for rate caps that would prohibit utility companies from increasing rates by 100%? Will you vote to diversify New Hampshire’s energy resources to include more renewable energy?’ ” said Perez.

Sruthi Gopalakrishnan

Sruthi Gopalakrishnan covers environmental and energy stories in Bow, Hopkinton, Dunbarton and Warner for the Concord Monitor. In 2022, she graduated from Northwestern University with a master's degree in journalism, specializing in investigative reporting. She also has a bachelor's degree in Computer Science and Engineering and is always looking for new ways to incorporate data and visual elements into her stories. Her work has appeared in Energy News Network, Prism Reports and Crain's Chicago Business.

Stay informed with our free email updates
Concord Monitor Daily Headlines
Concord Monitor Breaking News
Concord Monitor Dining & Entertainment
Concord Monitor Report For America Education
Concord Monitor Report For America Health
Concord Monitor Real Estate
Concord Monitor Sports
Concord Monitor Suncook Valley
Concord Monitor Contests & Promotions
Concord Monitor Weekly Most Popular
Concord Monitor Granite Geek
Concord Monitor Monitor Marquee
Concord Monitor Hopkinton
Concord Monitor Politics
Concord Monitor MY CONCORD
Concord Monitor Franklin

Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301


© 2021 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy

Customer Service

Social Media


View All Sections

Part of the Newspapers of New England Family