The utility announced last year they would seek a general rate hike, for gas and electric utilities. The original proposal called for an increase in gas rates by about five percent and electric by about six percent. The company now says those numbers will be less, accounting for savings under the new federal tax law.
That didn’t stop some dozen people from criticizing the company for the proposed increase during a public hearing in front of the Public Utilities Commission. A small crowd gathered at Pawtucket City Hall, to voice their concerns over the potential increase.
“We don’t need our bills increasing,” said Pawtucket resident Anna Kastner. “We need publicly held utilities that are in the public interest.”
Most of those in attendance were organized by the George Wiley Center, and nonprofit and advocacy group that helps low-income Rhode Islanders. Most said an increase of any kind would hurt residents already struggling to pay their bills.
National Grid says the rate hike is necessary to pay for the mounting cost of maintaining infrastructure and training new hires. The company has not asked for such an increase since 2012. This increase is different from the periodic rate changes meant to deal fluctuating fuel prices and demand in the winter months.
The Public Utilities Commission will hold four more public hearings through the month of March around the state.
National Grid faced scrutiny in October after thousands of people were left without power for days, following a storm.