January 18 2017

Eversource Seeks Rate Hike; Massachusetts AG Voices Opposition

By: Rich Hosford

Eversource, the area’s energy provider, is seeking permission to raise rates on customers but will have to do so over opposition from the state’s attorney general.

Eversource said in a release it has filed a request with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities “to update its base distribution rates as part of a longer term plan to deliver the benefits of a modernized grid to customers.”

The company said it is requesting new rates to “alleviate a revenue deficiency” of roughly $60 million for its Eastern Massachusetts service area. To do that it is seeking to raise rates approximately 7 percent, which would come out to be roughly $8.45 per month for the average customer. It is also seeking to raise rates on Western Massachusetts customers for similar reasons by 10 percent, or roughly $11.64 per month for an average customer, to “alleviate a revenue deficiency of roughly $35 million.”

Eversource says the rate increases are necessary to pay for improvements the company has already made and to fund further improvements in areas of interest to customers, such as green technology and electric vehicle charging.

“Customers are experiencing fewer and shorter outages as a result of our smart investments in sophisticated technology,” said Craig Hallstrom, President of Massachusetts Electric Operations at Eversource.  “We’ve also worked hard to improve reliability for customers with efforts like our enhanced tree trimming programs, all while holding the line on rising costs. Now, we’re proposing to increase that commitment and utilize the latest engineering advances – including electric vehicle infrastructure and energy storage systems – for the benefit of customers.”

Eversource says it’s also investing more in cyber security features for customers.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, however, is opposing the rate hike, a release from her office states. The statement called the rate hikes “unjustified utility profits at the expense of customers.”

Healey said that over the five years between 2010 and 2015 Eversource’s shareholders of common stock received a cumulative total return of 89 percent, yet their customers paid higher distribution rates than “similarly situated” National Grid customers.

“As a regulated public utility, Eversource is required to justify why the state should permit it to raise electric rates on residents and business customers,” said AG Healey. “Our initial evaluation shows that Eversource should be returning profits to customers as savings, not raising rates. We urge the DPU to reject Eversource’s request for a rate hike.”

Read the full text of the AG’s release here.


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