Like most Rhode Islanders, I was shocked and dismayed by Rhode Island Energy’s (formally National Grid) announcement that residential electrical rates will increase over 125% from 7.810¢/kWh to 17.785¢/kWh in October.  This means the average customer will see a rate increase of about $52 a month.  I immediately worried about the impact this would have on my constituents, especially my elderly, disabled and low income neighbors.

Rhode Island, like the rest of New England, relies on natural gas for the bulk of its electricity production, so when the price of natural gas increases, the price of our electricity also increases.  Because of global conflicts and other supply issues beyond our control, natural gas is predicted to be extraordinarily high this winter.

As a state legislator there is little I can do about worldwide energy markets, but I can work to ensure that Rhode Islanders are getting the best price possible for their utilities.  As Chair of the House Oversight Committee, I, along with Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, am committed to hold Rhode Island Energy accountable for the promises made when they purchased the utility from National Grid.  There are three key provisions that I will monitor closely as they wind their way through the Public Utilities Commission process:

  • No distribution rate increase for three years
  • $50 million combined rate credit for all gas and electrical customers
  • And a discharge of bad debt for customers in hardship that fell 90 days behind in their bills with no impact to ratepayer.  

If reelected, Speaker Shekarchi and I promise to make affordable energy a priority in the next legislative session by continuing to closely watch RI Energy and carefully reviewing all legislation that impacts rates.

Also, I urge Rhode Islander to take advantage of programs that can help mitigate this price increase.  If you are struggling with your bills, please contact RI Energy and you may qualify for a decreased rate for low income customers or other energy assistance.  Customers should also consider a budget plan to help smooth the impact of high energy usage months.  And finally, please consider doing all you can to conserve energy, there are efficiency programs for all Rhode Islanders.  All of these programs can be found at rienergy.com or by calling 1-855-745-1101.

The author, Patricia Serpa, is a state representative from District 27. She resides in West Warwick.

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