Jun. 16—Electricity bills are expected to climb nearly 50% in August for some New Hampshire ratepayers, thanks to volatile energy markets.
The price hikes are driven by the rising cost of natural gas.
Liberty Utilities is asking the state Public Utilities Commission to double the price of electricity from 11.12 cents per kilowatt hour, the rate in effect from February to July, to 22.23 cents starting Aug. 1. The new rate would be in effect until Jan. 31.
The company filed for the change with the PUC on Monday.
"The futures market prices for electricity and natural gas currently are at record highs and are experiencing significant volatility," said John Warshaw, manager of electric supply, in testimony to the PUC on Monday.
Eversource — which has about 70% of New Hampshire customers — is expected to file for similar increases.
The typical household would see a 47% increase, according to Liberty's filing. A household paying $154.71 (640 kWh) would see its bill increase to $226.92. Other charges, such as distribution and transmission, will remain the same.
"I think there is basically one factor, and that is there has been a huge uptick in the global cost of natural gas," said Donald Kreis, the state's consumer advocate. In New England, 64% of electricity consumed comes from burning natural gas.
"It is driven in significant ways by the war in Ukraine," Kreis said. "This is a global phenomenon we are feeling the brunt of."
The winter prices are expected to jump significantly. Futures show $125 per megawatt hour in August increasing to $250 per megawatt in the winter for electricity, and $8 per British thermal unit increasing to more than $30 for natural gas, according to Liberty's filing.
"I think it is going to be horrible. It will force people to sit up and take notice and start to make hard choices for what they can and can't do with their money," Kreis said. "It is very scary."
Kreis said the rate increase comes out of a competitive solicitation conducted by Liberty and is considered a "reasonable market price" for wholesale electricity. The PUC is expected to adopt the rate increase.
The rates are the highest proposed since New Hampshire deregulated utilities more than 20 years ago, Kreis said.
"This is by far the worst that we've seen," he said.
For now, there is not much residential customers can do, but down the road sources less reliant on fossil fuels should help.
Utility companies buy power six months at a time, which presents risk to the suppliers and can drive costs up, he said.
"We should take a look at how we are doing it," Kreis said.
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