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    Not a moment too soon for electric rate cut

    March 21, 2023 - The Springfield Republican


      For customers of National Grid, the cost of electricity this winter has seemed a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

      But it appears relief is on the way. The utilities company announced that if approved by the state Department of Public Utilities, the typical monthly residential bill will drop 39% on May 1.

      For thousands of residents, that can’t come soon enough.

      This was an especially painful winter for consumers, with costs soaring for reasons National Grid said was largely out of its control. The company that supplies energy for 20 million Massachusetts and New York customers says it buys electricity from the wholesale power market and passes through those costs without any markup or profit.

      As warmer months approach, power plants find fuel at lower prices. According to National Grid, the consumer price per kilowatt-hour will still be about 2.6 cents higher this summer than in 2022, but at least the skyrocketing increase will abate.

      Utility markets are volatile, and the regulating state DPU, which monitors increases, could not deny their need as the 2022-23 winter approached.

      Inflation that saturated the economy in 2022 was a contributing factor, as was the high cost of natural gas on the global level, with the onset of the war in Ukraine notably disrupting the world energy economy.

      The market is now somewhat less volatile. Westfield Gas and Electric, a municipal utility, is expected to lower its gas rates in April and May. Eversource will reset its rates again in July.

      When colder weather approached, regulators allowed National Grid and Eversource increases of 64 and 43%, respectively, based on dismal projections.

      When oil prices dropped significantly, the energy landscape changed and dozens of state lawmakers questioned those increases.

      It helped that January and February were unusually warm. But after two storms in March, the cost of restoring power will cause the energy companies to move carefully, even while lowering rates.

      Utility company executives must anticipate supply and demand based on some circumstances they can control but others, such as global conditions, they cannot. News of the anticipated rate drop is worth a sigh of relief for consumers who took a financial pounding this winter, but can at least look for more digestible numbers on their bills in the warmer coming months.


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