ALBANY — Two statewide consumer groups are leading the effort to trip up a proposed rate hike that would result in higher electricity bills for customers of NYSEG, a utility serving large swaths of upstate New York.
The state Public Service Commission is supporting the proposed settlements of electricity and natural gas service rate requests by both NYSEG and its sister company, Rochester Gas & Electric.
But the Public Utility Law Project and AARP New York are taking issue with the electricity portion of the NYSEG package, contending it would result in bills increasing 25% over three years. RG&E electric bills, meanwhile, would jump 15% over that same period. The two companies are subsidiaries of Avangrid.
Under the settlement, the average monthly electric delivery charge for NYSEG customers would increase $2.49 in October. Monthly bills would increase $4.13 next year, and average bills would climb by $5.54 in 2022.
“The companies’ electric delivery rate cases are huge despite the inability of their customers to afford such increases,” said Richard Berkley, director of PULP, a nonprofit group that often weighs on utility proceedings.
The companies say the settlement, as structured, will allow them to make $30 million in COVID-19 relief for its most economically vulnerable residential customers and small businesses commercial customers in the form of $100 bill credits.
Michael Jamison, a spokesman for Avangrid, said the bill credits will end up covering “a good portion” of the rate increase for the approximately 133,000 customers expected to be eligible for them.
The plan also calls for both utilities to “make significant investment in tree-trimming” with an eye towards power lines more reliable amid storms, Jamison noted.
Both the electric and natural gas cases are consistent with the state’s climate agenda, he said.
“On the gas case, it is really by far the most progressive gas case ever filed by a utility in New York and probably the nation, and it works to help achieve the state’s policy goals,” Jamison said.
James Denn, a spokesman for the Public Service Commission, said electric bills for both NYSEG and RG&E customers will remain among the lowest in the state if the settlement is approved in September.
The parties that back the settlement include two state authorities, Empire State Development and the New York Power Authority.
As part of the settlement, NYSEG agreed to shelve a project that would have led to a larger pipeline replacing the current DeRuyter pipeline, running from Madison County to Oneonta. The expansion project had been vehemently opposed by Concerned Citizens of Oneonta.
The company is planning to maintain and do any necessary work on the existing DeRuyter pipeline.
The PSC will continue to accept public comments on the settlement through Aug. 5.
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at email@example.com.