RI Energy proposes 24% hike to winter electric bills

By: - July 26, 2023 3:43 pm

Rhode Island Energy has proposed winter electric rates that would increase the average residential customer’s monthly bill by 24%. (Getty Images)

Get your wallets ready Rhode Island, because seasonal electric bill hikes are on the horizon.

Rhode Island Energy has proposed winter electric prices that translate to a 24% increase in the average customer’s monthly electric bill, according to new filings with state utility regulators. The six-month electric prices put forward by the state’s primary utility operator would go into effect  Oct. 1, if approved by the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission.

Seasonal increases in electric prices aren’t uncommon, but the highs have grown higher in recent years because of rising natural gas prices and global turmoil. Last year’s winter electric prices reached record levels, drawing protest from consumer advocates and the attorney general’s office.

This year’s prices are ever-so-slightly lower, with the proposed 17.74 cents per kilowatt-hour marking a .3% cut compared with last winter’s prices. However, the upcoming winter rates are still 72% higher than the existing summer prices, and will hike customers’ bills by an average of $32 per month, according to the company filings.

Commercial customers will also see their monthly bills increase by 10% to 29% while bills will rise by 4% to 40% for industrial customers, depending on usage. 

“As anticipated, this upcoming winter’s supply prices are on par with what we experienced last season,” Dave Bonenberger, president of Rhode Island Energy, said in a statement. “We all saw in our own homes and businesses how these commodity prices can impact a bill, so it’s more important than ever that customers become familiar with ways they can reduce their energy use and know about the resources available to them to help manage energy costs in the coming months.”

One small salvation: a reduction in a monthly customer charge, which had been doubled from its usual $6 per month to $12 per month over the summer to make up for a prior suspension of the fee. That monthly cost returns to its usual $6 per month in October, according to Ted Kresse, a spokesperson for Rhode Island Energy.

The $6-a-month fee, when applied to proposed winter rates, will result in a $166 monthly residential electricity bill (up from the existing $134 a month), based on the average residential customer using 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month, according to Rhode Island Energy. 

That does not take into account the savings from a four-month suspension in the state electricity tax that will begin Dec. 1, thanks to an allocation included in the state’s fiscal 2024 budget. The amount saved from the suspension depends upon customer usage, Kresse said.

“Knowing these higher prices were coming, we’re grateful that Rhode Island’s elected officials had the foresight to pass legislation this year that will suspend the gross earnings tax on our customers’ bills from December through March,” Bonenberger said. “That will help decrease bills a bit, and we’ll continue to work with state leaders on other ways to help the most vulnerable.”

Energy customers can also opt out of these fixed prices by buying their electricity directly from suppliers.

Earlier this year, seven cities and towns launched a community aggregation program, leveraging bulk buying power to secure the option for lower-priced electricity for their residents. Winter electricity prices through the Community Electricity Aggregation plan will be announced next month, ahead of a Nov. 1 start date, according to Jamie Rhodes, sales manager for Good Energy LP,  the consultant that helped Rhode Island municipalities develop the program. About 30% of 780,0000 Rhode Island Energy customers already opt out of the company’s default electric prices.

The Public Utilities Commission has not yet scheduled a meeting to consider, or take public comment on, the proposed winter rates.


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Nancy Lavin
Nancy Lavin

Nancy Lavin is senior reporter covering state politics, energy and environmental issues for the Rhode Island Current.