BOSTON — State Sen. John Cronin is requesting that state Attorney General Andrea Campbell investigate a recent decision by energy provider Unitil to increase rates for electric and gas customers.
On Aug. 17, Unitil sent out a notice saying that their rates would be going up soon and that they have requested approval from the state Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to increase the company’s electric and gas distribution rates.
However, Sen. Cronin, D-Fitchburg, along with the support from Legislators in Worcester and Middlesex County, said that Unitil is trying to charge “exorbitantly higher delivery rates than provided by other energy suppliers across the state.”
“Despite receiving the same service as those in neighboring cities and towns and paying market supply rates, Unitil’s customers pay delivery and distribution rates nearly twice as high than those serviced by other suppliers like Eversource and National Grid,” Sen. Cronin said in the letter to Campbell. “This has created an incredible burden on working families who have no recourse in an uncompetitive market.”
In the announcement of the rate increase by Unitil, the energy provider stated that the DPU has 10 months to process and review the rate changes before they can take effect.
If the rates are approved as filed, a typical residential electric customer using approximately 600 kilowatt hours a month would see a monthly increase of about $10.34, or 4.0%, according to Unitil. A gas heating customer using about 70 therms a month would see a monthly increase of approximately $31.86, or 15.5%.
Sen. Cronin, along with State Rep. Michael Kushmerek, D-Fitchburg, and State Rep. Margaret Scarsdale, D-Pepperell, is asking Campbell to investigate “why Unitil is unable to supply competitive delivery rates,” as well as potential price gouging.
The letter also asks Campbell for assistance in helping to provide “legal and regulatory options” in order to decrease delivery rates in North Central Massachusetts so they are more consistent with other energy suppliers throughout the state.
In a request for a response to Sen. Cronin’s letter, a spokesperson for Unitil said that the rate increase process will provide the public with ample opportunity to participate in the hearings that will come as a result of their request to the state DPU.
“We believe our filing includes a number of proposals that we believe will benefit our customers, especially those who qualify for the low income discounted rate,” read a statement provided by Unitil spokesperson Alec O’Meara.
Until is requesting to adopt what is called “performance based ratemaking,” which they say is used by many other utilities in the state to contain future costs. The company said that this move will allow them to eliminate the need for a rate increase until 2028.
O’Meara said that Unitil is also proposing to increase the total discount for customers on their residential low income rate from 34.5% to 40%, meaning that customers enrolled in the program would see an approximately 4.7% decrease in their monthly bill.
Until has created a landing page to provide more information about their request for the rate increase at unitil.com/ma-rate-case. Until’s last filing with the DPU was in 2019.