The New York State Public Service Commission voted this week to hold the average National Grid customers' electric delivery bills to a zero increase this year, while allowing the company an overall rate increase of approximately $112.7 million, achieved through the postponement of implementing its rate recovery structure of certain expenses.
"The commission and its staff worked diligently to provide relief to National Grid ratepayers," said commission Chairman Garry Brown. "In addition to freezing electric delivery for the average residential customer this year, we anticipate next year residential delivery rates will remain steady; meanwhile, commercial and industrial customers next year could see rate decreases of up to 50 percent, a move that will have a positive economic impact all across upstate New York."
Currently, a typical residential upstate National Grid customer using 500 kilowatts of electricity per month pays approximately $51.55 a month for delivery of electric service.
In January 2010, National Grid filed a petition to increase its electric delivery revenues by $390.6 million for 2011. The commission this week determined that $112.7 million in National Grid revenues serves the reasonable needs of the company for this year. Included in the $112.7 million is $50 million of temporary rates that are subject to the results of the pending audit of National Grid's service company expenses.
The commission was able to prevent an actual bill increase by postponing National Grid's recovery in rates of certain expenses such as post-employment benefits, major storm restoration costs, and site investigation and remediation costs, while at the same time allowing for a full recovery of all fixed charges for power supply contracts this year.
In other matters the commission also approved an increase of $3.7 million in funding for low-income assistance programs, to a total of $10.75 million. Low-income programs were strengthened by increasing monthly bill discounts for income-qualified electric heating customers and bill credits under the Affordability Program. National Grid will hire an additional consumer advocate to help assist eligible customers through the application process for low-income assistance.
The commission continued and strengthened customer service performance and system reliability targets designed to ensure that customers receive high level of service and that outages are minimized to the greatest extent possible. If the reliability targets are not met, National Grid will be required to reduce the revenues from customers that it retains by up to approximately $12 million annually.
Finally, the commission approved National Grid's economic development grant program. The initiative is designed to attract, retain and expand eligible businesses in upstate New York. The underlying intent of the $9.1 million grant program is to maximize the efficient use of the utility's infrastructure and reduce the cost to serve all customers.