Unitil requests a change in gas and electric delivery charges to continue to fund reliability improvements for customers
Update: A second public hearing has been announced for Thursday, September 24, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. at the Fitchburg Public Library. A public hearing was held on Wednesday, August 12, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. at the Fitchburg Memorial Middle School to receive comments on Unitil's Petition for Approval of a general increase in electric base distribution rates and implementation of a capital cost adjustment mechanism, and a general increase in gas base distribution rates, to become effective July 1, 2015.
This summer, Unitil filed respective gas and electric distribution rate cases with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. Rate cases are an opportunity for Unitil, the office of the Attorney General and the state’s regulatory body to review our company’s operational costs and make sure the rates customers pay reflect the cost to provide safe, reliable service as accurately as possible. As part of what is typically a review that lasts up to ten months, the Department of Public Utilities will hold hearings, request testimony from Unitil officials as well as other experts and allow time for follow-up questions to be addressed. At the end of this process, the DPU will issue an order that formally sets Unitil’s gas and electric rates.
The news release for this filing can be found here.
Once available, the filing can be found at the Department of Public Utilities website.
- If the full amount of the requested electric increase is approved, Unitil customers using 600 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity would see an increase of $4.99 (or 3.5%) to their monthly electric bill. 600 kWh represents average usage for our customers, but over half use less per month. These customers who use less would see less of an increase.
- If the full amount of the gas rate case is approved, Unitil customers would see an increase of $13.68 (or 9.3%) to their gas bill, based on an average usage of 74 therms a month. Because gas usage is not consistent throughout the year, the increase would be lower in the summer months and higher in the winter months.
- Unitil has invested approximately $35 million on electric infrastructure improvements and innovative vegetation management practices over the last five years; these investments have insured safe service and have made a positive impact on reliability.
- Our storm resiliency program is providing additional clearance to primary power line corridors, lowering outages in more severe weather.
- Other electric infrastructure improvements include:
- Proactive infrared surveys detecting possible trouble spots before they fail
- Replacing poles and other equipment before they fail
- More animal protection guards to prevent animal-related outages
- Adding more fuse points to keep outages more isolated when they occur
- On average, Unitil customers have 25% fewer electric outages today than they did in the 2000s because of these investments.
- We believe these investments are making a positive difference for our customers and we want to continue the programs that are reducing outages for the region. As the costs go up for these ongoing investments, the rates, which are currently based on 2012 operational costs, need to reflect the current cost of these programs accurately.
- In support of our gas service, the rate case will allow us to continue our investments in our gas infrastructure, investments that include an aggressive pipe replacement program that has been recognized as an industry best practice and assures our system continues to operate safely and reliably.
Supply vs. Distribution
The distribution, or “Unitil” part of the bill, makes up roughly half of the total bill customers pay. The majority of the rest is the “supply” portion, which changes every six months based on the market rate at the time. Supply rate changes have been the chief driver of electric rate increases over the last year.