Hike rates

Town hall on utility rate hike opens discussion on dealing with high energy bills

When Milford State Rep. Maria Perez’s solar panels broke and she couldn’t get them fixed, the numbers on her electric bill surprised her. His first month’s bill was $350, the second $420 and the third $438.

“Either we have comfort and pay our bills, or we put food on the table, or we pay for medical insurance,” said Perez, who said she was forced to choose between basic necessities due to the coronavirus. increase in utility prices.

Eversource and Liberty have set their power supply rates at more than 22 cents per kilowatt hour since August, nearly doubling the previous 10 cents and 11 cents respectively. Unitil’s rate will rise from 10 cents per kilowatt hour to 26 cents – a whopping 160% increase – in December.

Perez and other Granite State residents worried about paying their utility bills attended the NH Utility Rate Hike Town Hall in Concord to learn about the resources available to help them through the winter and to think about the next steps.

New Hampshire Renews, a campaign to inspire a greener economy, hosted the event at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center to discuss how recent utility rate increases are affecting everyday life. Donald Kreis, the state’s consumer advocate, Leah Richards, energy assistance program director for the county’s Community Action Program, and Dan Weeks, vice president of business development at ReVision Energy were the panelists.

Laconia resident and former state representative Mo Baxley said she unplugs all of her appliances and electronics when not in use. To save money on her energy bills, she only leaves her fridge plugged in.

Energy costs don’t just impact households.

Anne Grossi, a Bedford resident, spoke about the challenges faced by small businesses such as family restaurants. She said a restaurant she frequents in Manchester, which has just been open for two years, is barely doing well with rising utility costs.

“Their electricity bill has more than doubled since the rate hike,” Grossi said.

One of the most frequently asked questions throughout the discussion was whether there was another affordable way to get energy services.

Kreis reminded people that they don’t have to accept such exorbitant default energy service rates.

“There are other competitive energy providers you can switch to, but there are pitfalls that come with that,” Kreis explained. “If you switch to a competing supplier, you’re going to end up in a commitment for an extended period of time.”

A list of utility companies by city is available on the NH Department of Energy website.

In addition to switching suppliers, focusing on renewable energy and removing barriers to increasing production from solar, wind and other alternative energy sources will help customers reduce their electricity bills.

Solar power accounted for 16% and 20% of total net electricity generation in the state of Vermont and Massachusetts, respectively, in 2021, according to the US Energy Information Administration. However, solar power only generated 1% of the electricity used in New Hampshire.

“I think engagement in elections, legislative procedures dealing with issues like community power” is needed to change the situation, Weeks said.

With winter fast approaching and energy costs rising, ensuring Granite Staters could afford to heat homes was an immediate priority.

Under certain conditions, customers are protected against disconnections from utility providers between November 15 and March 31.

Richards advised people who receive utility disconnect notices to contact their county’s Community Action Program, which can help with their energy needs.

While discussing next steps, Erika Perez of the NH Youth movement, which is unrelated to Maria Perez, said the upcoming elections provide an opportunity for the public to address their concerns.

“We can put them on camera and ask them, ‘Do you want to vote for rate caps that would prohibit utility companies from raising their rates by 100%? Will you vote to diversify New Hampshire’s energy resources to include more renewables? “said Perez.