Boston area utilities customers had a big surprise in the last couple days -- a huge bill following the rate hikes from last month.
National Grid’s winter energy price hikes meant that the average monthly electric bill went up by 64% and the average monthly natural gas bill increased by 24%.
Eversource electricity customers saw increases between 19% and 30%.
“The other day we got our bill and my wife said to me, ‘Kevin, the bill came’ and she pounced out that number and I was like, I totally blocked it out, because it was absurd,” National Grid customer Kevin DeForge said, “from a $90 bill a month to $360 some odd dollars.”
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National Grid and Eversource are the state's largest energy suppliers. They first announced the major price hikes in late September, something many expected to have a huge impact on Massachusetts electric and natural gas ratepayers heading into the cold winter months.
National Grid released energy saving tips like turning off lights when you leave a room, setting your water heater at 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and turn down your heat supply when you’re not in a particular room.
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Here's everything you need to know about the price hikes, and how to help minimize their impacts:
Why are Massachusetts electric, gas rates rising?
National Grid said the war in Ukraine is to blame, along with inflation and high demand. Most of the electricity is generated in New England by plants that burn natural gas, and National Grid is passing their increased costs on to customers.
Eversource, meanwhile, cited "global pressures" for driving up the price of natural gas worldwide, without offering specifics.
National Grid price increase
National Grid said the monthly bill of a typical residential customer using 600 kilowatt-hours of electricity will increase from $179 last winter to about $293 this winter, an increase of about 64%. National Grid said the delivery portion of electric bills will basically remain flat.
"National Grid buys electricity on behalf of its customers from the wholesale power market through a regulatory approved process established 20 years ago. That process has served customers well over the years and provides flexibility for unforeseen events, like limited supplier response to solicitations. But things have fundamentally changed,” Helen Burt, the company's chief customer officer, said in a statement. “Today, under a sustained, high market price environment, it is challenging to maintain affordable prices. Given that, we think it’s a good time to work with our regulators and other stakeholders to review the process and electricity supply dynamics in the region, with an eye toward reducing price volatility and maintaining a secure, reliable and resilient energy system for the future.”
The company also announced that its natural gas rates are expected to rise on Nov. 1. They said they have a pending proposal with the state Department of Public Utilities that would result in the monthly bill for an average Boston Gas residential heating customer using 115 therms per month of $278, an increase of $50, or 22%, compared to last winter's rates.
Eversource price increase
Eversource, the state's other major electric provider, said in an email that it is on a different schedule than National Grid for setting its electric rates so no increases are currently planned.
"We file electric base service rates twice per year with the DPU," company spokesman Chris McKinnon said. "Our last change was on July 1, 2022 and our next change will be January 1, 2023, which we will be filing for in the coming months."
Over the border in New Hampshire, Eversource announced in July that electric rates would be doubling for many residents due to higher natural gas prices fueled in part by the war in Ukraine.
Eversource did announce Wednesday that it has submitted a proposal to the Department of Public Utilities seeking to raise its natural gas rates. They said their average residential customer using 126 therms of gas a month would see an increase of about 38%, or $86 on their natural gas bill over last winter. Those rate increases would take effect Nov. 1.
How to keep your energy costs down
National Grid said its "Winter Customer Savings Initiative" is aimed at helping customers cope with rising energy costs. It consists of educating customers on how they can reduce and manage their energy costs.
“We want to do everything we can to help our customers manage through the months ahead through our Winter Customer Savings Initiative, while maintaining high levels of service to meet their energy needs this winter season,” Burt said. “This includes informing customers that they can ‘shop’ or choose from different energy suppliers, in addition to taking advantage of energy saving programs, including those supported by Mass Save. We believe helping customers take more control over how and what energy they use creates a more equitable and affordable energy future.”
National Grid said it will be reaching out to customers to inform them of the Winter Customer Savings Initiative using multiple communications channels and through in-person Customer Energy Savings events being held across Massachusetts. These events will raise awareness of the choices and options customers have to reduce and manage their energy costs, including through National Grid’s many energy and cost saving programs and payment options, such as Balanced/Budget Billing, and other assistance programs.
“We know winter isn’t far away, so we’re encouraging and making it easier for our customers to take action now and letting them know that we are here to help,” Burt said.
In addition to the energy efficiency programs and payment options, National Grid said it will continue to provide financial support to community partners and organizations that help customers meet their energy and other basic needs.
Eversource said its natural gas customers can better manage their energy use, save money and reduce their impact on the environment through a variety of energy efficiency programs, during the winter heating months and year-round. This includes signing up for a no-cost, no-obligation home energy assessment for personalized recommendations for energy saving products for their home. Income-eligible customers may also qualify for additional money and energy-saving offers.
The energy company’s Heating Cost Calculator is also available on Eversource.com, which shows how colder weather impacts their bill and how small adjustments to their thermostat can lead to potential savings. Eversource also offers a variety of payment assistance options to support customers who are struggling with their bills—including those who have never needed help before. Additionally, the energy company offers Budget Billing, which enables customers to better manage expenses by dividing energy costs into fixed monthly payments, avoiding seasonal spikes.
“Heating homes during the winter months in New England is a necessity and as global pressures drive up the price of natural gas worldwide, we want to help our customers plan ahead to manage their energy use and overall cost as best we can before the cold weather arrives,” Penni Conner, Eversource's executive vice president for customer experience and energy strategy, said in a statement. “We are here and ready to connect our customers with resources like energy efficiency solutions, payment assistance plans and other customer support programs that can help offset some of the effects of that rising global energy costs are having on everyone.”
Meanwhile, on Friday, the new jobs numbers came out for the U.S. -- 263,000 jobs were added in November.
Boston College economics Professor Brian Bethune says about 30,000 to 40,000 government jobs being added helped the total number.
Prof. Bethune said the private sector also did relatively well.
“But in general, every month we see a slight decline,” Bethune said.
In November, Amazon and Meta were among major businesses to shed workers, but Bethune told NBC10 Boston that was because those companies over hired while coming out of the pandemic.
The national unemployment rate remained at 3.7% in November, and average hourly earnings went up 0.6%.