Eversource is asking to raise our electric rates by $96 million next year and an additional $50 million annually for the next four years. As the Department of Public Utilities public notice details, Boston area customers would see an immediate rate hike of an insanely-high 8 percent. That’s at a time when wholesale electricity prices are actually dropping to new lows.
It’s not that Eversource isn’t making money – it’s already getting a double-digit profit in Massachusetts. Nationally, Eversource saw profits soar 7% in 2016 to $942 million. As Attorney General Maura Healey explains, this is a pure profit grab by Eversource:
In her testimony, AG Healey challenged the need for Eversource’s rate increase, noting NSTAR’s and WMECo’s high returns over the last few years. Referencing NSTAR’s 2015 return of more than 13 percent, Attorney General Healey told the DPU that “[l]ast year, no state public utility commission in the country allowed a return that high.” Between 2010 and 2015, Eversource’s shareholders of common stock received a cumulative total return (including quarterly dividends and the change in the market price per share) of 89 percent.
AG Healey and her office have been advocating against Eversource’s proposed rate increase since the company announced it in early January. Prior to the company filing its request, AG Healey sent the DPU a letter urging it to launch an investigation to explain why the allowed profits for Massachusetts utility companies are higher than the allowed profits in neighboring states. She echoed that sentiment in her testimony Thursday and challenged the DPU to consider the appropriateness of Eversource’s request to earn a 10.5 percent return on equity (ROE).
Citing a recent Regulatory Research Associates report and 2016 rate decisions in Connecticut and Maine, AG Healey noted that Eversource’s request is well above the shareholder profits allowed last year by public utility commissions throughout the country (9.3 percent nationwide average in 2016) and in neighboring states (9.1 percent in Connecticut and 9.0 percent in Maine). Small changes in a company’s ROE can either cost or save customers millions of dollars. Every one percent reduction in Eversource’s requested ROE will save customers more than $28 million a year.
Considering we’re also constantly being pressured to pay a gas pipeline tax, all of us need to speak up to say we won’t pay. It’s also maddening that conservatives are constantly trying to blame our so-far-pitifully-small investment in clean energy for rate hikes, when clear profit grabs like this are what actually spike our bills.
You have three ways to weigh in. Let’s go through them from most-effective to less-effective.
The most effective way is to show up at an upcoming hearing to tell the DPU you oppose a rate hike:
- March 30 at 6 p.m. Cambridge Public Library Lecture Hall 449 Broadway Cambridge, MA 02138
- April 3 at 7 p.m. Barnstable County Complex Harborview Conference Room 3195 Main Street Barnstable, MA 02630
- April 5 at 7 p.m. Keith Middle School 225 Hathaway Boulevard New Bedford, MA 02740
- April 6 at 7 p.m. Plymouth South High School 490 Long Pong Road Plymouth, MA 02360
- April 10 at 6 p.m. The Berkshire Athenaeum Auditorium 1 Wendell Avenue Pittsfield, MA 01201
- April 12 at 7 p.m. Springfield City Hall School Committee Meeting Room (Room 220) 36 Court Street Springfield, MA 01103
- April 24 at 6 p.m. Katharine Cornell Theatre 51 Spring Street Tisbury, MA 02568
- April 26 at 7 p.m. Greenfield Middle School Auditorium 195 Federal Street Greenfield, MA 01301
Next most-effective: Send a letter or postcard to DPU 17-05; c/o Mark D. Marini, Secretary; Department of Public Utilities; One South Station, 5th floor; Boston, MA 02110.
FInally, if you simply can’t be bothered to come out in person or put pen to paper to save yourself hundreds of dollars over the next decade, you can email email@example.com and specify DPU 17-05 in the subject line (by 5pm on 5/31/2017).