In yet another sign that energy consumers are in for an expensive winter season, Eversource has asked state regulators to approve rate hikes over 40 percent for many households in Massachusetts.
In proposals filed with the state Department of Utilities, Eversource said Friday that it would increase the basic service rate for customers whose electricity is procured by Eversource on their behalf by 43 percent in the eastern part of the state and 42 percent in the western part of the state. Other costs factored into customer bills, including the delivery fee, are also expected to change, but the exact prices haven’t been finalized, the utility said in a statement.
The new rates do not apply to customers who are getting their electricity supply through a municipal aggregation contract or a competitive supplier.
The cost hikes before state regulators reflect Eversource’s increased cost of buying electricity with no markup profit, the company said.
If approved, a residential electric customer in eastern Massachusetts who uses 600 kilowatt hours of power monthly could see the supply portion of their bill rise by about $47. Compared with last winter, the average monthly bill is expected to increase by $53, the utility said.
The monthly increase for customers using the same amount of electricity in western Massachusetts would be $39.
With the approval of state regulators, the new rates would be in effect from Jan. 1 to June 30. Eversource has already raised electric rates significantly in New Hampshire.
In announcing the proposed rate increases, Eversource highlighted its payment options and financial assistance programs as well as government-sponsored aid.
“We know how challenging increased energy costs are for our customers who are already frustrated with rising costs for other basic, daily needs, and we want to help them manage their energy bills as much as possible,” said Penni Conner, Eversource’s executive vice president for customer experience and energy strategy, in a statement. “We’re here to work with our customers one-on-one on ways to reduce their energy usage and connect them with assistance programs, flexible payment plans or other resources to help them manage their monthly bill.”
Eversource said its assistance programs include monthly payment plans to reduce unpaid balances, extended payment plans, and no-cost energy efficiency programs.
The natural gas wholesale market has been blamed for the price hikes. Despite efforts to shift New England toward renewable energy sources, natural gas-fired power plants still provide at least half of the region’s electricity. Costs for obtaining gas skyrocketed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent natural gas shortage in Europe.
Eversource is also concerned about the grid’s reliability.
In the letter, Nolan said grid overseer ISO New England and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have indicated that New England may not have enough natural gas to meet electricity supply needs if there’s a severe cold snap this winter.
Customers who get their electricity from National Grid will also see higher bills.
In September, the utility said the monthly bill for a typical residential electric customer in Massachusetts would rise 64 percent from a year ago. The monthly bill of a typical National Grid residential electric customer is expected to rise from $179 last winter to $293 this winter. Those rates went into effect on Nov. 1.
To assist its customers, National Grid has launched a “winter customer savings initiative,” which highlights programs for energy savings, flexible payments to spread out the expense, and discounted rates for low-income customers.
Both Eversource and National Grid also sought increases in gas rates.
One form of government aid expected to help consumers pay their energy bills this winter is the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
Eligibility is based on income and household size. In Massachusetts, a household of four qualifies with an income up to about $81,500.