- National Grid has suspended for three months rate increases for electric and gas customers in upstate New York, in response to economic fallout related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) approved an order on Wednesday authorizing National Grid's rate hike delay, pushing it back until July 1. The utility is also waiving fees associated with some collection-related activities.
- National Grid was the only electric utility poised to raise rates on the first of next month, but the PSC said other companies could be asked to make similar changes if conditions warrant. New York's major electric and gas utilities have all halted service shutoffs for the time being, a trend that has also been seen nationwide.
Utilities are continuing to expand their response to the spread of coronavirus, taking steps to reduce hardship on customers who are already facing economic uncertainty.
"We have made the commitment to help our customers through these challenging times," National Grid interim U.S. President Badar Khan said in a statement. "We will continue to closely monitor our customers’ needs during the pandemic and find new ways to assist where we can."
The planned increases had been approved as part of a multi-party agreement that called for an approximately 4% increase in electricity bills and a 5% increase in natural gas bills. The increased revenues were intended to support investments in infrastructure, energy efficiency and other initiatives.
Along with the delayed rate increase, National Grid also delayed until July changes to a low-income customer credit that would reduce available discounts.
National Grid's rate increase would have boosted electric delivery revenues by $89.6 million and gas delivery revenues by $21.5 million. Monthly bill impacts would have been about $3.25 for residential electric customers and $3.18 for residential gas customers.
The utility says it has also asked regulators to defer until summer any increases from pending gas rate cases for downstate New York.
PSC spokesman John Chirlin told Utility Dive that New York has no other utilities with pending rate cases in the near future, and that any decisions on future rate hike delays "will be made at the appropriate time."
The decision to delay rate hikes for National Grid "originated with the Public Service Commission," Chirlin said in an email.
Across the country, utilities are taking steps to help alleviate economic hardships created by the spread of coronavirus. Several states have ordered a suspension of service disconnections, and many utilities are offering deferred payment plans and eliminating late fees.
Utilities are "working with their communities and their regulators to identify ways to assist customers during this health emergency," Edison Electric Institute spokesman Brian Reil told Utility Dive.
A record 3.28 million individuals applied for unemployment benefits last week.