|Attorney General Healey to Testify at Eversource Rate Hearing In Pittsfield|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
03:02AM / Friday, April 07, 2017
|Attorney General Maura Healey, seen in this file photo, says the 10 percent rate increase being requested by Eversource is bad for customers. She plans to testify against it. |
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Attorney General Maura Healey will be at the library on Monday to do what her staff has been doing all across the state — opposing the electrical rate increase proposed by Eversource.
The electric company has asked for steep increases in rates throughout the commonwealth — 10 percent in Western Massachusetts and 7 percent in the eastern portion of the state. The company claims that it needs to raise the revenue to maintain profits for shareholders at 10.5 percent and to upgrade the system's infrastructure.
"We are here to watch the bottom line and make sure they are not overcharging the customers," Healey said in a telephone interview on Thursday. "This is a proposed rate increase that is bad for the customers."
Healey says the 10.5 percent return on equity is more than the national average for similar utilities. She said utility companies in Maine and Connecticut have return rates of 9 and 9.1, respectfully. Healey says every percentage cut from the profit margin translates to $28 million in customer savings.
Residents would see a $150 increase in annual costs and businesses could see an increase of 50 percent. But that is only the start. Healey says Eversource is asking for an increase over the following three years as well.
She doesn't believe the company needs to maintain that level of shareholder return nor is there a guarantee that the infrastructure improvements proposed will ever be accomplished.
"Utilities are basically given monopolies and, in exchange, they are allowed to make a profit ... But they can't exploit the ratepayers," Healey said. "This is a company that has been very profitable and has realized returns greater than many other companies."
The increased proposal has raised alarmed in Western Massachusetts, particularly in the high-use sectors of business and government.
"If there is going to be a rate increase it should be as low as possible," Healey said.
Eversource is looking to bring in a total of $96 million in additional revenue with the increase. The company says not only will it be used to maintain shareholder returns but it will also put money toward renovating the delivery systems, investing in energy storage, and increasing electric-vehicle charging locations.
Healey says she supports the stated investments but hasn't seen a guarantee that the new revenue will be used for those infrastructure improvements.
The state Department of Public Utilities is holding a series of hearings throughout the state. Healey has been vocal in opposition to the move since it was filed in January.
"This is an important issue across Massachusetts," Healey said.
Monday's hearing starts at 6 p.m. at the Berkshire Athenaeum.