National Grid customers in Massachusetts see winter electric rates shoot up 37 percent

IndustriesAssociated Press

Many Massachusetts households are going to see their electric bills shoot up 37 percent this winter, a rate increase that some advocates fear will put additional strain on low-income families.

State regulators approved the increase for National Grid household customers that would mean an average of $33 per month more for the typical residential customer and would push a typical monthly bill higher than $150.

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Large-business customers will see even higher increases.

National Grid has almost 1.3 million residential and business electric customers in Massachusetts. The new rates take effect in November.

"This is pretty bad, and it's going to really have a bearing on a lot of Massachusetts households' abilities to just make ends meet this winter," John Howat, senior energy analyst at the National Consumer Law Center in Boston, told The Boston Globe.

The utility blame the rate hikes on the cost of buying electricity from power plants, which has soared because of an increased demand for natural gas used to generate electricity.

"This is something that's not within National Grid's control," spokesman Jake Navarro said. "This is a market-based problem."

The rate hikes will also hurt businesses.

"It's a very difficult thing, particularly for small businesses at a time when they're already struggling with the highest health care costs in the country and soon to be highest minimum wage," Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, told the Boston Herald. "All these things are required costs of doing business, and it's very difficult to be profitable."

NStar, with more than 1.1 million customers in the state, and Western Massachusetts Electric Co., with about 213,000 customers, also expect to seek rate increases, a spokesman said.

Those companies, both owned by Northeast Utilities, won't file their winter rate requests until later this fall.