PROVIDENCE, RI -- This afternoon, Lt. Governor Daniel J. McKee held a press conference to call for action on his Ratepayer Protection Legislative Package that would improve customer service levels to electric ratepayers and lower energy costs for Rhode Island small businesses and residential customers.
McKee was joined by general assembly members, municipal leaders and local small business owners to support this legislative package. In attendance were Representative Deborah Ruggiero; Senator Ana Quezada; Mayor Scott Avedisian, Warwick; Town Administrator Steven Contente, Bristol; Mayor James Diossa, Central Falls; G. Richard Fossa, Chief of Staff to Mayor Charles Lombardi, North Providence; Mayor Donald Grebien, Pawtucket; Mayor William Murray, Cumberland; Oscar Meijas, President, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Wayne Celia, President, Diversified Distribution; Bob Collins, Owner, Reidy's Family Restaurant and Kevin Hoyle, CEO, B2B Gateway.Net.
The Ratepayer Protection Legislative Package is a continuation of McKee's efforts to lower energy costs that began in 2015 with the elimination of the billing adjustment, a fee that cost National Grid customers about $1.5 million that year after they switched to competitive electricity suppliers. The package also builds on McKee's more recent work in this area, the 2016 launch of Empower RI, an energy-shopping website that allows commercial and residential ratepayers to find the best electric rates.
McKee's legislative package is made up of five bills:
H 6171/S 874: Lowering energy costs by encouraging competition in the electric market. Creates a program that requires electric companies to bear the risks related to nonpayment by customers. This reduces the barriers that competitive suppliers face to entering the electric market.
H 6182/S 875: Lowering energy costs by properly accounting for incentive payments. Requires the Public Utilities Commission to account for incentive payments that are paid to utility companies by using those payments to reduce profit levels during rate approval cases, thereby reducing rates. This bill also requires electric companies to submit a detailed summary of all incentive payments received each time the company proposes a rate increase.
H 6184/S 879: Preventing electric rate increases to fund gas supply expansion. Prevents electric distribution companies from charging electric customers costs related to the construction or expansion of natural gas pipelines or related facilities.
H 6188/S 876: Lowering energy costs by limiting profits through revenue decoupling. In states without revenue decoupling, a utility company's revenue is tied to its sales. In states with revenue decoupling, like Rhode Island, a utility company's revenue is tied to a formula and not its sales. This formula is designed to reduce risk to a utility's shareholders. This bill permits the Public Utilities Commission to take the reduced risk into account when setting a utility company's approved profit level, which reduces electric rates and saves money for all ratepayers.
H 6190/S 886: Improving utility responsiveness to ratepayers. Requires all public utilities to provide prompt and adequate customer service to their ratepayers including: timely installation of new and upgraded service; status updates regarding installation and upgrade wait times; itemized bills to ratepayers following any installation, construction, site visit or service and itemized written estimates prior to any installation, construction, site visit or other service. Ratepayers may report customer service complaints to the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, which shall promptly investigate and rule on such complaints.
"Ratepayers in Rhode Island face some of the highest energy costs in the country. For small businesses, high energy costs can stifle expansion and innovation, and serve as an obstacle to a thriving business climate. For residential ratepayers, high electric bills can stretch hard-earned dollars to the limit," said McKee. "It's time to get serious about lowering energy costs in Rhode Island by balancing the interests of the shareholder and the ratepayer. The Ratepayer Protection Legislative Package does just that."
This legislative package is part of Lt. Governor McKee's ongoing effort as Chair of the Small Business Advocacy Council to lower energy costs and create a small business friendly environment in the Ocean State.