National Grid suggests payment plans for customers

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Updated: 3/28 11:25 pm

MENANDS, N.Y. – National Grid says it does not control pricing, but is assisting customers through payment plans to help with the rising electric bills.

The extreme winter weather has been blamed for customers rising energy bills. Colder weather has caused increased demand resulting in increases in prices as well.

The New York Independent System Operator said month-long electricity use set a record in January. It was the highest total in the 15-year history of the NYISO.

National Grid said the supply charges in the Capital Region have increased from 46 to 55 percent for December and January. Spokesperson Patrick Stella said the company is trying to help its customers.

"They're calling us to try and get them on a payment plan, a different kind of payment plan if they need that," he said. "We could try to work with them that way. Energy efficiency, you know, using less will help."

Stella said National Grid only controls delivery charges and not supply charges.

"I know people are out there, and they have to pay their National Grid bill, and they don't understand how it couldn't be something that we can't control, but it really isn't," he said. "I equate it a lot to getting your car repaired; there's parts and labor. The mechanic doesn't have control over what the part cost is."

The NYISO has asked for an investigation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission into the price hike.

In a letter, NYISO said, "The NYISO will be working with the PSC, the New York State Reliability Council, and appropriate state agencies to enhance communications protocols and practices during severe winter events."

NYISO also asked FERC to conduct a review of natural gas markets performance during the winter period. The Public Service Commission also asked for the same. The PSC said it is now awaiting the results of an April conference by FERC addressing the issue.

The letter then asks FERC to investigate the issue to determine if any market wrongdoing exists. Price gouging has been speculated already by customers.

"There's no way we can gouge or do any of that kind of thing because that cost actually gets passed on and goes to the actual purchase of the electricity," Stella said. "We don't make that up. We don't benefit from that, so there's nothing like that on our part."

Dr. Kajal Lahiri is a Professor Economics at the University of Albany.

"Obviously, we have consumed more electricity and gas. No doubt about it this winter because of the severity," he said. "On the other hand, prices have increased a little bit and part of it is, of course, when the demand is more, there is a pressure on short run price variations increase."

Both National Grid and Lahiri said customers should see a 45 to 50 percent decrease in their energy bills.

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