State utility regulators have asked Green Mountain Power to tell its customers about the full impact of all the rate increases that could hit this fall.
GMP, the state's largest electric utility, wants to hike rates by almost 3% in October. But because an earlier rate increase was deferred and surcharges will also take effect soon, customers could end up paying closer to 10% more this fall.
The Public Utility Commission sent GMP a letter Tuesday saying it is "concerned" that customers may not be getting the full story about the increases.
GMP had drafted a notice to its 265,000 residential and business customers saying that, if approved, rates will go up 2.92% annually for three years.
But the PUC told GMP it needs to make clear this increase will come on top of other rate hikes scheduled for this fall. These include an increase to cover storm recovery costs and one to pay for removal of trees infected by the emerald ash borer. And, on top of those rate hikes, the PUC noted a 6.33% bill credit expires in October.
Combined, the increases in October could reach about 10% for Green Mountain Power customers.
"The Commission expects to see a revised customer notice that describes all the changes that customers will experience," the PUC wrote in its recent letter.
GMP spokeswoman Kristin Kelly said she expects the company will rewrite the customer notice to reflect the full impact of the changes coming this fall.
"Obviously we're happy to explain the request we made and what it will mean for customers," Kelly said.
According to Kelly, the company has committed to controlling costs and stabilizing rates under a new multi-year rate plan.
"The 2.92% in the face of really dramatic upheaval in the energy business and a lot of costs that GMP cannot control … provides stability and predictability for customers,” Kelly said. "You know, it's in line with inflation."
Describing exactly how rates will change this fall does get a little complicated:
- Bills actually declined slightly last year because of a windfall from the new federal tax bill. That bill credit also erased the impact of a rate increase the company won last December.
- But the bill credit from the tax windfall goes away in October, at the same time the other surcharges and the potential new rate increase also take effect.
James Porter, director for public advocacy at the Vermont Department of Public Service, said the state is still reviewing GMP's latest rate-hike request. He noted customers will pay more this fall because the previous rate hike will kick in.
"The 10 months that increase was offset I think was beneficial," Porter said. "But yes, that will go into effect, or customers will see it on their bill beginning Oct. 1."
The PUC will rule on GMP’s newest rate hike request later this summer.