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Utility rate increases denounced by New York governor

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul had harsh words for two upstate utility providers who announced late last week they intend to seek rate increases that could cause consumers’ bills to jump by more than 20%.

On Thursday, AVANGRID, Inc. said its New York State Electric and Gas and Rochester Gas and Electric applied to increase residential gas and electric rates with the state’s Public Service Commission. Those increases would take effect next May.

Under the proposal, the utility providers plan to remove older infrastructure and build a more resilient system that’s more environmentally friendly. To do that, gas and electric service rates would go up between $10 to $18 per month. AVANGRID estimated that would translate to a 13-to-22% hike each month.

Hochul slammed the proposal as “outrageous and unacceptable,” especially as New Yorkers continue to battle inflation.

“The Department of Public Service is legally required to review all proposed rate increases, and I urge them to scrutinize every number and word of this proposal to protect New York families from unjustified and unfair rate increases,” the governor said in a statement.

NYSEG provides electricity to more than 907,000 customers and natural gas to more than 270,000 customers across upstate New York. RG&E serves nearly 386,000 electric customers and 320,000 natural gas customers in a nine-country area around Rochester in western New York.

Among the infrastructure changes the utilities plan to make are installing more than 10,000 new poles they say will be more resilient and reduce power outages during storms. The companies also would continue working to replace gas lines they say are prone to leaks.

NYSEG and RG&E also say the rate hikes would go toward “smart technology” that will enable them to connect to wind and solar power more efficiently. The state has announced its intention to generate more power through renewable sources, such as offshore wind farms.

The state wants to generate 9,000 megawatts of power through offshore windmills by 2035. That would provide energy for 6 million homes in New York.

“The existing New York energy grid was not built with renewable energy sources in mind,” the AVANGRID statement said.

Thursday’s filing by the utilities starts an 11-month review process. NYSEG and RG&E said they plan to meet with state regulators and key stakeholders to discuss plans for a “potential multi-year rate recovery of costs” that would lessen the impact on ratepayers.

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