Plan to provide rate relief to low-income Rhode Island families

(The Center Square) – A plan to provide relief to low-income Rhode Island residents for electricity bills this winter is in the works.

A $3.8 million proposal from the Office of Energy Resources, Gov. Dan McKee said, would use funding from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in an effort to support 39,000 at-risk, low-income families in affording electricity bills from October through March.

“This surge in electricity costs this winter are going to impact all Rhode Islanders,” McKee said in a release. “Our most vulnerable residents do not have the means to absorb this rate increase. We have a responsibility to do everything possible to protect them.”

McKee said the initiative would lessen the strain on family budgets when it comes to “higher-than-average” prices for electricity while at the same time providing relief to residents amid inflation and rising prices.

The office, according to the release, will formulate a proposal that will feature a 30-day public comment period. The initiative would support climate change, renewable energy, and energy efficiency aimed at moving toward goals set under the Act on Climate.

The Office of Energy Regulation will hold public hearings on the subject Sept. 6 and Sept. 8. Written comments can be submitted directly through the organization’s website.

The state’s primary utility company, Rhode Island Energy, has said it will request a large increase for rates throughout the winter. However, according to the release, the company is prevented by law from earning profits off rate increases and sending those energy costs directly to customers.

The announcement comes just one week after McKee sent a letter to the Public Utilities Commission urging the organization to provide relief to all state residents pending Rhode Island Energy’s rate increase request.

According to the release, McKee would like the company to suspend customer charges until next summer when rates are projected to decline; distribute $32.5 million in credits to ratepayers stemming from a settlement with PPL Corporation; and moderate the impact by spreading those rate increases over the span of a year.

“This direct rate relief to low-income constituents, are in recognition of the disproportionate financial burdens that low-income ratepayers will experience due to the unprecedented high cost of electricity this winter,” Interim State Energy Commissioner Christopher Kearns said in a release. “Our goal is to help ensure that these constituents will continue to pay an electricity rate that is comparable to what they paid last winter, without the burden of a substantial increase during the period that the winter rates are in place.”

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