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National Grid customers can count on higher bills in future

Larry Rulison | Times Union

ALBANY — Don’t count on your electric bill shrinking over the next 15 years.

National Grid is forecasting that by the year 2029, the average residential electric bill, including electricity, delivery charges and taxes and fees, in upstate New York will rise from $89.62 a month to $132.38 — an increase of 47 percent.

And while the increase includes the expected rise in National Grid’s operating costs, much of it is going to come from the rise in wholesale electricity costs over that period. Wholesale power prices could nearly double over the next 15 years, National Grid believes, growing from roughly 6 cents per kilowatt hour to nearly 11 cents.

National Grid spokesman Patrick Stella cautioned that the data, which were filed with the state Public Service Commission on Friday, are just for planning purposes and could change based on a number of factors out of the company’s control. The numbers do not take into account natural gas home heating bills.

“It is important to realize that these long-term forecasts are just that, forecasts based on what we know today,” Stella said. “With the fast pace of the energy industry, many changes could take place that would change these types of long-range forecasts.”

The good news is that when adjusted for inflation, the rise of electric bills over that 15-year stretch, like other costs, shouldn’t be as painful as it looks on paper today.

The real, inflation-adjusted increase to electric bills should only be about 15 percent, bumping bills up to $103 in today’s dollars.

National Grid’s plan outlines the company’s spending plans and the expected rise in delivery rates, commodity prices and overall bills during that period.

Commodity prices will represent the bulk of the bill increases. According to National Grid’s plan, it is planning to keep the increase in delivery rates roughly in line with the rate of inflation.

National Grid’s upstate capital spending on its electrical system will increase from $452 million in 2015 to $676 million in 2029 as the utility continues to replace aging infrastructure and bolster its network against severe storms.

However, bills could rise at a faster pace if the state pushes for a more advanced electrical grid, the so-called “smart grid” that would require additional spending by utilities that would add another $5 to the average bill.

 

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lrulison@timesunion.com, 518-454-5504, @larryrulison

 

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