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RG&E to raise rates slightly, scale back natural gas under plan approved by state

Nov 20, 2020

Credit CITY News

Rochester Gas & Electric and its sister company, New York State Electric & Gas, will be allowed to raise their electricity rates slightly over the next three years, but will take steps to move away from natural gas under a modified rate case settlement approved Thursday by state utilities regulators.

Under the rate plan approved by the state Public Service Commission, RG&E customers will see electricity bill increases of roughly 1.6% in the first year, which starts Dec. 1, and roughly 2% in each of the second and third years.

RG&E had proposed raising electricity rates by 2.4% in the first year and 5.2% in each of the second and third year. The company had argued that the increases were necessary to offset necessary infrastructure investments, including projects to harden delivery systems against harsher weather brought on by climate change.

But the Public Service Commission said those increases weren’t justifiable, given the economic impacts of the COVID-19 public health crisis.

As part of the rate case proceedings, environmental groups from throughout the RG&E and NYSEG service areas got the utilities to agree to stop increasing their use of natural gas and instead invest in electric-powered heating alternatives and energy efficiency projects.

Under the settlement, NYSEG would halt a proposed pipeline expansion in the Southern Tier and both it and RG&E would stop promoting the use of natural gas and commit to net-zero growth in gas sales, according to a summary from the Public Service Commission. The two utilities, which are both owned by Iberdrola subsidiary Avangrid, will each put $750,000 toward heat pump incentives for low- to moderate-income households.

Heat pumps, which have become increasingly common in homes and businesses, are extremely efficient electric-powered heating and cooling systems.

“Did we want more? Certainly,” said Kristen Van Hooreweghe, who represented the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition in the proceedings. “Are we thrilled with what we got? Very much so.”

The rate plan approved by the Public Service Commission specifies that RG&E’s natural gas delivery rate won’t increase in the first year but will rise less than 1% in the second year and 1.3% in the third year.

Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at jfmoule@rochester-citynews.com.