Energy costs have risen sharply in recent years, severely impacting the budgets of residential and business consumers. Customer participation in ratemaking proceedings helps to ensure that electric and gas companies provide reliable energy services at the lowest cost.

In Massachusetts, electric and gas rates charged by investor-owned public utilities, along with other important energy matters, are controlled by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU). The exception is municipal electric companies, which are generally operated by the electric departments of local governments and administered by elected or appointed local boards.

When a utility company wants to change the gas delivery or electric distribution rate it charges customers, it must first receive permission from the DPU. In brief, the company files its plan with the DPU and places a legal notice about its proposed rate change in local newspapers. The notice includes information on how customers can submit written comments to the DPU about the proposed change. In most cases, the DPU will also hold one or more public hearings. See Overview of Electricity & Natural Gas Rates for additional information about the ratemaking process. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has similar procedures for receiving public comments on energy matters within its jurisdiction such as generation or transmission charges. For additional information, visit the Getting Involved section of the FERC website.

The AGO encourages public participation in the ratemaking process. Several organizations and individuals - the FERC staff and AGO staff, the utility company and others - typically participate in these proceedings. Commercial and industrial interests along with local elected officials, community action organizations and consumer advocate groups may also participate and provide comments on this critical component of the Commonwealth's economy. It is important that the DPU hear directly from utility customers about how a proposed rate change will affect residential and business consumers. Customers are also encouraged to comment on any aspect of the utility's service.

The DPU posts online a list of the major public hearings currently scheduled. The DPU maintains a complete electronic file of information on rate proceedings that includes new filings submitted by utility companies, scheduled public hearings and other DPU activities. Visit the DPU File Room to access this and other helpful information.