AG Healey, DOER Secure $3.5 Million in Savings for Liberty Utilities Customers
Agreement Provides Funding for Low and Middle Income Customers, Prohibits Company from Imposing New Rate Increases for Three Years
Boston – Attorney General Maura Healey, the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and the Low-Income Weatherization and Fuel Assistance Program Network have negotiated an agreement with Liberty Utilities Corp. d/b/a Liberty Utilities that reduces the company’s proposed rate increase by $3.5 million and prevents it from imposing any other distribution rate increases for three years.
The agreement also provides $100,000 to equip low and moderate income customers with wireless heating controls to assist with lowering the cost of heating their homes beginning in the 2016 heating season.
“As the ratepayer advocate for Massachusetts, I am committed to fighting for fair rates and will continue to require energy companies to justify proposed rate increases,” said AG Healey. “This agreement will save ratepayers $3.5 million on their heating bills and provides more vulnerable customers with the assistance they need.”
“This settlement not only limits the impact to ratepayers bills, but also provides for additional innovative energy efficiency incentives that will help low and moderate income customers save money on energy bills in next year’s heating season,” said DOER Commissioner Judith Judson.
The settlement, filed with the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) Tuesday, resolves a proceeding before state regulators where Liberty Utilities sought to hike distribution rates by approximately $11.8 million. The settlement agreement lowers the rate increase to $7.8 million for 2016, and includes a negotiated phase-in of rates, preventing the company from collecting any more than an additional $500,000 in 2017. The company may not receive the additional $500,000 unless it increases its employee headcount by an amount detailed in the settlement.
Under the terms of the agreement, Liberty Utilities is also prohibited from petitioning the DPU for another distribution rate increase prior to March 2019. Without this agreement, Liberty Utilities could request another rate hike within the next year.
Liberty Utilities has agreed to provide $100,000 for wireless heating controls and associated demand reduction programs for low and moderate income residential gas heating customers in the company’s service area. Liberty Utilities serves over 54,000 customers in Fall River, North Attleboro, Plainville, Somerset, Swansea and Westport.
The agreement also maintains support for eligible low income customers through the Arrearage Management Program. The program provides financial assistance to eligible low income customers who have outstanding bills by helping them increase energy efficiency and develop a working budget to reduce debt.
Beginning in March 2016, Liberty Utilities estimates that a typical residential heating customer’s monthly bill will increase by an average of approximately eight percent compared to current rates.
The agreement requires approval by the Department of Public Utilities.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General John Geary of AG Healey’s Energy and Telecommunications Division and Mike Altieri, counsel for the Department of Energy Resources.