Berkshire Gas Files for New Rates with the MDPU
(Pittsfield, MA) – May 17, 2018 – Today, The Berkshire Gas Company has filed a petition with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (“MDPU”) to increase its annual net operating revenues by $3.1 million, representing a 4.3 percent increase.
The amount of the Company’s request has been reduced by the federal tax reduction provided on January 1, 2018 in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. As part of its filing, the Company has proposed to refund the full amount of its federal tax savings, under the Act.
The Department’s approval of the Company’s proposals would result in a monthly bill increase of $8.43 (a 4.8 percent increase in current rates) for a typical residential heating customer using 136 therms of gas per month during the winter season; a monthly bill decrease of $1.77 (a 4.0 percent decrease in current rates) for a typical residential heating customer using 29 therms of gas per month during the summer season; a monthly bill increase of $4.02 (a 10.2 percent increase in current rates) for a typical residential nonheating customer using 18 therms of gas per month during the winter season; a monthly bill increase of $1.21 (a 4.2 percent increase in current rates) for a typical residential nonheating customer using 12 therms of gas per month during the summer season; and an annual bill increase in the range of 1.45 percent to 2.78 percent for commercial and industrial customers, based on the bill impact of a typical customer in each of the commercial and industrial rate classes (i.e., G-41, G-42, G-43, G-51, G-52, G-53).The Company’s request was filed to provide recovery of higher operating and maintenance costs, costs associated with federal and state regulatory mandates and costs to upgrade its distribution system since it last filed for a rate change over 15 years ago. The filing also seeks recovery of significant increases in local property tax expense.
Today’s filing represents the first time that the Company has filed new rates with the MDPU since 2001 when it was granted a $2.268 million or 4.5% increase. At that time, the MDPU also approved a Performance Based Rate Plan (the “Plan”) which allowed the Company to increase its rates by the rate of inflation, less 1% annually eight times over a period of 10 years following a 31-month rate freeze. Since 2002, the Company increased its rates by only 8.49% during a period when the aggregate rate of inflation was 35.58%. The last rate adjustment under the Plan occurred in 2011. Prior to the 2001 filing, the Company last filed a rate case in 1992.
Since 2001, the Company made substantial investments in gas distribution plant including investments to assure the continuing safety and reliability of its 750 mile distribution system in western Massachusetts. Some of these investments include upgrades and replacements of older, leak-prone infrastructure as part of the Company’s GSEP program. That program has provided important public health and safety benefits while also contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Under the proposed rates, low-income customers would be eligible for a 25% rate discount. Eligibility is based on income levels used to qualify applicants for the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), or other criteria that may be determined by the MDPU.
The Company’s proposal continues its commitment to administering aggressive energy efficiency programs for the benefit of its customers. Since 2004, the Company has spent more than $35 million to assist customers in making their homes and businesses more energy efficient. Over that time, more than 5.4 million therms of natural gas have been saved as a result of these investments.
The Company is also proposing to adopt several established rate mechanisms, including: (i) a (i) (i) a revenue decoupling mechanism intended to promote energy efficiency; (ii) a pension cost adjustment mechanism; and (iii) a longer term rate plan that will provide for rate adjustments based upon inflation and other factors to avoid the need for frequent base rate cases.
Today’s filing marks the beginning of a review process that will be conducted by the MDPU over the coming months. The MDPU is expected to decide on the Company’s request by March 31, 2019, and new rates would become effective on April 1, 2019.
Commenting on the rate request, Berkshire Gas President and COO Karen Zink explained, “We have worked hard over the past 17 years to effectively manage our business and our costs, while placing safety and reliability ahead of all other priorities. The fact that we have been able to hold the line on rates since our 2001 filing and since our last rate adjustment in 2011, speaks to the success of our fiscal responsibility and hard work on behalf of our customers.”
Zink continued “Even after 17 years, we have worked to minimize any overall increase to customers in our current rate filing. Under this plan, customers will benefit from decoupled rates and both customers and the general public will continue to realize the benefits of our continuing infrastructure replacement plan as we work to eliminate leaks and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
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About AVANGRID: AVANGRID, Inc. (NYSE: AGR) is a leading, sustainable energy company with $32 billion in assets and operations in 27 states. AVANGRID has two primary lines of business: Avangrid Networks and Avangrid Renewables. Avangrid Networks owns eight electric and natural gas utilities, serving 3.2 million customers in New York and New England. Avangrid Renewables owns and operates 7.1 gigawatts of electricity capacity, primarily through wind power, with a presence in 22 states across the United States. AVANGRID employs approximately 6,600 people. AVANGRID supports the U.N.’s Sustainability Development Goals, received a Climate Development Project climate score of “A-,” the top score received in the utilities sector, and has been recognized for two consecutive years by Ethical Boardroom as the North American utility with the “best corporate governance practices.” For more information, visit www.avangrid.com.
About Berkshire Gas: The Berkshire Gas Company is a subsidiary of AVANGRID, Inc. Berkshire Gas has been meeting the energy needs of western Massachusetts for more than 160 years. Serving approximately 40,000 natural gas customers, Berkshire Gas prides itself on providing outstanding customer service and meeting its customers’ energy requirements in an environmentally responsible manner, with an emphasis on safety and reliability. For more information, visit www.berkshiregas.com.
Media Contact: Chris Farrell | firstname.lastname@example.org |413.445.0312