July 2, 2008

Public Service of New Hampshire Hikes Electric Rates By 6 Percent

By Ashley Smith, The Telegraph, Nashua, N.H.

Jul. 1--MANCHESTER -- When it rains, it pours.

As consumer woes continue to pile up, particularly due to increased gas and food prices in an otherwise weak economy, one more monthly bill is on the rise.

Public Service of New Hampshire has announced it will increase electricity rates today by about 6 percent in order to offset the higher costs of fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal, which are used to produce energy.

"I don't think there's much surprise by anyone, unfortunately, that the price has gone up," PSNH Spokesman Martin Murray said. "It's costing PSNH more than before to produce power. It's also costing PSNH more to purchase power."

PSNH generates 60 percent to 70 percent of its own power and buys the rest. Rates are re-evaluated at least every year, sometimes every six months, and then adjusted up or down based on the company's actual and projected costs, Murray said.

With this increase, the monthly bill for a residential customer who uses 500 kilowatt-hours of power will increase $4.39, or 5.7 percent, to $81.80. A customer who paid $100 last month will pay $105.70, assuming usage doesn't change.

Although usage varies widely from one household to another, the average PSNH customer uses about 500 kilowatt-hours each month, Murray said.

The new rates were approved Friday by the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission. According to Don Kreis, general counsel for the commission, PSNH is not the only utility asking for higher rates. The commission is concerned about the effects of energy costs on New Hampshire utility customers, he said.

"There have been some pretty significant rate increases requested recently," Kreis said.

All PSNH customers, including commercial and industrial users, will now pay an energy rate of 9.57 cents per kilowatt-hour. That rate makes up 60 percent of an average residential customer's bill and 70 percent of a large business' total bill, a statement from the company said.

New Hampshire Electric Cooperative and Unitil charges 10.29 cents for residential customers, while National Grid charges 11.66.

According to Murray, the total bill of the average residential customer -- which includes the energy rate and other charges -- is actually lower than it was in the beginning of 2006, when the energy rate was 9.13 cents.

When asked if PSNH has noticed a drop in usage as energy prices continue to increase in a declining economy, Murray said it's too early to tell. Right now, the evidence is only anecdotal, he said.

"I don't think enough time has yet passed for us to say with any certainty that behavior has changed," Murray said.


To see more of The Telegraph, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.nashuatelegraph.com

Copyright (c) 2008, The Telegraph, Nashua, N.H.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

For reprints, email [email protected], call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.