National Grid trying to help customers make payments

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MENANDS, N.Y. – Increasing energy bills have left customers
unsatisfied, but National Grid said it does not control pricing and is trying
to help customers with payment plans.

The extreme winter weather has been blamed for customers
rising energy bills. Colder weather has caused increased demand resulting in
increases in prices as well.

The New York Independent System Operator said month-long
electricity use set a record in January. It was the highest total in the
15-year history of the NYISO.

National Grid said the supply charges in the Capital Region
have increased from 46 to 55 percent for December and January. Spokesperson
Patrick Stella said the company is trying to help its customers.

“They're calling us to try and get them on a payment plan, a
different kind of payment plan if they need that,” he said. “We could try to
work with them that way. Energy efficiency, you know, using less will help.”

Stella
said National Grid only controls delivery charges and not supply charges.

“I know
people are out there, and they have to pay their National Grid bill, and they
don't understand how it couldn't be something that we can't control, but it
really isn't,” he said. “I equate it a lot to getting your car repaired; there's
parts and labor. The mechanic doesn't have control over what the part cost is.”

The NYISO
has asked for an investigation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission into
the price hike.

In a
letter, NYISO said, “The NYISO will be working with the PSC, the New York State
Reliability Council, and appropriate state agencies to enhance communications
protocols and practices during severe winter events.”

NYISO
also asked FERC to conduct a review of natural gas markets performance during
the winter period. The Public Service Commission also asked for the same. The
PSC said it is now awaiting the results of an April conference by FERC
addressing the issue.

The
letter then asks FERC to investigate the issue to determine if any market
wrongdoing exists. Price gouging has been speculated already by customers.

“There's
no way we can gouge or do any of that kind of thing because that cost actually
gets passed on and goes to the actual purchase of the electricity,” Stella
said. “We don't make that up. We don't benefit from that, so there's nothing
like that on our part.”

Dr.
Kajal Lahiri is a Professor Economics at the University of Albany.

“Obviously,
we have consumed more electricity and gas. No doubt about it this winter
because of the severity,” he said. “On the other hand, prices have increased a
little bit and part of it is, of course, when the demand is more, there is a
pressure on short run price variations increase.”

Both
National Grid and Lahiri said customers should see a 45 to 50 percent decrease
in their energy bills.

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