How Mass. is trying to make your electric bill less volatile

An Eversource electric bill. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
An Eversource electric bill. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

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You’re probably used to this tradition in recent years. Fall comes around, and so do the headlines: Eversource customers to see 43% rate hikeNational Grid electric bills to spike by $114. And so on.

But a new move by officials in Massachusetts aims to make these energy bill swings a little more smooth — and a little less shocking.

Let’s start with the basics: Electricity prices in Massachusetts can be really volatile. That’s because the grid largely relies on natural gas, and natural gas prices are based on fluctuating global markets. To set their electricity rates, utilities like Eversource and National Grid take part in auctions a couple times a year and sign months-long contracts with electricity generators for the power they think they’ll need for the season. The price they get at the auction (i.e. the supply rate) is a big part of what you ultimately end up paying on your electric bills. (For a deeper dive, read this explainer from WBUR’s Miriam Wasser last year after the Ukraine war sent supply rates soaring.)

  • Timing is everything: While many things affect the supply rate (global disruptions, state policies, etc.), the timing of the auctions is important. Typically, electricity prices in New England are the highest in the winter. And the current schedule used by Eversource and National Grid lumps the priciest months — January and February — into the same six-month rate period.
  • Massachusetts officials are now moving to change that. Under an order announced yesterday by the state’s Department of Public Utilities, both utilities will change basic electric service rates on a new schedule: February through July, and then August through January. (The state’s third, smaller electric utility, Unitil, is actually already on this schedule.)
  • What that means for you: It’s worth noting that this change won’t really end up saving customers much money overall. But what it will do is smooth the ups and downs and the semi-annual rate changes. Your electric bill might be a little higher in the summer, but it won’t be as bad during those notorious winter months.
  • What’s next: The new schedule will be phased in over the next year. In the long term, DPU Chair James Van Nostrand echoed the belief that the state’s transition to cleaner sources of electricity will further “help stabilize energy rates,” not to mention “lower emissions and improve air quality.” In the meantime, DPU officials say they plan to keep working on procurement policy tweaks to make electric bills more affordable and predictable.

New England’s next congressman? Across the border in Rhode Island’s 1st District, former White House staffer Gabe Amo beat out a crowded field last night to win the Democratic primary in the special election to replace former Rep. David Ciciline. Amo, who got 32% of the vote in the 11-person race, would be the first person of color to represent Rhode Island in Congress if he wins in November.

  • Up next: Amo will face Republican nominee Gerry Leonard in the Democrat-heavy district’s Nov. 7 general election.

Meanwhile in Massachusetts: Woburn Mayor Scott Galvin may have a race on his hands in his bid for an eighth-term. Galvin finished second in the city’s preliminary election yesterday with 33% of the vote, behind Woburn City Council President Mike Concannon, who got 48%. The two men will face off again in the Nov. 7 general election.

Turning from 2023 to 2024: We should soon find out today which of the 42 proposed 2024 ballot questions in Massachusetts will be allowed to move on the the signature-gathering phase. Attorney General Andrea Campbell’s office has spent the last month reviewing the constitutionality of the questions and is slated to announce which ones have been approved (or rejected) today.

P.S.— Get ready for the upcoming Allston Christmas rom-com.


Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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