Energy

RI Energy to Forgive $43.5M in Ratepayers’ Debt

To qualify, eligible ratepayers must be more than 90 days behind on their bills as of the end of March this year

Share

WARWICK, R.I. — Ratepayers behind on their utility bills by 90 days or more as of March 30, 2022, will have their debt forgiven by Rhode Island Energy.

State regulators, during a meeting of the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on Tuesday, said the utility company may proceed without explicit government approval in forgiving $43.5 million in arrearages from low-income and protected residential class customers.

Rhode Island Energy is now clear to enact arrearage forgiveness for an estimated 19,000 households across the state. To qualify, eligible ratepayers must be more than 90 days behind on their bills as of the end of March this year. Customers who have had service turned off as a result of arrearage can expect their service to be turned back on automatically by the utility.

“As the state of Rhode Island continues to deal with consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as new cost challenges have arisen associated with spikes in gas prices and inflation generally, it is reasonable and appropriate to provide some additional relief to these more vulnerable customers from aged arrearages,” wrote Rhode Island Energy in its petition to the PUC.

Customers who received utility relief via American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds can also expect their arrearages to be forgiven; 1,014 accounts with Rhode Island Energy have received ARPA funds, with 1,006 accounts having their arrearage fully satisfied.

Rhode Island Energy reported it had received $12.6 million — $8.5 for electric, $4.2 million for gas — in funding from Rhode Island Housing’s Rent Relief RI Program that was applied to customer accounts. Company officials also reported receiving an additional $4.5 million in funding that had been transferred to customer accounts, but the amount had yet to be verified by the utility.

PUC chairman Ron Gerwatowski praised the agreement reached over the utility’s sale.

“I want to express my appreciation to the attorney general, which sentiment I am sure my colleagues share, for obtaining this significant benefit to customers that will help them pay their bills,” said Gerwatowski.

PUC officials also said they received no objections to the forgiveness from the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities (DPU) or any other public or private body.

The move was part of a settlement agreement hammered out between the utility’s parent company, Pennsylvania-based PPL Corporation, and Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha before previous owner National Grid could sell its Rhode Island operations.

The sale to PPL was announced last year, with the Federal Regulatory Commission and the DPU signing off on the deal by February. Neronha filed an appeal in Rhode Island Superior Court earlier this year, arguing the sale might result in higher rate increases or worse service.

In May, the two parties announced the settlement agreement — worth $200 million in value for ratepayers, according to Neronha — and the attorney general’s office dropped its objections to the sale.

The $43.5 million in arrearage forgiveness within 30 days of closing was part of the deal. PPL also pledged to provide $50 million in ratepayer credits, and another $2.5 million to Rhode Island Commerce’s renewable energy fund. PPL agreed to forgo any recovery of transition costs from the sale from ratepayers, up to $82 million.

The move received praise from utility justice advocates. The George Wiley Center, in a motion supporting the forgiveness, warned state regulators that some state residents faced a permanent lack of access to gas and electric services.

“Rhode Islanders face potentially unresolvable arrearages if the relief sought in this docket is not granted,” wrote George Wiley Center counsel Jennifer Wood. “It is contrary to the public interest to consign these customers to what may be a permanent bar to utility access.”

Categories

Join the Discussion

View Comments

Recent Comments

  1. This is an affront to all other rate payers. We pay our bills on time regardless of the sacrifices that we have to make to pay our exorbitant energy costs yet we have to subsidize this forgiveness of others bills that the utility would have been able to write off as a bad debt. This benefits the poor those who choose not to pay their bills and first and foremost the utility company.

  2. Great, let me understand this.. If you struggle to keep the power on, paying your bills on time, or slightly behind, while forgoing other “luxuries”, you are granted the gift to supplement those not as responsible (by the impending 50% increase in energy charges). Got it.. I’ll have to remember that in my next life. Taught my kids to be responsible and pay their debts. Man, was I wrong!

  3. I I lost my job after my department closed and I am collecting unemployment. I have a past due electric balance due to working from home 2 yrs. Rent relief paid only $5.10 towards my bill. I thought it was typo error but it was correct. This obviously was an error due to untrained representatives at rent relief. I told them that is an insult. Iii had to agree to a payment plan to pay $120-150 monthly or be shut off. All customers who are shut off will have entire bill forgiven but I will be screwed because I am on payment plan. I have past due balance i owed prior to 3/2022 wich was 900 and now down to 590. I go without food paying this. Called RI Energy and they dont know anything about this forgiveness program.maybe I should stop paying my bill so I can get help.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Your support keeps our reporters on the environmental beat.

Reader support is at the core of our nonprofit news model. Together, we can keep the environment in the headlines.

cookie

We use cookies to improve your experience and deliver personalized content. View Cookie Settings