Rep. Regunberg introduces legislation for electric utility accountability
STATE HOUSE — Rep. Aaron Regunberg (D-Dist. 4, Providence) has introduced two bills that would create greater accountability in our electric utility system.
The first bill (2018-H 7661) would begin the process of establishing a public not-for-profit utility model in the state. The second (2018-H 7674) would create transparency in private utilities companies’ advertising and public relations budgets. It would allow customers to see how much of their dollar is actually going to the services they receive.
After years of continuous rate hikes and service complaints, Representative Regunberg said he began looking for solutions to increasing public accountability for National Grid.
“It’s time to set up a public not-for-profit utility system as municipalities across the country have done,” said Representative Regunberg. “There is no better way to ensure that our utility provider is working in the public interest, securing the best rates, and highest quality service. Until then, Rhode Island electric consumers are on the hook. They’re paying for their utilities plus interest to wealthy shareholders and I don’t think Rhode Islanders are on the right side of that deal.”
Today, 49 million Americans in 49 states are served by public not-for-profit utility providers, including customers of Rhode Island’s highly regarded Pascoag Utility District. On average, these customers pay rates that are 13 percent less nationally than the rates paid by customers of for-profit investor owned utility companies.
Representative Regunberg’s legislation would establish a Rhode Island Public Power Utility Council, tasked with developing and implementing the most effective public not-for-profit utility model for the state. The council would evaluate models to ensure the lowest rates for customers and most effective response to local consumer needs in terms of customer service, emergency response, and continuation of operations. They would then submit their recommendations to the General Assembly and being implementing the service.
The second bill introduced by Representative Regunberg would require private utility providers to disclose their in-state advertising and public relations spending, allowing Rhode Islanders to see how much of their utility payments are spent on marketing versus services provided.
“While National Grid holds a virtual monopoly on utilities in our state, we need a level of oversight,” said Regunberg. “National Grid should not be using ratepayer dollars from our energy efficiency programs to boost their own corporate public relations and branding."
Rhode Islanders saw an increase in advertising campaigns from National Grid immediately following their slow response to storms in October.
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903