Vt. regulators want GMP to clarify rate increases to customers

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont's largest utility is asking for a rate increase this fall. Regulators are considering it, but at the same time, they are asking Green Mountain Power to improve its communication with customers about what they're asked to pay and why.

First the rate increase. GMP is proposing increasing its base rate by nearly 3 percent in October, but customers will end up paying more than that.

Here's why:

In January, rates went up 5.3 percent, but customers didn't notice. That's because, at the same time, GMP passed along proceeds from a federal tax break, resulting in a net decrease in costs for ratepayers. But that tax refund money is almost gone, and when it is, ratepayers will no longer benefit from that relief.

So in the fall, ratepayers will finally start paying that 5.3 percent that went on the books in January. If regulators also approve the utility's latest request for an additional 2.9 percent rate increase to take effect in October, that would be on top of the 5.3 percent that kicked in at the beginning of the year. So a customer could expect a potential 8.2 percent jump in costs all at once this fall, depending on how much power they use, when they use it and how much GMP is paying to get it.

In addition to those changes, ratepayers will also see line items to cover specific costs. In particular, one for extra charges related to storms and another for battling the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive species that weakens trees, creating safety issues for line crews and potential reliability problems for the utility if compromised trees fall and take down power lines.

Now, to improving communication: Regulators wrote Green Mountain Power instructing it to send ratepayers a new notice detailing all of these changes and how they relate to each other. The utility says it has already drafted that notice.