Lowest Rates in the State for NYSEG and RG&E Customers

By Trish Nilsen

This week, New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG) and Rochester Gas and Electric (RG&E) filed a joint proposal with New York’s Public Service Commission (PSC) for settlement of the Companies’ 2023-2026 rate case. The rate case will set the delivery rates the Companies charge electric and gas customers for the next three years and enable NYSEG and RG&E to carry out our chief priority of providing safe and reliable gas and electric service to the 1.3 million customers across 40 percent of New York while also meeting state climate goals, improving infrastructure to address our aging grid, elevating spending on energy efficiency programs to help customers lower their use, and addressing increased costs that are the result of rising inflation and supply chain challenges. All these improvements will help us attract and retain jobs and businesses in Upstate New York.

The filing comes after months of negotiations with PSC Staff and other key stakeholders and thoughtful discussions about how the Companies can best continue to serve customers in light of historic inflation, the ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain issues, and new state requirements regarding clean energy and natural gas service. The Companies have been investing in New York for years with minimal rate increases. Both NYSEG and RG&E, with the input of the PSC, made the decision in the last rate case to keep increases moderate because of the extreme adversity people were facing due to the pandemic. Now, the Companies must resolve the rate pressure caused by that austerity. While the Companies originally proposed up to a 22 percent increase last year, they have compromised on many line items and are confident that the recommended settlement benefits customers. Even with these increased delivery rates, phased in over a three-year period, approximately $10 a month for most residential electric customers and far less than that for natural gas customers, the Companies will continue to have among the lowest rates in New York.

Raising rates is an unavoidable step we must take to continue to meet customers’ current and future energy needs and is not a step we lightly consider. The cost of doing business in New York State has risen dramatically due to historic inflation and other factors, and we must make the investments necessary to maintain reliability and realize the clean energy future the State and our stakeholders expect. We will do this by upgrading our aging infrastructure, using innovative technology and new equipment to improve reliability and resiliency in storms – making outages that are inevitable due to increasingly severe and frequent storms less common and shorter in duration – and investing in our staffing, facilities, and systems to meet the needs of our customers.

A big part of the proposal includes investment necessary to meet New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) goals – such as the accommodation of increased renewable resources via transmission projects, innovation in our gas operations to find alternatives to natural gas use that are practical for our customers, and even a pilot program for streetlight dimming capabilities for municipalities looking to manage energy costs. We can’t achieve these objectives without considerable spending on the systems and technology that make them possible, but we recognize their importance.

We’re working to ensure we can get the most for customers with this increase. These proceedings are also vital to maintain the Companies’ financial integrity for the ultimate benefit of customers. The signatory parties that have signed on acknowledge that the challenge of balancing rising costs to maintain safe and adequate service with affordability and the state’s forward-looking energy policies is unavoidable and that the residual rate pressure must be addressed now to avoid creating undue pressure for customers. In short, this is the most advantageous plan to get done what we must.

The good news is, we can manage all this and still work to maintain the lowest rates in the state for NYSEG and RG&E customers. And what they’re getting for that money – new poles, more animal-resistant and load-tolerant lines, sensors and automation to address outages, more regular tree trimming, upgrades to our websites, enhanced assistance programs for low-income customers and protections for them in extreme cold and heat events, and the ability to meet energy goals to realize a greener future –that’s value.

Trish Nilsen is President and CEO of NYSEG and RG&E.