Many Vermonters will see their power bills go up in the next few months as two of the state’s biggest utility companies raise their rates.
Burlington Electric Department customers have paid the same rate since 2009. But after losing $2 million over the past year, Darren Springer, BED’s general manager, said the company had to raise the rates.
“It’s definitely being driven by lower sales for the commercial sector,” Springer said. “We’ve actually seen residential use has been up somewhat during the pandemic, but commercial actually makes up close to 75% of our overall system.”
Springer says BED has also lost money from customers unable to pay their bills. The department is proposing a 7.5% increase. For residences, that adds $4 .92 to each monthly bill. For businesses, it’s a $6.60 monthly hike.
“We know there’s tough times for brick and mortar, so why make this more difficult on them now?” said Kelly Devine, Burlington Business Association director.
Green Mountain Power just announced it’s also proposing a rate increase of 4 1/2 percent for its customers. Devine says these hikes will make it harder for businesses to come back strong. She says commercial buildings will see the greatest impact and the cost typically falls on retail tenants.
“If you’re trying to convince your tenant to come back to a fixed office space when they’ve been remote working for a year, and you have to say ‘This is going to go up’, it doesn’t make your life easier,” she said.
Burlington Electric says its conscious of the impact. It’s introduced a new energy assistance program for low-income customers. Although it would only benefit residential customers, Springer said it would reach nearly 1,300 Burlingtonians.
“We will be providing a bill credit to them to offset the rate increase during fiscal year 2022,” he said. “So when the surcharge starts in August all the way until June 2022.”