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Governor McKee Announces Plan for Direct Rate Relief to Over 39,000 Low-income Customers Electricity Bills This Winter

RHODE ISLAND, August 11 - PAWTUCKET, RI – Governor Dan McKee and the Office of Energy Resources (OER) announced today a proposal to use $3.8 million in funding from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) fund to provide direct rate relief to low-income Rhode Island residents who are most at risk of not being able to afford their electricity bills this winter. This funding proposed by Governor McKee is expected to help approximately 39,000 low-income customers with Rhode Island Energy billing accounts during the winter electricity rates period from October through March.

On behalf of the Governor, OER will be proposing the RGGI Allocation Plan draft for a 30-day public comment period that will provide direct rate relief to low-income customers and maintain ongoing support for prior RGGI funded efforts on climate change, renewables and energy efficiency to advance the state's goals with Act on Climate.

Rhode Island Energy, the State's primary utility, recently announced that it is requesting a significant winter rate increase, effective October 1, due to an unprecedented surge in energy costs this winter season. The utility is prohibited by law from profiting from the sale of energy and passes the costs of energy directly to ratepayers.

Today's rate relief announcement comes after the Governor sent a letter last week urging the Public Utilities Commission to take specific action to provide relief to all Rhode Islanders in response to Rhode Island Energy's request for a rate increase. These actions include:

- Suspending the customer charge on residential electric bills until next summer when electricity prices are projected to decline significantly.

- Distributing the $32.5 million in Rhode Island Energy electric ratepayer bill credits from the State's settlement with PPL Corporation back to ratepayers over a six-month period that coincides with this coming winter when electric rates will be elevated.

- Moderating the impact on ratepayers by spreading the higher rates over a twelve-month period.

"This surge in electricity costs this winter are going to impact all Rhode Islanders," said Governor McKee. "Our most vulnerable residents do not have the means to absorb this rate increase. We have a responsibility to do everything possible to protect them. That's why we're proposing to use $3.8 million from our RGGI funds to provide direct rate relief to low-income utility customers who are most at risk this winter. This will help ease the burden of higher-than-average electricity prices and continue our commitment to provide relief to Rhode Islanders in the face of rising prices and inflation."

"Our low- and fixed-income communities, especially our seniors, deserve affordable energy," said Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos. "This program is a smart step towards mitigating the effects of this global spike in energy costs on the families of our state. We are going to keep working to provide Rhode Islanders with protections against rising prices."

"This direct rate relief to low-income constituents, are in recognition of the disproportionate financial burdens that low-income ratepayers will experience due to the unprecedented high cost of electricity this winter," said Interim State Energy Commissioner Christopher Kearns. "Our goal to help ensure that these constituents will continue to pay an electricity rate that is comparable to what they paid last winter, without the burden of a substantial increase during the period that the winter rates are in place."

"As we all know, inflationary costs are impacting all Rhode Islanders across the board, and rate relief for low-income electric customers will allow for them to bear the costs at a more manageable level rather than an extreme increase," said Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien. "I am happy to see the advocacy on this at the State level. Our residents will benefit from these types of actions."

"We welcome Governor McKee's initiative today to reduce energy costs. At BVCAP we provide Fuel Assistance payments to our clients and are very heavily active in Weatherizing homes in the Blackstone Valley. We hear about rising costs every day," said Vincent Ceglie, Executive Director, Blackstone Valley Community Action Program.

There will be a 30-day public comment period on the Administration's drafted RGGI Allocation Plan starting today. OER will be having two public hearings on the drafted RGGI Allocation Plan on September 6 and 8. Written comments may be submitted as well. Information about the drafted RGGI Allocation Plan and public hearings may be found at the Office of Energy Resources website: https://energy.ri.gov/resources/programs-incentives/regional-greenhouse-gas-initiative-rggi.

RGGI is the nation's first mandatory, market-based cap and trade program to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). As a participating state, Rhode Island receives CO2 allowance proceeds, which are invested in a variety of consumer benefit programs, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, direct energy bill assistance and other greenhouse gas reduction programs. RGGI establishes a regional cap on CO2 emissions from fossil fuel-fired electric generating facilities, and requires these power plants to purchase a tradable CO2 allowance for each ton of CO2 they emit.

Additional Energy Savings and Support Information

For those customers who are not already in a low-income discounted rate program, they may apply at https://www.rienergy.com/RI-Home/Bill-Help/Discount-Rates.

Those Rhode Island residents who do not qualify for the low-income rate may still explore other options for managing the rate increase. These options include applying for more time to pay, budget planning, grants, debt forgiveness, and shut-off projections. These are explained in more detail on the RI Energy website or by calling 1-855-RIE-1101.

Rhode Island residents may also explore reducing their energy usage by taking several energy efficiency measures, such as disconnecting unused appliances, replacing old light bulbs with LEDs, or installing a programmable thermostat. Residents looking to explore further savings on their energy usage may also schedule a free home assessment through the state's energy efficiency programs.

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