Unitil plans 'significant' electric rate hike

Just a few days after Unitil Corporation said it was lowering natural gas rates in Massachusetts, the Hampton-based utility announced it wants to “significantly” raise electricity rates for New Hampshire customers.

The revised rates are expected to go into effect May 1.

For residential customers using an average of 500 kWh per month, bills will rise from $58.84 to $76.25, or about 34 percent.

Unitil’s small-business customers will also be affected by the rate increases with a hike anticipated as being in the 20-percent to 40-percent range.

Owners of large businesses that take Default Service energy supply from Unitil will see their bills decrease by as much as 33 percent, reflecting the drop in electricity supply costs since last November, when the previous electricity supply contract for these customers went into effect, the company said. Default Service prices for large business customers change monthly, and new supply contracts will be negotiated on a quarterly basis.

The utility said the new rates reflect current market prices for electricity supply. Rates before May 1 were based on a 2003 supply contract when energy prices were much lower.

More electric rate hikes for Unitil customers also could be possible in the future, since new contracts will be explored every six months, said Robert G. Schoenberger, chairman and chief executive officer of Unitil.

“High energy prices are a current fact of life for all consumers and all fuel types,” said Schoenberger. “In this environment, energy conservation, investments in energy efficiency and the promotion of competition continue to be the best tools for consumers to reduce their bills and send the message to the market that prices are still too high.” — CINDY KIBBE

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