UpRiseRI: Regunberg renews call for public utilities in wake of DPUC report

by Steve Ahlquist,

Representative Aaron Regunberg (Democrat, District 4, Providence) said the the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities (DPUC)’s review of National Grid’s storm preparedness highlighted the need for a long-term restructuring of utility governance and accountability, which he began calling for last year following National Grid’s repeated request for rate hikes.

“The for-profit corporate utility model is not working for our state,” said Regunberg. “This year we’ve faced repeated outages, unacceptably slow responses, and continued requests by National Grid to further hike our utility rates. Seniors in Warwick shouldn’t be living in the dark for days on end, families in Bristol shouldn’t have to spend hundreds of dollars buying generators to make sure their kids are safe at home, and low-income Rhode Islanders shouldn’t be forced to choose between paying their utility bill and putting food on the table.

“We’ll never get a good deal when our utility’s primary goal is billion-dollar profits for a multinational corporation, instead of the best possible service for Rhode Islanders. That’s why I’ve introduced legislation to empower Rhode Islanders to pursue nonprofit public power utilities that allow communities to have direct accountability over their rates and service. The issues we have with National Grid are systemic, they are not going to be fixed with a few band-aids. It’s time for a new model of direct community accountability that puts the needs of Rhode Islanders front and center.”

Regunberg is a Democratic candidate for lieutenant Governor.

Regunberg’s legislation (H7674) will be heard by the House Committee on Corporations on Tuesdayevening. The legislation would establish a Rhode Island Public Power Utility Council, tasked with developing and implementing the most effective public not-for-profit utility model for the state. Today, 49 million Americans in 49 states are served by public not-for-profit utility providers, including customers of Pascoag Utility District in Rhode Island. On average, these customers pay rates that are 13 percent less nationally than the rates paid by customers of for-profit investor owned utility companies.

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