National Grid MA Variable Electric Customers See Increased Pricing Volatility

National Grid Massachusetts customers on the variable basic service rate have seen huge volatility in the price that they pay for electricity over the last year. After recent news of National Grid releasing their variable rate over the next six months, it is apparent that the volatility will continue. Consumers on the variable basic service rate can avoid the price uncertainty, as well as reduce their electricity bills, by shopping for lower competitive electricity rates offered by alternative Massachusetts electricity suppliers.

Through State energy choice laws, Massachusetts has opened up their electricity market to allow competitive energy companies to offer service to residential and business customers. The law allows customers who receive their electric bill from one of the three major utilities in the state – NSTAR, National Grid, and Western Mass Electric – to shop for a lower electricity price that would replace their utility default rate for electricity generation supply. The default rate is charged to all customers who decided not to purchase power from a competitive supplier.

Customers on the default rate pay a charge known as the basic service rate for electricity supply which includes the generation and transmission components of the electric bill. Default rate payers have a choice between paying a fixed basic service rate and a variable basic service rate. The fixed rate remains the same for six month periods, while the variable rate changes every month. However, even though the variable rate changes on a monthly basis, customers know what that variable rate will be for the next several months. Both rates are determined through an auction process that National Grid holds for alternative suppliers for the right to service basic service rate customers. The outcome of the auction process is largely dependent on the condition of the wholesale energy markets during the time of the auction.

Both rate structures have been extremely volatile over the last several years, with recent rates being the higher end of the spectrum. The high default rates have allowed for competitive electricity suppliers to offer rates that are well below the basic service offers, presenting an opportunity to for customers to lower their National Grid electric bills. Since 2012, the variable basic service rate has ranged from a low of 6.544 cents per KWh in September of 2012 to a high of over 20 cents per KWh in January of 2015. In November, the variable rate will increase by 26.4% from the October rate. Customer who remain on the variable basic service rate are going to see their total electric bills increase by about 20% as their supply rate goes up from 8.8 to 11.27 cents. The variable rate will continue to rise over the next several months going to 13.38 cents in December and then over 15 cents in both January and February of next year.

The volatility in the rates and increasing electric bill amounts can be stopped by simply shopping for a lower competitive electricity rate. In order to avoid further price uncertainty consumers should find a competitive offer that is fixed and not a floating month to month price. Finding a fixed electric rate will eliminate the uncertainty of volatility in the energy markets that leads to negative surprises on the electric bill amount. Furthermore, if the fixed rate is lower than the variable basic service rate on a monthly basis, consumers will also save money through a lower electric bill.


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