NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- Green Mountain Power said Wednesday it is seeking a 0.4 percent decrease in its rate from the Public Service Board in its first rate request since merging with Central Vermont Public Service.
GMP officials announced the rate decrease request on Wednesday after filing it with the Public Service Board. The decrease sought is a direct result of the recent merger, and the utility's promise of $2.5 million in savings in the first year of the merger for ratepayers, officials said.
"Green Mountain Power is fully committed to a cost-effective future for the Vermonters we serve while also working to significantly improve services and reduce the frequency and duration of outages," GMP President and CEO Mary Powell said. "Our 250,000 customers are already beginning to experience benefits of the recent merger through our ability to keep customer costs lower and through our improved response time to the weather events that hit hard many Vermont homes and businesses in July."
GMP is seeking approval for the rate reduction to begin on Oct. 1. GMP said it was the first such reduction sought by the company since 1988.
Powell said lower power supply costs and savings expected from smart grid upgrades also contributed to the decrease. Those savings helped to offset some cost increases, including higher property taxes and GMP's share of transmission costs on the New England grid.
"Green Mountain Power is driven to operate efficiently to reduce costs for our customers," Powell said. "We have been successful in keeping our operations and maintenance costs flat for several years, and we expect the newly merged Green Mountain Power will find many more ways to keep costs low to reduce pressure on future rates."
The requested rate decrease represents a total savings of about $2.3 million, according to GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure. The overall savings for individual ratepayers is minimal, however. A typical customer paying $100 per month for electricity will save about 40 cents each month, according to Schnure.
Still, the decrease bucks the trend of increasing rates annually. Over the last six years rate increases have ranged from 1 percent to as high as 9 percent, Schnure said.
She said the decrease was welcomed by businesses and business advocacy groups around the state.
"Most customers were expecting an increase so our commercial customers have been budgeting for that. Not only is it not an increase, it's a decrease," Schnure said. "Everything we save them helps them to be more competitive. It means those millions of dollars are circulating in the Vermont economy."
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, who supported the merger of GMP and CVPS, was among those hailing the utility's rate decrease request on Wednesday.
"Today's announcement that Green Mountain Power is seeking to decrease electric rates for its customers is great news for Vermont families and businesses. This rate decrease is a good example of why I supported the GMP/CVPS merger, as Vermonters are already seeing the benefits of the merger through these real cost savings," Shumlin said in a statement released by his office. "It has been decades since Green Mountain Power has been in a position to request a rate decrease. This is a promising start for the new company, as it works over the coming years to deliver on its merger promises. I have said for months that this merger will save money for Vermont families and help our businesses create jobs, and this great news is further evidence of that fact."
The requested decrease will apply to residential, commercial and industrial customers if it is approved by the Public Service Board.