Berkshire County consumers to get energy bill refund

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BOSTON — Berkshire County consumers may see refunds on their energy bills after a federal judge ruled that the amount New England electric transmission companies charge ratepayers for their infrastructure improvements is too high.

Administrative Law Judge Steve L. Sterner's ruling requires New England electric transmission companies to provide customers approximately $234 million in refunds, which would appear as credits on their energy bills.

The ruling reduces the return on equity, or ROE, that transmission companies are permitted to earn on their investments from 2013 through 2015.

The judge's decision is the result of ongoing litigation before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that had been initiated by the state Attorney General's Office in 2011. FERC must still approve the judge's decision before it can go into effect.

Eversource Energy and National Grid, which service Berkshire County, will be required to pay the largest share. The exact amount assigned to each utility was unavailable on Friday.

Massachusetts ratepayers, who pay for nearly half of the New England region's transmission costs, will receive $106 million in refunds.

"As the ratepayer advocate we are pleased that the administrative law judge agrees that the profits electric transmission companies and their investors are earning at the expense of ratepayers is too high," Attorney General Maura Healey in a statement on Friday. "If FERC agrees, New England ratepayers will be refunded hundreds of millions of dollars and will save millions going forward."

Judge Sterner's ruling further reduces the allowed ROE to 9.59 percent for rates that were in effect between January 2013 and April 2014.

In a related development, consumers who were allegedly misled by Just Energy, a competitive energy supplier, are beginning to receive restitution payments as part of the second, and final phase of a restitution agreement put in place as part of a $4 million settlement with the company, according to the Attorney General's Office.

The group of customers receiving restitution in the second phase includes those who signed up for Just Energy's variable rates and customers who paid a termination fee to the company. The number of Berkshire County residents affected by the second phase of the restitution agreement was unavailable on Friday.

The AG's Office alleged that Just Energy engaged in deceptive marketing and sales tactics that misled consumers into signing contracts based on attractive introductory pricing, only to later experience an increase in their electricity supply costs between 2010 and 2014.

Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.


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