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Low-income customers to get break on May electricity bills from National Grid

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CANTON - Low-income National Grid customers can receive a credit in May after enduring high winter electricity bills, under an emergency relief program approved Thursday by the state Public Service Commission.

The emergency package, approved after it was proposed last week by the utility, will provide one-time credits of either $20 or $250 for qualifying low-income customers, depending on programs they’re enrolled in. The PSC agreed that National Grid’s emergency plan was needed because low-income customers have been acutely affected this winter by high electricity costs. By offering one-time credits on customers’ bills in May, when delivery costs will still be high, the program will “maximize the benefits to low-income customers in distress at the time they need it the most,” according to a summary of the decision made by the PSC.

The emergency package will provide one-time credits for customers enrolled in three National Grid programs: its AffordAbility, Low Income Discount and Care and Share programs. The following credits, which will appear on customers’ bills in May, were approved by the PSC:

n Customers already enrolled in the AffordAbility program will be provided a credit of $250, which will reach about 4,000 customers statewide. The program will cost National Grid about $1 million.

n Customers already enrolled in the Low Income Discount program will be provided a one-time credit of $20, reaching about 110,000 customers. Those credits will cost roughly $2.2 million.

n National Grid will reopen its Care and Share program with a contribution of $1 million, which will make one-time credits of up to $250 available to customers eligible for state Home Energy Assistance Program benefits who have an outstanding balance on utility bills.

Shareholders of National Grid will cover the $1 million for the Care and Share program. The remainder of the benefits will be covered by National Grid revenues already received by customers to fund low-income programs.

The PSC’s approval of the relief package comes after electricity PSC prices for January, February and March were 122 percent higher than the same period of 2013.

At the end of January, the PSC approved National Grid’s request to defer the collection of certain electricity costs from resident and small-business customers affected by increased commodity prices. The utility will begin recovering the $33.3 million payment deferral that resulted from that action over a period of six months, starting in June.

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