900 Ratepayers Switch to Retailers in First 90 Days After ‘Empower RI’ Website Goes Live

During the first three months of 2016, 900 Rhode Island-based customers of National Grid switched from the regulated utility to competitive retail electric suppliers after checking the new Empower RI website, launched last January.

That represents about 11 percent of National Grid’s ratepayers in the region, according to the Office of the Lieutenant Governor Daniel J. McKee (D), who launched the site at the beginning of the year in cooperation with Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers Administrator Thomas F. Ahern, and private contractor Rhode Island Interactive (RII).

Nine-hundred is not bad,” McKee said, adding that he expects that number to grow for both residential and commercial customers.

Indeed, one of the first customers to switch was the Lieutenant Governor, himself, WPRI News 12 reported. “Within five minutes, I was saving 24 percent on that side of the bill,” McKee said.

Empower RI enables commercial and residential customers to compare electricity prices and contract terms from competitive suppliers to the current standard offer (price to compare) from National Grid. The site is designed to make the process of selecting a competitive electricity supplier easier and more transparent in Rhode Island, which has some of the highest energy costs in the country.

The website is part of the Lieutenant Governor’s efforts to ease the burden of high energy costs on Rhode Island small businesses. In 2015, Lt. Governor McKee and Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin (D) intervened before the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (RIPUC) on behalf of ratepayers (Docket No. 4556) to eliminate the so-called billing adjustment, which cost National Grid electricity customers some $1.5 million last winter just for switching to competitive suppliers. The PUC voted to end the adjustment as of July 1, 2015, removing a barrier to a robust competitive market.

“Empower RI is a valuable tool to help small businesses and residential ratepayers shop for the best electricity prices,” Lt. Governor McKee said. “Empower RI was designed to do exactly what its name says: empower ratepayers to make the most cost-effective decisions on their electricity supplier. Using this website, consumers will be able to easily navigate the marketplace and choose the plan that’s best for them.”

Noted Administrator Ahern, “While large industrial and commercial customers have participated in the competitive electric supply market for years, we have only recently seen an increase in the number of competitive suppliers offering service to residential and small commercial customers. Empower RI will serve as a resource for these residents and businesses.”

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