PLAISTOW — Several selectmen’s faces fell when they saw their latest electric bills.
“It was a big surprise,” Selectman Michelle Curran said at a recent meeting. “I would have appreciated some more notice.”
Curran said many residents’ electric bills have doubled this winter. The town is planning to speak with Unitil about why they are seeing such hikes in their electric bill.
“We’ve had numerous complaints,” Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said. “They’ve been very costly. Whatever we can do to get voices available to them we are going to do.”
The increases are due to a rise in the cost of natural gas, Unitil spokesman Alec O’Meara said.
“Our supply rates are currently 9.55 cents per kilowatt-hour,” he said. “Last winter, they were only 7.2 cents per kilowatt-hour.”
O’Meara said those numbers are essentially out of Unitil’s control.
“We’re a divested utility,” he said. “We don’t generate our own electricity. But we expected the price of natural gas to go up and that’s what happened.”
Lacey Girard, spokesman for ISO New England, which oversees New England’s bulk electric power system, said there were several reasons the prices are so high.
“We’ve seen an increase in demand for natural gas in New England in both the electric generation sector, as well as the heating sector,” she said. “But the pipelines that carry the gas have not kept pace. Constraints on the natural gas pipelines can push up the price of natural gas, which can also increase the price of wholesale electricity.”
Girard said the demand for natural gas for power generation has skyrocketed in the past decade. In 2000, natural gas generated 15 percent of New England’s electricity. In 2012, it generated 52 percent.
O’Meara said the supply rates operate in six-month cycles.