News10NBC Investigates: RG&E and NYS still negotiating possible rate hike

ROCHESTER, N.Y. As RG&E continues to pull itself out of a billing and customer service crisis, it wants more money from customers to be able to do it.

Last year, the utility asked the New York State Public Service Commission to approve a rate hike and the negotiations on how big that hike might be continue. RG&E requested approval from the state to raise customer bills by 19% for the delivery of electric and 20% for the delivery of natural gas. Recently, the PSC and the utility agreed to continue negotiations toward a settlement.

News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke spoke with RG&E’s President and CEO Trish Nilsen recently about the request.

Trish Nilsen: The rate case is ongoing. We are at the table with the Public Service Commission staff and the interested parties in the rate case, working towards a settlement that will be agreeable to all to present to the commission.

Jennifer Lewke: It is tough though. People know what you’ve just been through and they’ll say, ‘How can you continue to ask for more when we went through a year at least of having customer service issues and billing problems?’ How do you respond to that?

Trish Nilsen: Give us the resources so that we can invest in the community. We want to accomplish the state’s clean energy goals and we want to invest in our infrastructure to create a resilient grid. That’s what we’re asking for funding for.

Last month, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello wrote to the Public Service Commission saying in part, “Even in the best of times, a 19 percent increase in electric delivery rates and a 20 percent increase in natural gas delivery rates would be unrealistic. But now, as our families grapple with rising costs for food, shelter and clothing alongside the strain of already escalating electricity and gas costs, this is an impossible request — especially when individuals across our community are increasingly frustrated over RG&E’s troubled billing system and customer service. RG&E must refocus to provide appropriate customer service and ensure its infrastructure is properly modernized and maintained without further burdening its customers.”

Rochester Mayor Malik Evans called RG&E’s request for rate hikes “audacious” amid the rising frustrations with its ongoing billing failures and shrinking investments in customer service. The Public Service Commission is expected to make a final decision on the rate case in the next few months.