I am sure you have been hearing and reading about increased energy costs. In summary, due to high natural gas and oil prices stemming from the Russia-Ukrainian war and other factors, heating and electricity utility bills will dramatically increase this winter. To help you manage these steep increases, my office has compiled a list of resources that can help. In addition, the Baker-Polito Administration is consulting with the federal government to create a winter heating plan, which we will share once available.
It is important to keep in mind that our overreliance on natural gas to both heat our homes and serve as a fuel for electricity generation has made Massachusetts vulnerable to price swings. In current and previous sessions, the Legislature has directed the state to contract and prepare the grid for large amounts of offshore wind and other clean energy resources in an effort to reduce this overreliance and mitigate climate change impacts. While the benefits of these future projects will not impact this winter’s heating season, once online, they will help stabilize utility bill prices while also providing economic benefits and transitioning us to the Commonwealth’s clean energy future.
The following resources are available, should they need them.
Utility payment plans
Massachusetts’ investor-owned utilities offer flexible payment plans, regardless of income, and potential balance forgiveness. Enrolling in a payment plan can protect constituents against shutoffs for up to 12 months with most utility companies. Please refer to the list at the bottom of this post for information to contact your utility.*
Income-eligible assistance programs
For customers with a household income not greater than 60 percent of the state median income, Massachusetts utilities offer a discount on a customer’s total utility bill as well as individualized payment plans known as arrearage management plans (AMPs) where a customer can have some or all of their outstanding balance forgiven.* These customers can also apply at any time throughout the winter season for fuel assistance through the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Community action agencies can help walk constituents through the process of applying and answer any questions they may have.
Constituents between 60 to 80 percent of the state median income are encouraged to see if they qualify for financial help from the Good Neighbor Energy Fund.
Winter heating shutoff protections
You are protected by Massachusetts law (MGL c.164, § 124F) from having your gas or electric utilities shutoff from November 15, 2022, to March 15, 2023 if those services are used for heating. Constituents will still be responsible for any unpaid bills when the shutoff ends. The Attorney General’s office encourages customers to enroll in a utility payment plan, which also provides shutoff protections, and avoids accumulating debt. As stated above, most utilities offer payment plans for up to 12 months.
Energy efficiency audit
The nation-leading Mass Save energy efficiency programs run by the Massachusetts investor-owned utilities can provide constituents with information about how to reduce their energy use. This should lead to lower bills over time. In addition, income-eligible customers can participate in Mass Save’s low-income offering, known as the Low-Income Energy Affordability Network.*
Municipal aggregation programs
Constituents in communities with active municipal aggregation programs may consider switching from their electric company to the aggregation. The long-term electricity contracts used in these programs, typically set for three years’ time, result in stabilized electricity costs that are not subject to the same short-term price fluctuations (although upon program renewal, prices may increase). We encourage all communities to consider whether municipal aggregation is a good fit for them moving forward.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office if you have any questions or concerns and stay safe and warm this winter season!
* Those whose gas or electricity is provided by a municipal light plant should contact their local light plant to determine whether the programs described above are available to them.
Utility contact list (Investor-owned)
Eastern Mass: 866-861-6225
Western Mass: 877-963-2632