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The Real Deal: Federal Investigators Probe Energy Costs

ALBANY - State regulators have asked the Federal government to investigate the price we've all been paying to stay warm this winter.   As CBS6 has been reporting, the price per kilowatt hour for electricity in the Capital Region was .055 in November for National Grid customers, by January it had more than doubled to .125 and in February the price soared to .191.
National Grid issued a temporary credit on the February bills for the difference between the January and February rate per kilowatt hour to help ease the pain of big bills but it will need to be paid back over the next 6 months.  Now, the Public Service Commission is stepping in.
 
CBS6 Investigative Reporter, Jennifer Lewke spoke exclusively with the chair of the PSC, Audrey Zibelman who confirmed she sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asking it to conduct an investigation into the distributors who provide utilities with the energy that is resold to customers.  "Because it was such a cold winter, the price of gas has gone up and the fact that we have so many generators who use gas in New York, that's driven up the price of electricity," Zibelman says, meaning National Grid has had to pay more to get it and of course, that increase is being passed along to customers.
 
"We have some concern that people were taking advantage of the cold weather and that the price of gas was unnecessarily highIf you look at the relationship between the prices and the weather and the duration of how the prices went up and the amount by which they went up, it just begs the questions, let's look at what happened here and see if there was some inappropriate behavior," Zibelman says.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has agreed to take on the investigation but it will likely take months to come to any conclusions.  There is no guarantee customers will see any monetary benefit as a result of the investigation.  
 
As FERC conducts its investigation, the PSC is working with National Grid and other upstate utilities on how they hedge, or buy energy.  "We really need to start thinking about how we change practices to deal with these very difficult weather events," she says.  
 
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