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Regunberg: Empower communities to own their own electrical utilities

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Aaron Regunberg

Rhode Island State Representative Aaron Regunberg (Democrat, District 4, Providence) will be introducing legislation to empower local community ownership of their electrical utilities once the House of Representatives reconvenes in January.

National Grid’s failure to effectively respond to this week’s storm, leaving thousands of Rhode Island families in the dark for far too long, is just the latest example of the inherent flaws of a utility model where the primary goal is billion-dollar profits for a multinational corporation, not the best possible service for Rhode Islanders,” said Regunberg. “Our communities deserve better, and a better way is possible, through public power utilities — locally owned, not-for-profit institutions like the Pascoag Utility District in Burrillville. Public power gives our communities control, rather than billionaire CEOs and stockholders thousands of miles away. Rates are set locally, and local needs are considered. That means all the benefits produced by public power — including better service and affordable energy costs — stay in the community.”

Governor Gina Raimondo yesterday directed the DPUC (Division of Public Utilities and Carriers) to conduct a comprehensive review of National Grid’s preparation for and response to the storm that left thousands of Rhode islanders without power.

Regunberg said he will be pre-filing legislation to allow communities to take control of their electric utility, transferring ownership and authority from National Grid to local governing boards that are directly accountable to the communities they serve. Some of the nation’s largest cities — Los Angeles, San Antonio, Seattle, Austin and Orlando — operate locally owned electric utilities, similar to the highly regarded Pascoag Utility District in Burrillville.


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“This week’s ongoing power outages underline that the for-profit corporate utility model is not working for our state. National Grid is pursuing billion dollar profits, not providing the best service for people in our state. Clearly, the accountability we need to get fast results and honest rates isn’t there,” Regunberg said. “In the coming legislative session I will continue to fight for a new model of direct community accountability that puts the needs of Rhode Islanders front and center.”

Regunberg recently announced that he is running for Lieutenant Governor in Rhode Island.

Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade. atomicsteve@gmail.com