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Western Massachusetts consumers react to rising energy costs with worry, resignation

National Grid vehicles.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region
National Grid vehicles.

Energy prices are likely to soar this winter across Massachusetts.

National Grid announced this week it plans to raise electricity rates by 64%, which the state is reviewing for approval.

Eversource announced earlier its electricity prices could go up by more than 10% and other utilities have warned of similar increases.

Experts say much of the increase is being driven by the war between Ukraine and Russia, which is driving up the cost of natural gas.

Reaction from western Massachusetts ratepayers ranges from worry to resignation.

"More blankets, more sweaters, less light bulbs," said Barbara Kieszek, who was loading up her car with groceries in Easthampton.

Kieszek considers energy one of the many costs going up, like gas and food. She manages a shower door company with four showrooms.

"Those are (open) six days a week. So we're running electricity. It will affect us," she said.

Some people say they'll try to conserve energy, from washing dishes with cold water to turning off the air conditioner when they're not home.

"There's always a television in the living room that's kind of always just running," said Jimmy Washington of Northampton. "So I guess small things like that, things that we wouldn't really notice before."

Others said they may look into solar power.

Erica Nocera of Westfield said she's always been environmentally conscious in her home but now it's clear the problem needs to be addressed more broadly.

"I think it's something that we should have been looking at alternatives decades ago, and now we're paying for it," she said.

Meanwhile, Nocera expects to give up some personal spending to accommodate a higher energy bill. That means fewer trips to visit her ailing mother in Georgia.

Peggy Britton is a 72-year-old retired office worker in Easthampton who said she's on a fixed income and worried about paying all her bills.

"I might have to go back to work," she said, then laughed that things could get even worse than that.

"I guess I'll pitch a tent in my backyard and live out there!" she said.

Richard Zimnowski, a retired toolmaker from Southampton, said he doesn't plan to change his lifestyle or energy use at all.

"I'm getting up in age and we're just going to enjoy ourselves," he said. "Let the next people worry about it."

If the state approves, the new energy rates for National Grid go into effect Nov. 1.

Karen Brown is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998.
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