Utility regulators have approved a steep increase in electricity rates but will spread the costs out over all of next year to ease the impact on consumers.

The Rhode Island State Public Utilities Commission approved National Grid’s request Tuesday. The Providence Journal reports ( ) that opponents packed the room, chanting: “National Grinch” and “Shame, shame, shame.”

National Grid says the rate hike is due to higher demand for natural gas, with more power plants burning natural gas to generate electricity.

In a concession to consumers, the commission agreed to spread an increase of 24 percent, compared to last January, over 12 months instead of six. Rates will increase by 14.25 percent.

Poverty advocates from the George Wiley Center says that’s still too much because people can’t pay their bills now.