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State regulatory agency orders Eversource to return rates to pre-hike numbers

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BERLIN, Conn. (WTNH) — The state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) has sent a letter to Eversource demanding the company return energy bill rates to numbers that reflect June 2020.

This comes as began PURA investigating numerous Eversource customers’ concerns about a sudden price hike in their energy bills that went into effect this July.

In the letter, PURA asked Eversource to suspend the recent rate hike and bring back the normal rates by Aug. 7.

PURA is investigating to ensure Eversource is not over-collecting these revenues, especially during the period of financial hardship brought on by the pandemic.

“There’s a lot of people not working; it’s the wrong time,” said Frank, a New Britain resident.

“Mow is not the time to be jacking up prices,” added Noreen Lotko, of Plainville.”It’s been in the 90s all week. I’m missing a lung from cancer a few years ago. I need the air conditioner in the house, and right now, I’m having a hard time breathing.”

Customers weren’t taking the increase lying down. Nearly two dozen people protested Friday and 94,000 signed an online petition.

Eversource responded to the customer complaints Friday morning and cited several factors that they say have contributed to the rate increases.

Eversource claimed the prices went up due to the hotter summer weather; the company said June 2020 was 13 degrees hotter than June 2019.

They also mention that more people are staying inside using energy during the pandemic, and have seen a 26% increase in energy use in June 2020 from last year.

Eversource said the price hike is also affected by a state-mandated energy subsidy that passed in 2017 and went into effect this month to support Dominion Millstone Power Station’s operations.

“We are hearing from customers; we are staying close with regulators and look forward to reviewing options going forward,” said Eversource’s Penni McLean-Conner.

The company must comply with the new pricing by next week, which comes as executive touted their second earnings to investors on Wall Sreet.

“Yes, from an investor standpoint, investors are interested in what returns earn and the capital we invest in the system is an important part of that story,” said McLean-Conner, citing earnings drivers as the increased rates and shareholder returns which are expected to jump more than 300% in the next decade.

Customers should see the change in their bills in August.

Lawmakers are asking federal regulators to force Eversource to give rebates and refunds.

At this time, Eversource said it has worked with PURA to create a financial assistance plan to help customers pay their electric bills, including no-fee, no-interest plans.

For more information from Eversource, call (800) 286-2000 or log on to Eversource.com.

After the announcement, state officials spoke out in support of the return.

“Today’s decision by PURA is good news for ratepayers across our state,” Governor Ned Lamont said. “PURA’s pause today on delivery rate hikes reassures our residents that the reconsideration of requests by utilities can happen, and – most importantly of all – that customers won’t be overpaying in the meantime. At the same time, we have reinvigorated our pressure on the federal government to address long-standing frustrations with federally-mandated delivery charges.”

“An independent, rigorous review of Eversource’s rate increase at PURA is the best way to ensure Connecticut residents are not paying more than their fair share to our publicly regulated utilities,” added Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Katie Dykes. “In this time of economic distress for so many, PURA did the right thing to make sure that families are not overpaying while the utilities make their case. Respecting PURA’s oversight role, DEEP will participate as a party to advocate on behalf of the state for affordable electric rates essential to a speedy recovery, and a clean and reliable electric grid essential to future health and prosperity.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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