PURA to investigate Eversource Energy rate hikes

Connecticut

CONNECTICUT (WTNH) — Residents across the state have been complaining about seemingly random, abnormal price hikes in their Eversource energy bills this month. Now, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) is investigating.

The new rates by Eversource went into effect July 1, so customers are just now seeing the bills, and they are not happy. Officials said the rate increase is in relation to a state energy policy passed in 2017. Meanwhile, state officials are not buying the reason the power company is giving for the dramatic increase.

Viewers reached out to News 8 earlier this week to report the delivery fee in their electric bills had been increased by hundreds seemingly out of nowhere.

On Wednesday, the State General Assembly’s Energy and Technology Committee requested PURA suspend the increase in rates due to the pandemic coupled with the extremely high temps the state is experiencing this summer. The Committee said the suspension will give PURA time to find alternate cost recovery options for Eversource.

We are respectfully requesting that the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA)
suspend the increase to the components of the Eversource delivery rate that increased on
July 1, including the transmission charge (TAC), the electric System Improvements (ESI)
tracker charge, and the non-bypassable federally mandated congestion charge
(NBFMCC).

The public health emergency, coupled with the extreme heat experienced in Connecticut
this summer has likely affected the 2020 electricity consumption forecasts for both of
our state’s electric utilities.

Because so many of the bill components are linked to a customer’s energy usage, it is important that PURA thoroughly vet both utilities’ proposed rate increases to ensure that neither utility is over-recovering. By suspending the rate increases and returning to the rates that were in effect with the
June billing cycle, it will allow PURA to conduct a thorough review of Eversource’s request and to explore alternative cost recovery options if that is more appropriate.

State General Assembly’s Energy and Technology Committee

After receiving the letter from General Assembly’s Energy and Technology Committee, PURA announced they would be investigating Eversource’s delivery fee increases.

PURA said they expect “to expeditiously rule on the motion after considering comments received by other stakeholders and members of the public.”

PURA continues to be mindful of the public health emergency and urges Connecticut customers to contact their utility company if they need assistance with their electric bills by inquiring whether they are eligible for a financial hardship protection program or to enroll in a COVID-19 Payment Program offered by their utility company.

PURA

Customers can contact PURA’s consumer services representatives with any inquiries or complaints related to this investigation: PURA’s Education and Outreach Unit (800) 382-4586 or by email at pura.information@ct.gov.

While state lawmakers say lights and AC units are on a bit longer due to COVID-19, that doesn’t explain the drastic spike.

“I support the ratepayers in this situation,” said State Senator Paul Formica (R). “You know, standing up and demanding action from Eversource. In the meantime, the Energy Committee Leadership is going to schedule a virtual meeting of some kind of information session or public hearing over as soon as we can actually so we can get ever source in front of us and have them explain the reasoning for this rate hike.”

Formica, who is a ranking member of the Energy and Technology Committee, said Eversource’s reasoning for the hike is suspect.

“They come out to the power purchase agreement, the legislature had them implement with regard to millstone station and having to buy some energy from millstone directly, which was a way to save millstone station and operating its nuclear power plant on a continual basis. Although, United Illuminating did not offer the same rate increase and they are under the same stipulation to buy from millstone.”

Lawmakers said they want bills returned to the June cycle so PURA has enough time to conduct a thorough review of the rate change.

Eversource released the following statement:

We understand the concerns that customers are expressing regarding recent higher-than-normal bills and recognize that it’s an unexpected and distressing increase at an already challenging time.

There are a variety of factors driving the recent increase in electric rates.  The biggest factor is a state energy policy passed by the Legislature in 2017 that requires Connecticut utilities to purchase power from the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant at higher costs for the next 10 years to keep Millstone running. This state-mandated contract is adding about $124 million to customer bills.  To try and protect customers from these additional charges, Eversource worked along with AARP to argue against this policy change—but were not successful.

Another reason bills are higher is that average customer use increased by 36% from May to June of this year.  This jump reflects the reality of more customers working from home during the pandemic and running air conditioners, pool filters, dehumidifiers and other appliances to help them stay cool.  In addition to these two cost drivers, there was also an increase in transmission costs from lower-than-expected loads over the New England transmission system compared to last year.  The lower loads were primarily due to milder weather.

Help is available to those who need it.  In response to the pandemic we recently started one of the most flexible payment plans in our history.  Customers can opt in to a payment plan that allows up to 24-months to pay their bills with no interest and no fees.  Being on a payment plan removes the risk of service disconnection.  In addition, there are several state and federal payment assistance programs available.  We encourage any customer who needs assistance with their bill to contact us at 800-286-2000.

There is a protest scheduled in front of Eversource’s Connecticut headquarters in Berlin Friday at 2:30 p.m.

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

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