With public outcry escalating about higher electric bills, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority ordered Eversource on Friday to immediately restore delivery rates that were in effect on June 30.
PURA said the agency had received numerous complaints related to the increased delivery charges incurred by Eversource ratepayers and will temporarily suspend approval of the new rates.
“Due to the convergence of a number of recent events, including the July 1st administrative adjustment to certain delivery rate components, the COVID-19 crisis and its corresponding effect on customer energy usage, as well as the higher than normal temperatures this month, Eversource customers recently received higher than anticipated electric bills,” the letter stated.
PURA ordered that “specifically, as soon as practicable, but no later than August 7, 2020, and until directed otherwise by the Authority,” Eversource will use the Revenue Decoupling Mechanism (RDM) charge, Transmission Adjustment Clause (TAC) charge, Non-Bypassable Federally Mandated Congestion Charge (NBFMCC), and Electric System Improvements Tracker (ESI) charges in effect prior to the June 26 approval letter from PURA.
PURA said it will “reexamine the administrative changes to the energy and transmission adjustment clauses” provisionally permitted in the June 26 letter.
“The intent of this reexamination is to ensure that Eversource is not over-collecting revenues in the short term at the expense of ratepayers during this period of financial hardship,” the letter stated.
Eversource pointed to the 2019 power purchase agreement with Dominion Energy that was created to keep Millstone running for 10 years as the major cause of the cost increase and cited a $124 million shortfall that had to be remedied during the next six months.
In a statement released Friday, Tricia Modifica, Connecticut media relations manager for Eversource, said the utility would comply with orders from PURA and would work with customers to create payment plans.
“We understand and share concerns that customers are expressing regarding recent higher-than-normal bills. We will work quickly to enact PURA’s temporary suspension of the rate adjustment and look forward to participating in the process to ensure transparency for customers and policy makers,” Modifica wrote. “We also continue to work with customers one-on-one through our payment assistance and energy efficiency programs to help them lower their energy use and reduce their bills, recognizing that the weather continues to be warmer than normal and people are still adjusting their lives around COVID.”
When asked about the adjustment of the high electric bills already sent out to consumers, Eversource responded in an email that the company is “still evaluating how it will carry out the order from PURA” and is “working quickly to enact the temporary suspension.”
Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex, who is chair of the Energy and Technology Committee, joined Connecticut legislators in signing a July 28 letter to PURA expressing concern about the increased costs to vulnerable consumers during an economic downturn. He said he was in favor of the PURA decision to suspend increases in rates especially during the pandemic when consumers and businesses are particularly vulnerable. He said the rate increases also raise larger issues about how utilities charge for electricity in Connecticut.
“Eversource is a cost-plus business, they make money on any incremental costs,” Needleman said. “The bigger question is how did we get to the point where we have the highest rates in the country? The committee is calling for a broader conversation about how rates are made in Connecticut so that ratepayers and poor people don’t continually get burdened by the process that does not serve them but that serves companies that deliver the energy.”
PURA said it will continue to accept public comments and intends to hold a public hearing in August to check that the Eversource changes are in compliance.
“The intent of this reexamination is to ensure that Eversource is not over-collecting revenues in the short term at the expense of ratepayers during this period of financial hardship,” PURA wrote.