Unpaid Electric Bills May Leave Eversource Customers on the Hook for Further Rate Hikes

Residential electric customers owe $276 million to Eversource for bills that haven’t been paid in over a month – a 20 percent increase since last spring when Connecticut Attorney General William Tong ordered energy providers to maintain service to customers in an effort to cushion the fallout of the pandemic.

That debt amounts to about $250 for each of Eversource’s 1.1 million residential customers across Connecticut, and the company has told shareholders that it expects state regulators will approve rate increases to compensate for the unpaid bills.

In its annual report, Eversource told shareholders last week that the company has seen an increase in “aged” overdue bills, but had still managed a profit of $1.2 billion, an increase of 7.5 percent over the previous year.

On Feb. 15, the Fortune 500 energy company, with headquarters in Hartford and Boston, told state regulators that more than 828,000 of its roughly 1.1 million residential electric customers collectively owe the company $435.98 million for unpaid electric bills, with $276 million unpaid for more than 30 days, and $196.6 million unpaid for more than 120 days.

The state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority has required Eversource and United Illuminating to make monthly reports of unpaid bills and service disconnections starting last April, when state restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 began to take a toll on many families and businesses.

In its first report on April 15, Eversource reported that 810,235 residential electric customers owed more than $349.7 million for unpaid bills, with $228.4 million unpaid for more than 30 days, and $132.7 million unpaid for more than 120 days.

An evident jump in unpaid bills followed a July 1 rate increase, that coupled with increased power usage during the summer heat to cause many customers’ bills to skyrocket. The increase in delinquencies is especially clear in bills that were unpaid for fewer than 30 days.

Eversource does not report how many customers are subject to disconnection, but under normal circumstances, the company’s policy is to send disconnection notices 33 days after a bill is due.  Since the March 12 moratorium on disconnections expired on Oct. 1, Eversource has voluntarily extended the moratorium for itself. 

“We haven’t disconnected service to any customers since the beginning of the pandemic and continue working with regulators, elected officials and other stakeholders to evaluate next steps for resuming service disconnections for commercial and non-hardship residential customers,” Eversource spokesman Mitch Gross said in an email.

Eversource is also encouraging customers struggling to pay their bills to take advantage of the company’s payment programs.

“We encourage customers who are having difficulty paying their utility bill to contact us so our representatives can work with them one-on-one to determine which of the many payment programs we offer can help — like Budget Billing, Matching Payment, New Start and the COVID-19 Payment Program which customers can enroll in until April 20,” wrote Gross.

Contact information and more information about the payment plans and assistance programs is available on Eversource’s website.

According to its latest monthly report to PURA, about 14,800 Eversource electric customers, owing a total of $20.77 million, are currently enrolled in a payment plan with the company, with an average amount of $215 due, and an average repayment term of 18.4 months.

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