Connecticut’s two largest electric utilities applied for rate increases that would increase average residential customer’s bills by more than 40 percent – or about $80 a month – starting in January.
Eversource applied with the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority for approval to increase its residential supply rate from 12.1 to 24.2 cents per kilowatt hour – which would increase the bill of a customer using 700 kWh of electricity a month by about 48 percent, or $85 a month.
United Illuminating, which serves 17 towns in the Bridgeport and New Haven areas, asked PURA to increase its standard residential supply rate from 10.62 to 21.94 cents/kWh – which would increase a customer’s monthly bill by about 43 percent, or $79 a month.
“We understand that the unprecedented state of the global energy market is having real, burdensome impacts on the everyday lives of families across Connecticut, so we are focused on making sure UI customers are aware of, and prepared for, these rising supply costs and understand the programs we have to help,” said Frank Reynolds, President & CEO of United Illuminating, in a statement.
Supply rates typically increase on Jan. 1 to account for the higher price of natural gas in the winter, when it becomes a key fuel for heating in addition to fueling the majority of electricity produced in New England. But the increase the companies are applying for this year is far more dramatic, which both companies said is a result of the global increase in natural gas prices driving up the cost of electricity in New England – a cost they said they pass on directly to customers without profit.
Eversource Chief Customer Officer Jared Lawrence said that only the supply rate is increasing, which is based only on the cost to buy electricity, and is a regulated procedure designed to reflect the competition of the open market.
“The market is out of whack right now, unfortunately, and those procurement procedures are doing a good job of reflecting how the market has gotten out of whack because of the geopolitical situation in Europe,” Lawrence said. “The component of the bill that relates to Eversource’s investment and operations, and our profits, that part is not going up at all.”
Attorney General William Tong said that while his office has intervened on behalf of consumers “at each and every rate case” before PURA, they have “next to no ability” to challenge the supply rate proposals.
“Our supply rates always fluctuate between winter and summer, but this is not normal,” Tong said. “We are seeing a huge global spike in gas costs due to the war in Ukraine and Russian manipulation of gas supplies. Both as a country and a state, we need to take a hard look at our energy sources and reduce our reliance on sources like natural gas that produce these wild, unaffordable surges in rates.”
Both companies said customers concerned they won’t be able to afford their bills should contact their electric provider to discuss options for payment plans, relief, or energy efficiency programs.
Lawrence said that customers can shop for competitive rates from third-party suppliers to see if they are more attractive than the standard Eversource offer – though PURA has warned repeatedly that third-party supply contracts usually end up costing more.
But for customers who are keeping the Eversource standard rate, there are assistance programs for customers earning less than 60 percent of the state median income – about $76,465 for a household of four people – as well as payment arrangements for people who don’t qualify for assistance.
United Illuminating customers can call 800-722-5584 to discuss assistance programs, or call 877-947-3873 to for the company’s weatherization program.
Eversource customers can call 800-286-2828, and the company is holding two webinars to go over assistance programs at noon on Dec. 1 and 8th, which customers can sign up for on the company website.