by Christian Wade
Connecticut lawmakers are calling for regional public hearings over a proposal by one of the state’s largest utilities to dramatically hike electricity rates.
In a letter to the state Public Utility Regulatory Authority, a group of 20 state senators wrote that they are “profoundly disturbed” by Eversource’s proposed rate increase, and called for hearings on the “exorbitant and punishing” rate increase.
The hearings should include Massachusetts and New Hampshire, which are also served by Eversource, and would require the company to explain how it procures energy, forecasts natural gas and other fuel source rates, and “if it is providing their ratepayers with sufficient protections from excessive increases.”
“This is not a problem that Connecticut alone can solve. We do not live in a vacuum, and this crisis requires a regional solution,” they wrote.
Eversource is proposing to increase electric rates charged to consumers by nearly 50%, or $85 a month for the average customer. Meanwhile, United Illuminating is also seeking rate increases that would bump up the average bill for customers by about $80 a month. Both proposals must be approved by the state’s utility regulators.
The companies cite rising global energy costs coupled with regional electric supply prices, that often reach all-time highs this time of year due to increased demand, and the high cost of natural gas, extreme weather, and other issues.
But the lawmakers blamed the higher rates on what they described as Eversource’s “extreme profit seeking and lack of foresight,” and questioned why other regional electric suppliers have been able to procure energy at lower costs. They suggested the root of the problem was “greed” by the utility’s top executives.
“They are paid to do a good job and to deliver for ratepayers – over which they have a monopoly and a guaranteed source of income,” the lawmakers wrote. “Instead, Eversource makes record profits, delivers those record profits to investors at the expense of ratepayers and makes its executives fabulously rich.”
The lawmakers argue that utility shareholders should not receive record dividends when customers are paying substantially higher rates for gas and electricity.
“Shareholders, executives and regulators need to come together to provide relief for ratepayers and restore confidence in the management of Eversource,” they wrote.
Energy bills reflect a combination of supply prices, which are based largely on market conditions, and delivery prices, which are set by state and federal regulators.
Utilities point out that winter rates are pass-through charges, that only cover the cost of power, which they don’t control and are not allowed to profit from under state law.
Connecticut already has some of the highest energy costs in the nation, and increased electricity rates will have an outsized impact on many low-income households, officials say.
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