A fight is brewing over a request by Connecticut's largest utility to raise rates by $232 million to upgrade equipment following destructive storms.
Customers would pay an average $150 more a year, up about 6 percent, if regulators side with Connecticut Light & Power, according to the state Consumer Counsel.
Consumer advocates say monthly charges would rise regardless of how much electricity is used, which they say would threaten efforts to conserve electricity.
CL&P, a subsidiary of Northeast Utilities, says about $117 million would pay for new and stronger poles, wires, transformers and substation upgrades.
Another $89.5 million is to repair damage from storms in 2011 and 2012 and $25.3 million is to protect equipment from future storms.
Gov. Dannel Malloy released a statement saying that the request for "a staggering increase" of nearly 60 percent in the fixed monthly service fee on monthly electric bills is at odds with the state's strategy of encouraging energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources and unfairly penalizes those who use the least energy, small businesses and people on fixed incomes.
“Everyone recognizes that CL&P faces new business challenges and changes in its revenue stream resulting from efficiency, the use of renewables, a growing emphasis on distributed generation, and other efforts to meet our energy needs in ways that will reduce costs and environmental impactsm," Malloy said in a statement. "However, we need to fashion an innovative and common sense response that will ensure the long term fiscal health of our major electric utilities without penalizing rate payers. Connecticut families and small businesses should not be asked to pay a higher share of the costs. CL&P’s proposed increase in the monthly service fee and higher rate of return do not accomplish that objective.”
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal is calling on the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to reject what he calls an "unconscionable and unacceptable increase" and reduce the charge.
“Fixed monthly customer charges should cover only a small share of a utility’s costs and this proposal is a major break with traditional rate design. Connecticut residents simply cannot afford this unconscionable rate hike – a disproportionate burden on consumers, most notably low-income, elderly and highly efficient users, that would place CL&P’s return-on-equity rate among the highest in the nation," Blumenthal said in a statement.
The first of three public hearings is scheduled for Wednesday. A draft decision is expected in December.