Public Utilities Regulatory Authority Tells Eversource to Suspend Rate Increase Amid Investigation

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Connecticut’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority is instructing Eversource to suspend price increases and restore prior rates amid an investigation after outrage from customers who saw large increases in their most recent utility bills.

PURA notified Connecticut Light and Power, which does business as Eversource, today.

This comes after thousands of Eversource customers reached out to NBC Connecticut with sticker shock over the cost of their Eversource bills amid the coronavirus pandemic.

PURA said it is reexamining administrative changes to the “energy and transmission adjustment clauses provisionally permitted by its June 26, 2020 letter.”

“Today’s decision by PURA is good news for ratepayers across our state. PURA’s pause today on delivery rate hikes reassures our residents that the reconsideration of requests by utilities can happen, and – most importantly of all – that customers won’t be overpaying in the meantime. At the same time, we have reinvigorated our pressure on the federal government to address long-standing frustrations with federally-mandated delivery charges,” Gov. Ned Lamont said.

Eversource responded to PURA's decision, saying they will work quickly to temporarily suspend the rate adjustment.

PURA had approved Eversource's request for rate increases, which went into effect on July 1, and has suspended that approval and instructed Eversource to restore the prior rates no later than Aug. 7.

“As an interim step, the Authority temporarily suspends its June 26, 2020 approval and orders the Company to immediately restore rates to those in effect as of June 30, 2020. Specifically, as soon as practicable, but no later than August 7, 2020, and until directed otherwise by the Authority, the Company shall use the RDM, TAC, NBFMCC, and ESI charges in effect prior to the Authority’s June 26, 2020 approval letter,” the letter says.

Public outcry over a jump in Eversource bills has state leaders calling for a federal investigation.

“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. Importantly, all rate adjustments in this proceeding are subject to final approval in the Company’s applicable RAM docket.

Attorney General William Tong is calling for Eversource to explain how they calculate the delivery charge and why the delivery charges are higher.

“We’ve received complaints from well over 100 consumers regarding unaffordable increases in their energy bills. Consumers have a right to be angry. We pay far too much for our energy as it is here in Connecticut. I thank PURA for reconsidering and scrutinizing these increases, and for considering all possible avenues to assist consumers. This office has intervened on behalf of consumers at each and every rate case before PURA and FERC because we know how much the cost of energy impacts family budgets,” Tong said in a statement.

Tong said three components make up energy bills—how much the customer uses, the cost of the energy itself, and the cost of delivering that energy to consumers.

The amount that Eversource charges for the energy itself decreased by about 2 cents per kWh, Tong said.

Eversource customers are speaking out after seeing a spike in utility bills this summer.

He added that there were two substantial increases to the delivery charge authorized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and by the Connecticut Public Utilities Authority. The first was a federally mandated transmission charge that increased from 2.601 to 3.785 cents per kWh, which he said amounts to $8.29 more per month for the average customer.

The second, he said, was a legislatively mandated charge to support carbon free generation to help the state meet its regional greenhouse gas emissions standards that amounts to a $10.24 monthly increase for the average consumer.

A news release from Tong's office says, according to Eversource, the three adjustments taken together amount to an average of $5.80 more per month for the average consumer and that's on top of the additional consumption from more people spending more time at home running air conditioners amid the pandemic, computers, and other electronics.

He is also asking for the total amount of costs to be recovered from consumers for 2020 as a result of the power purchase agreement for the Millstone Nuclear Power Station.

PURA is accepting public comments and intends to hold a public hearing in August.

On Friday morning, before PURA released the letter sent to Eversource, Eversource released a statement, saying the company received thousands of calls from customers about increases in their utility bills and they will work one-on-one with customers to “manage and reduce their future bills.”

Eversource says they will continue working with customers with their payment assistance and energy efficiency programs. The company is asking anyone who needs help with their bill to contact them at 800-286-2000 or visit their website for more information.

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