Eversource customers have been sounding the alarm all week about a substantial increase in their electricity bills.
Those types of complaints are not uncommon and are not new.
Anger over the cost of operating gas-fired street lamps caused Wallingford to start their own electric division more than a century ago.
“It’s what’s called public power and that’s who we’re responsible to. We don’t have shareholders,” explained Rick Hendershot, Wallingford’s public utilities director.
Hendershot used to serve as general manager of the town’s electric division, the town’s own electric company.
He says that local control has kept costs down.
“We’re more fortunate in having the Wallingford electric. Our rates are lower,” agreed Karen Chasse, a Wallingford resident.
Nancy Hanelius has lived in Wallingford for five years. Before that, she was an Eversource customer.
“It’s one of the reasons we moved here,” she pointed out. “We’re enjoying a lot lower electric bill than we had previously.”
The town operated its own power plant at one time.
Today, it buys electricity on the market. So, Hendershot said it does share some of the same cost concerns as Eversource.
“We work and live in the same market as they do,” he explained. “Our base costs are similar in that regard.”
Eversource said transmission costs are partly to blame for the steep increase in its customers’ utility bills. Hendershot confirms they have gone up.
“They haven’t had a tremendous impact yet. We notice it,” he said.
Unlike Eversource, Wallingford does not purchase power from the Millstone Nuclear Energy plant, which Eversource has blamed for the increase.
Half a dozen Connecticut communities operate their own electric utility, but Hendershot doesn’t expect more to start popping up on the grid anytime soon.
“To do it now would be prohibitively expensive,” he said. “I can’t imagine what the market or book value of all the poles, and transformers, and the wires, and then you need staff to operate it and maintain it.”
With a local utility, there is no customer choice.
Wallingford residents can’t shop around because the Wallingford Electric Division is their only option. But residents don’t seem to mind.
“We feel it’s a very good value, and we feel that it’s very fairly priced,” said Hanelius.