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State utility regulator says old law prevents them from stopping giant electric rate hike

The proposed rate increase by Eversource and UI will go into effect January and according to PURA, there is nothing they can do about it.

CONNECTICUT, USA — Both of Connecticut’s mega energy conglomerates have filed for an electric rate increase that’ll have you paying, on average, about $85 more a month. 

“It’s going to be a grim holiday for a lot of people,” said Richard Buggy of Simsbury

It’s a roughly 50% increase from what you're paying now.

RELATED: Eversource, UI customers could pay double the current rates for energy

“That’s a high percentage,” added Willie Johnson of New Haven.

State Sen. Norm Needleman, a Democrat and the Chair of the Energy Committee remarked, “People are hurting. This is catastrophic.”

The proposed rate increase by Eversource and UI will go into effect Jan 1st and according to PURA, the state regulatory agency, there is nothing they can do about it.

“It’s not like a rate hike that we might see on the delivery side of the table where PURA has the ability to scrutinize those rate hikes and we can modify and reject those hikes. There is no comparable mechanism on the generation side. PURA cannot not accept these rates,” explained Marissa Gillett, the Chair of PURA.

Your utility bills are broken down by supply and delivery charges. PURA can push back - and has - on delivery charges. But in 1998 Connecticut passed a law that deregulated the energy market. It also stripped PURA of its oversight authority. 

“Any work that we can do on tweaking that law up to and maybe even doing a little more than tweaking it, I’m open to,” said Sen. Needleman, who also said Eversource and UI need to be more accountable to their customers. “To sit there and say we aren’t really responsible for that we’re going to just take our $1.2-billion and distribute it out to shareholders and senior managers for doing a great job seems to be a bit insensitive given the moment.”

Legislative Republicans agree that people’s pockets are pinched. 

State Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly said, “Connecticut families just can’t continue to experience unaffordability at every turn.”

But they are proposing not only a look at wholesale energy market changes but also immediate relief by tapping into the state’s rainy day fund. 

“Return this to the people of Connecticut and give them some relief from what is happening right now,” said Sen. Kelly.

Connecticut already has some of the highest energy costs in the country due in large part to our reliance on natural gas. Although, the state has made some tremendous progress to lessen our reliance on natural gas. Connecticut has offshore wind turbine contracts pending as well as robust rooftop and utility-scale solar generation. Additionally, the state’s agreement with the Millstone nuclear power plant has led to about a $10 monthly savings for ratepayers. 

“All of those efforts combine and they matter and they make us less exposed to the natural gas prices that are driving the price increases right now,” said Gillett.

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There is a way to escape paying the rate increase. EnergizeCT allows you to shop around for your own electric supplier. However, be careful. Many third-party suppliers have already been sued for deceptive marketing practices. Additionally, they often have tricky terms and conditions you need to agree to before you can lock in a lower rate. And if rates fall before the term of your agreement ends, you’ll be locked into a higher rate.

Eversoucre and UI are also not without scrutiny. Both companies have been levied heavy fines from PURA for their lack of communication and underperformance on preparedness and power restoration during Tropical Storm Isaias.

RELATED: Drivers could see highest ever Thanksgiving gas prices this year

The utility companies correctly point out that their supply charges are pass-thru costs, meaning you are charged only what it costs for the utility company to purchase that electricity on a competitive wholesale marketplace. However, many people told FOX61 that companies that make multi-million dollar profits need to be more attentive to their customers, not just their shareholders. 

“It has felt very much as if the state of Connecticut and our ratepayers have needed multiple consumer advocates over the past few years as we try to right this ship,” said Gillette.

Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at mcaron@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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