By Chris Dehnel, Patch, Nov 18, 2022
Skyrocketing supply rates could translate into much higher electric bills in 2023 for Connecticut residents. (Chris Dehnel/Patch)
CONNECTICUT — Electric rates for standard service could go up by more than $80 a month for power supplied by both major Connecticut utilities under filings registered Thursday with state regulators. The numbers are prompting Gov. Ned Lamont to call for a special legislative session to address them.
State Attorney General William Tong said, “We have next to no ability to challenge these supply rates, which is frustrating.”
The filings with the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority are related to the supply rates for the Jan. 1 to June 30, 2023 period. They would affect those with standard service.
Here is the breakdown:
The current Eversource supply rate is $0.24172 per kilowatt hour
90 percent of Eversource Customers are currently on standard service
The average residential customer using 700 kw can expect to see an approximate bill increase of $84.85 for January over December’s bill
StandardServiceCustomers will experience a 100.59 percent increase over the rate from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2022 ($0.12050/kWh); and for comparison the rate represents a 110 percent increase over last year’s winter energy prices (the rate from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2022 was $0.11484/kWh).
United Illuminating Supply Rate – $0.2249/kWh
83 percent of UI Customers are currently on standard service
The average residential customer using 700 kw can expect to see an approximate bill increase of $83.09 for January over December’s bill
Standard Service Customers will experience a 111.77 percent increase over the rate from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2022 ($0.1062/kWh); and for comparison represents a 110.71 percent increase over last year’s winter energy prices (the rate from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2022 was $0. 0.106731/kWh).
According to the filing, the supply rates are directly affected by the natural gas market price, which is the fuel used to generate the majority of Connecticut’s electricity.
“When the market price of natural gas increases, supply rates also increase,” according to the filing.
According to the filing, the oil and natural gas markets are “global,” and Russia’s war in Ukraine has created “volatile energy markets and is putting upward pressure on oil and natural gas prices.”
The filing added, “Even though the United States only imports a small amount from Eastern Europe, the disruptions are affecting prices worldwide, including in the United States and particularly in New England, where we still rely heavily on natural gas and on Liquified Natural Gas, or LNG, which has been in higher demand in Europe resulting in significant increases to the price of LNG, which sets the market price. These factors have impacted Connecticut’s procurements this summer and fall, despite Connecticut’s proactive procurement practices and efforts to insulate against natural gas price volatility.”
The details of the filing drew the ire of Lamont.
“This is unwelcome news to close out a year that has been challenging for so many in our state. In the coming days, I will be calling the General Assembly into special session to adopt legislation focused on providing relief for Connecticut residents, including by ensuring our energy assistance program is adequately funded to at least last year’s level so support is available for electricity and heating oil costs,” Lamont said.
“I am disappointed electric distribution utilities are enjoying historic profits at the same time electric generation rates are increasing and customers are experiencing economic hardships, and I call on UI and Eversource to come to the table with solutions that recognize their investors and executives can and should support customers while we work together towards long-term solutions that untether us from the volatility of global fossil fuel markets,” Lamont added.
Tong said, “This is a massive increase that will be unaffordable for many Connecticut families and businesses. We pay far too much for our energy in Connecticut as it is, and these winter rates are nothing short of punishing. My office has intervened on behalf of consumers at each and every rate case before the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission because we know how much the cost of energy impacts family budgets. We have next to no ability to challenge these supply rates, which is frustrating. Our supply rates always fluctuate between winter and summer, but this is not normal. We are seeing a huge global spike in gas costs due to the war in Ukraine and Russian manipulation of gas supplies. Both as a country and a state, we need to take a hard look at our energy sources and reduce our reliance on sources like natural gas that produce these wild, unaffordable surges in rates.”
Connecticut typically has had the highest or nearly the highest electric rates in New England, and the continental United States, Lamont said.
“Connecticut’s strategic electricity policies enacted in recent years have helped to buck that trend and hedge the impact of these new standard service increases,” he added.
Lamont outlined actions taken by state officials “to keep prices lower and less volatile,” Connecticut has taken the following actions:
Connecticut entered into a contract with Millstone that has generated substantial net profits (about $128 million between January and April 2022 alone), which are being directly refunded to UI and Eversource customers. As of September 1, 2022, the average Eversource and UI residential customer saw an electric bill reduction of $9.78/month and $7.72/month, respectively.
The state offered assistance to install efficiency upgrades and weatherize their homes by adding $3.5 million this summer to the EnergizeCT efficiency programs.
The state spread out the purchase of electricity for standard service by Eversource and UI over time to minimize the impact of spiking prices and volatility in the electricity markets.
The state passed Public Act 20-5, known as the “Take Back Our Grid Act.” This legislation increased accountability among Connecticut’s utility companies by implementing a performance-based incentive system that ensures their earnings and profits are tied to good performance, while also enabling PURA to implement low income and economic development rates.
House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora took a political tone with his comments.
“News of significant electric rate increases comes at the worst possible time for Connecticut residents already squeezed by inflation and a home heating cost crisis that hasn’t yet peaked.,” he said. “This should be a wake-up call for the Governor and legislative Democrats, who in advance of an anticipated special session must ask themselves whether there’s more that we can do to shield citizens from this perfect financial storm. These rate hikes should cause the legislature as well as the Governor’s administration to conduct a comprehensive review of past policy decisions and forward-looking goals to determine whether state government is managing energy-related issues in a manner that balances concerns and concepts from environmentalists with the palpable stress of ratepayers who find themselves digging deeper and deeper to pay their bills.”
Eversource offered the following statement and was pushing assistance programs Thursday.
“How much a customer pays will ultimately depend on how much energy is used, their rate category, and weather conditions. All Eversource customers have the option to buy their power from state-approved third-party suppliers or receive their energy supply through Eversource’s Standard Service rate. Customers can find out more information about alternate supplier rates at EnergizeCT,” utility officials said. “As has been widely reported, energy costs continue to rise globally, with regional electric supply prices reaching all-time highs this year due to increased global demand for and the high cost of natural gas, world events, extreme weather, and other issues.
“Eversource is encouraging customers who are having difficulty paying their energy bills or want to learn more about what help is available.”
Webinars are slated for Dec. 1 and 8. Advanced registration is required, and customers can sign up at Eversource.com/Billhelp. Customers can also call the energy company at 800-286-2828 to learn more about the assistance and programs available, utility officials said.