FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Lindsay Hutton, Citizens for Local Power, 530-591-5463
OVER 130 ELECTED OFFICIALS CALL ON THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION TO LOWER “STUBBORNLY HIGH” UTILITY FIXED CHARGES
Ulster County, NY….In a letter sent to the NYS Public Service Commission by the Ulster County-based non-profit organization, Citizens for Local Power (CLP), 131 elected officials from across the state have urged the Commission to reform the electricity rates of New York’s electric utilities by reducing the fixed charge, which can be up to five times higher than in neighboring states. The letter was filed by CLP as part of testimony in the Commission’s review of Central Hudson’s proposed rate plan for 2018-2019.
The letter from elected leaders, including over 80 local and county officials in Ulster and Dutchess counties states that, “these charges greatly constrain the ability of our residents and small businesses to control their energy bills by using less or by installing renewable energy system like solar PV, and as such, are contrary to the Governor’s REV initiative and clean energy goals.” The Reforming the Energy Vision Initiative, or REV, was launched under PSC auspices in 2014 to undertake utility reform to better support the shift to a cleaner, “distributed” energy system that relies less on long-distance transmission of electricity from large-scale power plants.
“One of the stated objectives of the REV is to empower customers to better manage their energy bills to reduce costs, and these stubbornly high fixed charges are one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way,” said Jennifer Metzger, Director of Citizens for Local Power. “The Commission has an opportunity now to begin to address this problem, as it considers Central Hudson’s proposed new rate plan.” Central Hudson has the highest fixed charge in the state at $24 per month, followed by O&R ($20), National Grid ($17), Con Ed ($15.76), and NYSEG/RG&E ($15.11). By contrast, in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, fixed charges are between $3 - $6 per month.
The fixed charge is the basic charge on the utility bill that everyone pays, no matter how much electricity customers use. The utility also raises revenue from customers through charges that vary by usage, or kwhs. CLP, which is a party to the Central Hudson rate case, has proposed a step-down in Central Hudson’s fixed portion of the bill over three years, reducing it from $24 to $20 in the next rate year, followed by a reduction to $15 in the following rate year and $10 in the third year. A greater share of the utility’s revenue needs would be met through the kwh charge, which would give customers more control over their energy costs. “This would better align Central Hudson’s fixed charge with regional and national trends, as well as with New York’s own reform objectives,” said Metzger. CLP is also fighting the overall rate increase.
The letter from elected officials points out that high fixed charges shift costs from bigger energy users to more vulnerable populations. Low- and moderate- income residents are typically hardest hit because they tend to use less energy than average and pay a disproportionate amount of their income toward these high fixed charges. An analysis by the National Consumer Law Center of median residential electricity usage in New York by income found that median electricity usage by households earning less than $25,000 was about half that of households earning $100,000 or more. Median usage by households earning between $25,000 and $49,000 is about 33% less.
The letter from elected officials is posted on the CLP website at www.citizensforlocalpower.org. Members of the public can submit comments on the Central Hudson rate case on the NYS Department of Public Service website here.