FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Jennifer Metzger (845) 489-0830
The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) is asking for public input on energy affordability and proposed reforms to its low-income programs. Hearings for the Central Hudson service territory will be held on Thursday, September 24, at Poughkeepsie Town Hall (1 Overocker Road), at two different times, and will be proceeded by information sessions: a 2 pm information session followed by a 3 pm public statement hearing; and a 6 pm information session followed by a 7 pm public statement hearing. At the information sessions, PSC Staff will present its recommended reforms—the result of a proceeding launched in January of this year.
Citizens for Local Power (CLP) encourages citizens to attend the hearing, speak about their energy experiences and needs, and comment on the proposals made by the PSC, and on additional proposals that will be made by CLP.
“The Commission initiative is an important first step in addressing the serious toll that energy costs take on low- and moderate-income residents in our communities. In 2014, 277,000 households had their energy shut off because of non-payment, and unpaid bills totaled $765 million statewide. This is obviously unacceptable. The proposals by the PSC are a start, indeed some of them are very positive but we still have a long way to go to make this very basic need affordable,” said Jen Metzger of Citizens for Local Power. Metzger noted that New Yorkers pay 50% more for electricity than the national average, and for people living on low and moderate incomes, the energy burden can at times account for up to 40% of their household income. It should not account for more than 6%, according to the widely accepted standard. “A very welcome recommendation of PSC staff is to set discount amounts for the State’s low-income programs so that no household pays more than 6%,” said Metzger. “We strongly urge the Commission to support this recommendation, as well as Staff’s recommendation to prohibit utilities from charging reconnection fees to low-income customers.”
In Central Hudson’s service territory, 30% of households live on under $35,000 a year—considered by the State to be “low-income”—yet only 6% of households are receiving the assistance they are eligible to receive from the utility. CLP has joined other community-based organizations around the State in recommending that Lifeline criteria be adopted so that utility low-income benefits automatically go to participants in other assistance programs, such as the National School Free Lunch, to ensure that people in need are being served.
CLP is also calling on the PSC to take important additional steps, including make energy conservation, efficiency, and weatherization services part of all-low income programs, so that the people receiving support are able to reduce their energy costs and their need for assistance. CLP also calls on the PSC to allow low-income customers to apply their discounts to shared renewable energy projects, such as shared solar, which are now possible in New York, thanks to the PSC’s new Community Renewable Energy Program, and will bring much needed stability to energy prices. “Reducing the need for energy and expanding access to the benefits of renewable energy will help considerably to address the energy affordability problem in New York for the long term,” said Metzger.