Proposed CL&P rate increase gets angry response

The equipment associated with CL&P will likely soon be a memory as the utility is planning its move out of Greenwich. — Ken Borsuk photo

CL&P’s soon to be closed Greenwich location — Ken Borsuk photo

Connecticut Light & Power is facing strong public opposition to its proposed rate increases, including a 59% markup to its fixed monthly service fee.

While CL&P contends that the increase is necessary to improve service quality and infrastructure stability, a number of politicians have spoken out against the increase. According to the utility, the goal is to increase the company’s rate of return from 9.4% to 10.2%, which would be primarily achieved through the service fee increase. If approved, that fee would jump from $16 per month to $25.50 per month, and CL&P customers would pay $150 more a year for their service on average.

The rate request currently is before the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), with hearings being held to determine the viability of the increase.

Gov. Dannel Malloy was vocal in his opposition to the increase in a recent statement saying, “We need to fashion an innovative and common sense response that will ensure the long-term fiscal health of our major electric utilities without penalizing ratepayers. Connecticut families and small businesses should not be asked to pay a higher share of the costs.  CL&P’s proposed increase in the monthly service fee and higher rate of return do not accomplish that objective.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a Greenwich resident, held a press conference against the proposal and released a letter appealing to PURA Chairman Arthur House to reject CL&P’s increase application, citing issues with the rate structure and the demand placed on low-income households.

“Fixed monthly customer charges should cover only a small share of a utility’s costs and this proposal is a major break with traditional rate design,” he wrote in the letter. “Connecticut residents simply cannot afford this unconscionable rate hike — a disproportionate burden on consumers, most notably low-income, elderly and highly efficient users, that would place CL&P’s return-on-equity rate among the highest in the nation.”

Some officials, including State Rep. Henry Genga (D-10), have accused the company of trying to increase its profit margin at the expense of vulnerable customers. CL&P maintains that the increase, which would bring in $231 million, is necessary to make “important capital investments” in the state’s infrastructure.

However, CL&P strongly rejected that claim and said there was nothing improper about the proposed rate increase.

“Last year, reliability was better than it’s been in over a decade due to the targeted system improvements and replacements we have made in our system,” CL&P spokesperson Mitch Gross said. “At the same time, we have worked hard to control our own operating costs, which have resulted in savings for customers.

When compared to nearby states, the proposed CL&P rate appears to be considerably higher. Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz reports that CL&P sister companies Public Service of New Hampshire, Boston Edison and Western Massachusetts Electric Company charge a fixed monthly rate of $12.39, $6.43 and $6 respectively. In a statement released alongside Mr. Blumenthal’s letter, her office suggested that CL&P instead reduce its fixed monthly fee to $11.68.

The concern has not just existed on the state and congressional level, but locally as well. State Rep. Fred Camillo (R-151) expressed concerns over Connecticut’s already high cost of living, and the potential impact of the increase on those looking to establish themselves in the state.

“With reports coming out almost weekly detailing how our Connecticut taxpayers pay near or at the top of many categories, whether it be cable, gasoline, electricity, or many others, this is just one more reason for people to start looking elsewhere to live.” Mr. Camillo said.

State Rep. Livvy Floren (R-149) looked to PURA’s public hearings as evidence of the public’s distate for the proposed rate increase.

“I think the rate increase request is untenable and comes at an especially bad time with the very harsh and cold winter that is being predicted, The public hearings currently being held by PURA have overwhelmingly proven that there is no public or political support at all for the price hikes,” Ms. Floren said.

PURA will ultimately be the judge of the proposed increase, and must decide whether the need for improved service outweighs the desires of the public and the call for affordability. PURA has held public hearings regarding the request in New Britain, Stamford and New London. There are several additional hearings on the PURA schedule, with a special meeting for a final decision set for Oct. 15.

“While we understand there are questions about our rate proposal, it’s important to note that customer feedback is all part of PURA’s review process,” Mr. Gross said on behalf of CL&P. “We remain committed to building and maintaining an electric system that is stronger, more reliable and more efficient for the future.”

[email protected]

By participating in the comments section of this site you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and User Agreement

© Hersam Acorn. All rights reserved. The Greenwich Post, 10 Corbin Drive, Floor 3, Darien, CT 06820

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress