Photo by Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash
New York City residents are outraged after receiving electricity bills with astonishing price spikes, some by 300 percent of their normal rate. After receiving hundreds of calls from concerned New Yorkers over their skyrocketing electricity bills, elected officials are calling on the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) to launch an investigation into the sudden price increase among ConEd customers.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris on Wednesday said he wants the PSC, the agency that oversees the electric, gas, and water industries in the state, to investigate the increase in supply charges by ConEd.
“These skyrocketing, unexpected costs are hurting New Yorkers’ pockets at an already difficult time. ConEd needs to answer for this change and help make customers whole,” Gianaris, who represents parts of Queens, said. “ConEd’s poor explanations and concerning performance once again show the need for New Yorkers to have public power.”
ConEd said they’re not at fault for the price spikes. The company claims rising prices are due to increasing supply costs for natural gas which is due in part to the cold winter, more demand, and international tension like the volatile situation between Russia and Ukraine.
According to Reuters, U.S. natural gas futures spiked by a record 70 percent last month. While it’s true ConEd has little control over the prices of natural gas, New Yorkers believe the energy company could’ve been better prepared for this sudden increase and more transparent with their customers.
These price spikes come at a time when many New Yorkers are already struggling due to the pandemic. Many residents receiving these huge increases in dues may not be using more power than they normally would. This recent incident has put the spotlight back on the prospect of public power.
Gianaris has been a supporter of public power for years. Last June, published an op-ed that detailed the benefits of having publically-owned energy sources. Having public power sources would build long-term, renewable projects that would compete with private companies and drive down prices. More than that, these new energy sources would be better for the environment and help New York meet the climate goals it set in 2019.
“This is the type of pernicious behavior, and dismissive explanation, that has convinced me and so many others that the time has come to support public power for New Yorkers,” Gianaris wrote in a letter to Rory Christian, the chair of PSC. “These increased utility costs are hurting thousands of New Yorkers. Until the Legislature enacts a systemic solution, the PSC must investigate, act, and work to provide relief to New York’s ratepayers – now.”
Last month, ConEd made a proposal to the PSC requesting new electric and gas rates in 2023 to fund new clean energy investments that would better equip New York’s infrastructure to withstand severe weather. According to the proposal, “overall customer electric bills would rise 11.2 percent while overall customer gas bills would increase 18.2 percent.” This request comes only two years after Con Ed requested another rate increase, which the PSC ultimately cut by 75 percent.
Brooklyn electeds have also voiced their concerns with ConEd, with several council members and Borough President Antonio Reynoso penning a joint letter to PSC about the price hike.
“We cannot leave New Yorkers with the choice between putting food on the table or keeping the heat on during the coldest winter months,” the letter reads. “We collectively ask that you not approve ConEd’s rate hike without significant reductions to the huge increases sought by the company.”
On Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul and the PSC urged ConEd to review their billing practices and become more transparent with New Yorkers.
Hochul said, “The extreme utility bill increases we are seeing across the state come at a time when New Yorkers are already struggling financially following the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Even though the spike we are seeing in electricity, natural gas and fuel prices were predicted and are due to severe winter weather, I am calling on Con Ed to review their billing practices because we must take unified action to provide relief for New Yorkers, especially our most vulnerable residents.”
The PSC echoed these sentiments, with Rory M. Christian stating, “We understand that increases in winter electric and gas bills cause financial hardship. While the PSC and the utilities cannot control supply prices, utilities can improve their procurement and billing practices to reduce the likelihood of dramatic price swings in the future and we are requiring Con Edison to address this going forward.”
For the New Yorkers hit with these daunting bills, there are a couple of options available that may provide some assistance. You can register for the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), which helps low-income New Yorkers pay for utility costs. You can also file a complaint with the state’s Department of Public Service here.
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Tags : conedison, electricity, Michael Gianaris, public power