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Fairfield Letter: Connecticut’s Electric Utilities Aren’t Plugged In

State Sen. Tony Hwang
State Sen. Tony Hwang Photo Credit: File

FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- The Fairfield Daily Voice accepts signed letters to the editor. Submit letters to fairfield@dailyvoice.com.

To the editor:

We pay the highest electric rates in the Northeast and our state’s largest electric provider was just ranked dead last for customer satisfaction.

According to the CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, a grassroots collaboration of environmental, business and labor advocacy groups, residential customers’ fixed charges have more than doubled since 2004 and they are increasing four times the rate of inflation.

Today, Eversource (formerly CL&P) has the highest fixed charge among major utility companies in New England ($19.25/month), and United Illuminating has the second highest ($17.25/month). By comparison, Eversource residential customers of NSTAR in neighboring Massachusetts pay monthly fixed charges ranging from $3.73 to $6.87.

Senate Bill 570 is an excellent and important start. The bill would cap the monthly fixed charge on Eversource and United Illuminating Company (UI) customers’ bills at $10.

The cap will help drive down the cost of electric bills, especially for low-income households – and that’s critically important because, according to Operation Fuel, nearly 300,000 households in our state cannot afford their utility bills each month.

While the general public may not be privy to the industry’s complicated regulatory structure here in Connecticut, policy experts at the Roundtable explain that capping the monthly residential fixed charge at $10 will have no impact on the amount of revenue received by the utility. Our state’s Public Utility Regulatory Agency, a quasi-public entity responsible for regulatory oversight of the industry, is charged with determining how much total revenue the utilities need to serve the public interest.

Capping the fixed charge just provides guidelines for how that revenue is recovered from customers – i.e. the mix of fixed charges vs. variable charges.

In a complete disregard for due process and the neighborhood surrounding the substation, UI did not properly notify all abutting property owners, as is statutorily required, and it did not in good faith engage the residents in an open and inclusive dialogue about its plans.

I fully understand and respect that our utility companies must make necessary upgrades to infrastructure to help meet the growing demand for electricity as our technologically-driven society becomes more and more dependent on high-energy consumption gadgets.

But we rightfully demand the respect and courtesy of being involved and meaningfully engaged in the process to ensure we are making these improvements in a way that ensures public safety, includes appropriate environmental safeguards, and incorporates public input.

-- State Sen. Tony Hwang represents the 28th District, Fairfield, Easton, Newtown and portions of Weston and Westport.

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