Utilities anticipate a cold snap triggering a demand/price-increase complication so they seek rate hikes to add an extra $80 or so to the monthly bill of residential customers.
Politicians are howling, but in this opinion piece former mayoral candidate Jeff Kohut urges words into action to avoid a financial shock into rate-payer bills.
The response of Connecticut government to the huge, Eversource/UI-Avangrid, “assumed” electric utility rate hikes is both telling and sickening.
Governor Ned Lamont, Attorney General Tong, et al. have abandoned their oaths to serve and protect the citizens of Connecticut, and have simply “rolled over,” without even a hint of an offer of real resistance, when informed by Connecticut’s two giant electric utilities that their customers’ supply charges would be doubled in time for the dangerous cold of Connecticut’s winter heating season, resulting in rate increases of 50% (!) for Connecticut electricity consumers.
Outrageous! Connecticut’s political chameleons reveal their true post-election-season colors just in time to allow these two, giant, many-years-overcompensated/unregulated, “regulated” energy monopolies to “have their way” with economically vulnerable Connecticut consumers yet again. (Or, should it be said that they are being allowed to “have their way” with economically vulnerable Connecticut consumers “as usual?”)
In regard to Governor Lamont’s position on the aforementioned rate hikes, registered with DEEP-PURA on Thursday, November 17, his response, per the article in the West Haven Patch of 11/18/22 (“Electricity Rate Filings” by Chris Dehnel), was that he would call a special legislative session of the GA to ‘… adopt legislation focused on providing relief for Connecticut, including by assuring that our energy assistance program is adequately funded …’
Well, really?! So just give the bloated, giant corporations–[un]regulated monopolies, at that–what they assume they should get, and throw a few dollars at Connecticut’s inflation-devastated citizens, hoping that it placates them in time for the next election (if they haven’t fled the state for affordable environs where living-wage jobs are available).
What the Governor, with his Constitutional powers should, and could do–if DEEP-PURA gives its usual approval to the hike–is to void the hike by declaring a state of emergency, appropriately using his emergency powers to quash the hike until the Attorney General, DEEP-PURA, and if necessary, the General Assembly can summon the law to reasonably “regulate” these utilities, disallowing this rate hike, appropriately in the factual context of these bloated utilities having gone virtually unregulated (over-accommodated) for the past several decades, during which time they have been able to consistently realize profits well beyond the “normal profits” to which they are statutorily entitled.
In regard to Attorney General William Tong’s response to the announcement of these rate-hike applications; he raised his legal hands in surrender, stating disingenuously (again, per the “Patch” article) that ‘We have next to no ability to challenge these supply rates …’ Well, of course you do! Just ask now-US Senator, former CT Attorney General Richard Blumenthal! Do a little legal research, Attorney General Tong, and put a plan together, with the Governor, the GA, and DEEP-PURA for a legitimate denial of the requested hikes, based on the need to compensate consumers for the long history of “abnormal” profits derived from decades of overpayment by Connecticut consumers to these companies–in the context of years of questionable service dependability (recall the prolonged, massive/widespread, bad-weather outages of the past several years).
Now, just to be certain about the lack of fairness and legitimacy of this rate hike; it should be noted that, per the Business Journals of 11/18/22 (“Connecticut’s revenue-rich utilities propose up to 50% winter rate increases”), “Eversource and UI’s parent company Avangrid generated double-digit, year-over-year revenue increases in the third quarter.” Specifically, per the “Business Journals,” Eversource generated $3.22 Billion in the third quarter of 2022, up 31.18% year-over-year, and Avangrid-UI, $1.84 Billion, up 15.04%, year-over-year! (Ain’t no inflation pain in Eversource/UI-Land!)
Obviously, Eversource-UI/Avangrid are enjoying statutorily illegal profits, well beyond the normal profits they are allowed by Connecticut statute governing regulated monopolies/utilities. They are doing this by overcharging consumers–with the apparent illegal, corrupt blessing of all levels of Connecticut state government. (It would be useful to know how much Eversource/Avangrid stock is owned by Connecticut government elected and appointed officials–especially the Governor and family, as well as the top-level appointees at DEEP-PURA. They don’t call us “Corrupticut” for nothin’!)
All of the above being said, the huge rate hikes proposed by these electric utilities will have far-reaching, long-term, deleterious effects for all of Connecticut’s residents, not just those who are already economically distressed to the point of qualifying for energy assistance. Indeed, these huge increases in electricity costs will further stress all segments of Connecticut’s long-receding economy (since all segments are increasingly electricity dependent)–even as it had begun to look as if we might actually be about to experience a reversal of our decades-long, statewide recession. (Stamford’s “good fortune,” of course, has not been nearly the equal of the rest of the state’s decades-long recession.) Now, with a global/national recession looming–in the face of brutal, basic consumer-goods inflation–Connecticut’s struggling/desperate businesses and families will experience the disastrous effects of a huge electricity rate increase inflation catalyst that will surely send our already weak economy reeling back towards the abyss, taking the hopes of Connecticut families and small-business owners with it. (Woe, especially, to the cities of Connecticut–maybe even Stamford.)
The government of Connecticut, just in the context of Connecticut being the state with the most costly electricity and lowest economic growth rate in the nation, simply cannot allow our economy to be impacted by the proposed, outrageous, Eversource/UI rate increases. This state cannot hope to sustain the effects of this increase in its weakened, vulnerable condition.
Governor Lamont, Attorney General Tong, DEEP-PURA and the General Assembly, must all work together and find a way to “just say no” to the undeserved rate increases being proposed by Eversource/UI-Avangrid for winter 2023.
And Connecticut electricity/utility consumers should derive an essential, critical lesson from this rate hike outrage regarding the modus operandi of our state’s electricity providers, as an indicator of what’s ahead as our state takes measures to develop and utilize mass scale, green alternative energy sources for electric power generation. The utilities–Eversource and UI/Avangrid–that will own the generation sources and profit from the sale of their product to Connecticut consumers, are taking 0% financial risk in the creation and operation of these new generation sources! Using the present model of consumer electricity supply in Connecticut, the development and maintenance of these multi-billion $ projects will be passed on to Connecticut consumers, even as the giant utilities assume ownership of the infrastructure and a claim on the profits derived thereof. We must ask ourselves whether or not the time has come for the State of Connecticut and its citizens to own and operate their own basic utilities (electricity/energy, water, communications), such that the interests of the state and its citizens/businesses are being served even as the state economy benefits from a new-found affordability and competitiveness. We must learn from our present economic crisis and the outrageous behavior of our regulated utilities such that we can choose a different, better way in reconstructing a competitive Connecticut economy definable in terms of prosperity, opportunity, and fairness for all of Connecticut’s citizens.
Are you paying attention Governor Lamont, Attorney General Tong, DEEP-PURA officials, General Assembly leadership/membership?!
(Editor’s note: Utility companies make no profit on energy generation costs which are a pass-through rate at no markup of revenue.)