Group fights CL&P rate increase

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EAST HARTFORD — The Public Utilities Control Authority has approved a generation rate hike for two of the state’s utilities. It comes at the same time groups are pushing back against a separate Connecticut Light and Power proposal to increase a service fee.

The generation rate increase affects those customers who purchase power directly from CL&P and United Illuminating, and raises the rate three and five cents per kilowatt hour. That’s approximately a 25% increase for CL&P customers and about 53% increase for UI customers. According to PURA, as of January 1, 2015, CL&P’s residential generation rate will increase from 9.990 cents per kWh to 12.629 cents/kWh. UI’s residential generation rate will increase from 8.6657 cents/kWh to 13.3108 cents/kWh.

The generation rate recovers the cost to generate power, and is about 50% of the monthly electric bill for most residential users. Around 40% of state residents take the standard service generation from  CL&P and UI. Others have chosen electricity provided by other approved suppliers.

On Monday night, a group of fourteen unions, religious leaders and environmentalists met at the Machinists Union Hall in East Hartford to try and stop a different proposal to increase a monthly service charge from $16 to $25.50, and to increase its rate of return from 9.4 cents-per-dollar to 10.2. This would equate to at least $9.50 more on each month’s bill for CL&P customers only.

CL&P has asked Connecticut’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to approve the requested hike, which should be decided within a few weeks.

CL&P said its system must be able to deliver reliable service to all customers and that the funds generated by these increases would be used for “targeted investments.” “Like, larger, stronger poles, wires, transformers, upgrading our subsystems and tree trimming around the state, which are key components to having a stronger, reliable system for the customer,” said Tricia Modifica of CL&P.

The  group that met Monday night, called the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, wants to convince the state to reject the hike. Members unveiled a resolution opposing the service charge rate hike and are urging the public to sign it.

Religious leaders, for example, believe rate increases will burden the poor, forcing them to turn to nonprofit organizations and churches to pay their bills. “If the bill goes up $100, $115 a year, per customer, then that really adds up if you’re helping multiple people in the community with their electricity bill,” said Terri Eickel, of the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network.

Labor and environmental folks fear the effect of a higher, fixed fee on participation in energy efficiency programs.

“That portion of the bill, there’s no savings that realized, because you are going to pay it even if you aren’t using any electricity from the utilities at all,” said John Harrity of the Connecticut State Council of Machinists.

If PURA approves CL&P’s plans, the group has a possible plan B. “We do need to go to the legislature and  then we can turn to California, which has already done something like this where they cap the fixed charge,” said Bill Dornbos of Acadia Center.

Related story:

PURA approves electric rate increase for CL&P, UI

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