Public-Private Partnership Identifies Ways To Help Lower Winter Energy Prices, From Electricity to Gasoline
Governor Ned Lamont, in response to calls from his administration and other Connecticut state officials – including the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Office of Consumer Counsel – to do more for customers in the state amid historically high electric prices, utility companies Eversource and United Illuminating (UI) have agreed to work with state leaders on a short-term/interim Customer Relief Plan to provide immediate relief to electric customers this winter.
Connecticut state leaders have emphasized the importance of acting quickly and advancing options to reduce bill impacts for low and middle-income customers who are struggling to pay electric bills under unprecedented economic circumstances.
The package of near-term actions developed through the combined efforts of Governor Lamont, DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes, Consumer Counsel Claire Coleman, Eversource, and UI is in part the result of benefits from the long-term clean energy power contracts signed at the direction of the Lamont administration and the Connecticut General Assembly to help secure the future of the Millstone nuclear power plant and other carbon-free generation resources. Eversource and UI have also agreed to corporate contributions for energy assistance to provide support for customers.
The Customer Relief Plan has multiple elements:
Eversource and UI will file a motion with the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) seeking approval for the establishment of bill credits to fast-track the return of long-term power contract earnings to all customers starting January 1, 2023. This proposal will provide Eversource customers with a monthly bill credit of around $10 per month – approximately 12.5% of the average customer increase this winter – for the peak winter months starting January 1, 2023, and continuing through April.
Data on how this will impact UI customers is being calculated and is expected to be available soon.
The companies will also seek approval for a discount for low-income hardship customers to accelerate the 2021 Take Back Our Grid Act provision enabling a low-income discount rate by providing a flat-rate credit to financial hardship customers starting in January 2023 until the new PURA-approved low-income discount rate goes into effect in 2024.
In order to provide additional assistance to customers struggling with unusually high energy prices this winter, the Customer Relief Plan also includes an Eversource shareholder expense of $10 million for energy assistance to customers in need, including moderate and middle-income customers who are struggling to pay their bills.
UI has agreed to pay $3 million to Operation Fuel for direct assistance for electricity and heating costs, subject to PURA’s approval of a settlement agreement with the Office of Consumer Counsel.
Governor Lamont said, “I appreciate Eversource and UI working with us to identify creative near-term actions that will help provide Connecticut residents with some relief from high energy costs and the significant impending rate increase on January 1. Keeping Millstone online has proven to be a great investment for Connecticut, and it’s important that residents feel the benefit of the net profits generated by the plant when they most need it. I also appreciate that this plan includes Eversource and UI corporate funding that will go to Operation Fuel for an energy assistance program. Complex issues call for creative solutions, and this public-private partnership paired with the energy assistance actions expected to be taken by the General Assembly in special session will provide residents with some much-needed relief and protection this winter.”
Commissioner Dykes said, “With a difficult winter ahead, every penny counts, and I’m gratified that DEEP’s clean energy procurements are generating revenues that will help lower customer bills by another $10 per month this winter. Along with Governor Lamont and Consumer Counsel Coleman, we worked with the utilities on a plan to get these proceeds into their customers’ hands quicker.
Steve Sullivan, president of Eversource Connecticut, said, “We know how challenging increased energy costs are for our customers, especially during these times, and want to do everything we can to help. As an energy delivery company, we can’t control the cost of electricity on the supply side of our customer bills, but it is critically important to us to uncover any and all options to provide relief for our customers. Although market conditions are tough, Connecticut’s decision to commit to contractual arrangements like Millstone is paying dividends for customers and is critical to help offset bill impacts for customers this winter.”
Frank Reynolds, president and CEO of United Illuminating, said, “UI has been a member of the Connecticut community for over 100 years, so when our customers are facing the burden of rising energy costs due to a volatile global market, we’re committed to doing everything we can to help provide needed relief here at home. While we don’t have the ability to control the cost of the energy generation supply, we are here to help our customers above all. As we enter the winter months, we remain committed to coming to the table with all parties to find additional solutions for hard working families across Connecticut.”
Nearly 52,000 households have already applied for CEAP this season, an increase of 17% over last year at this time. Benefits are available for households with incomes up to 60% of the state median income, which equates to roughly $76,465 for a family of four. These benefits are usually paid directly to the utility company or fuel supplier. Households that heat with deliverable fuels like oil or propane may be eligible for multiple free tank refills.
Interested households should apply online at ct.gov/heatinghelp or contact their local community action agency. Additional assistance is available by calling 2-1-1.