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State officials, utility companies aim to offer CT residents relief in light of requested rate hikes

Electrical power lines as utility rate increases are announced
Joe Amon
Connecticut Public
Power lines in Berlin, Conn., on July 31, 2020. State officials announced relief options in response to proposed utility rate increases by Eversource and United Illuminating.

State officials and executives with Connecticut's two largest electric companies have reached a short-term agreement they say will help people afford a proposed big increase in electric rates at the start of the new year.

Bill credits could save Eversource customers about $10 a month, starting at the same time as the requested rate hike.

“These are near-term dollars that we can put in place to help people who are really struggling with these high energy costs,” said Katie Dykes, commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

United Illuminating is also filing a motion with the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) that seeks approval for bill credits. State officials say information on how that will affect UI customers was still being calculated.

As part of the deal, state officials and company executives hope to move up the start of an existing plan to create a lower electric rate for low-income customers.

Eversource has agreed to set aside $10 million for energy assistance to customers struggling to pay their bills. United Illuminating would pay $3 million to Operation Fuel for assistance with electricity and heating costs.

All of the ideas would have to be approved by state utility regulators before they could take effect.

About the rate requests

Earlier this month, Eversource and UI proposed significant rate increases that could raise the average electric bill for residential customers by about $80 a month. The new rates would take effect Jan. 1.

The requests are fueled by skyrocketing global energy costs, which state law essentially allows utilities to pass directly along to customers.

The companies have said their requests are based on pass-through costs – the costs of procuring electricity.

PURA has said that “both companies are passing through no more and no less than the actual costs of that electricity supply.” The agency said it does not have the authority “to reject or modify the standard service rates.”

Utility companies react

Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement Monday that he appreciates Eversource and UI for working “to identify creative near-term actions that will help provide Connecticut residents with some relief from high energy costs.”

Eversource and UI issued statements Monday.

“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,” said Steve Sullivan, president of Eversource Connecticut.

“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,” said Frank Reynolds, president and CEO of United Illuminating.

Connecticut Public's Patrick Skahill contributed to this report.

Note: An executive with Eversource Energy, Gregory B. Butler, is a member of Connecticut Public's Board of Trustees.

Matt Dwyer is an editor, reporter and midday host for Connecticut Public's news department. He produces local news during All Things Considered.

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