Huge electric bills are a shock to the system

February 23, 2022 Jaime DeJesus
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After a sudden spike in electric rates, pols are asking for help from the New York State Public Service Commission.

Borough President Antonio Reynoso and 15 Brooklyn councilmembers sent a letter to the commission Feb. 8 after residents got hit with unexpectedly big bills. 

“Most concerningly, constituents shared how these unexpected bills would affect their ability to pay rent,” the letter says.

The letter also said utilities are supposed to hedge to smooth the swings in supply costs, and the PSC should be responsible for ensuring that they do so. 

“We urge the Public Service Commission to direct the Department of Public Service to  investigate whether Con Ed has been acting responsibly when it comes to planning for winter costs and forecasting said costs,” the letter said. “Further, we believe the Commission must begin comprehensively regulating energy suppliers.”

A Con Ed spokesperson said the company does not generate electricity, nor can it manage the financial practices of the private power generators or the suppliers of natural gas. 

“Con Edison is seeking the ability to generate renewable energy in New York State for our customers, which would shift our dependence away from natural gas and this volatility,” the spokesperson said.

However, Councilmember Justin Brannan said for Con Ed to blame New York’s climate goals for sudden rate hikes “takes gaslighting to new levels.”

“We all understand how supply and demand works,’ Brannan said. “We understand there is volatility in natural gas prices. The Public Service Commission is supposed to ensure the consumer doesn’t bear the brunt of wild market swings. No customer should be receiving an electric bill that is suddenly double or triple what it was for the same usage.”

James Denn, a spokesman for the Public Service Commission, said that it does not regulate commodity or supply prices.

“We do not set supply costs and do not make a profit on the supply,” Denn said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul recently said more than $373 million in home heating aid will be available for low- and middle-income New Yorkers who need help keeping their homes warm this winter. 

She also made $150 million in federal funding available to help low-income households pay heating utility arrears if they do not qualify for that assistance under New York’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

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