Reflecting the basic fact that electric and gas utility service is not affordable to many residential customers of Central Hudson Gas & Electric, the utility’s reports to the Public Service Commission indicate that as of August 31, 2014, 23,259 CHG&E customers were more than 60 days late in paying their bills. This was 9% of the utility’s residential customers, who owed the utility more than $13.3 million for charges outstanding more than 60 days after payment was due. This exposes many customers to PSC-authorized late payment charges, set at a market-based rate of 18% per year — far above the utility’s cost of capital or its authorized overall return on equity, making collection of interest on customer debt a highly rewarding profit center. In the twelve months ending August 31, 2014:
- Central Hudson sent more than 300,000 final termination notices to its residential customers.
- 10% of Central Hudson customers received shutoff notices in August 2014
- Central Hudson terminated service to more than 11,000 residential customer accounts as a bill collection measure.
- Central Hudson has the second highest rate of terminations (shutoffs) of all the major New York State investor-owned utilities.
- As a percent of customer accounts, Central Hudson’s terminations were second only to National Fuel Gas Distribution Company.
- See ELECTRIC BILL SURCHARGE REFORM PROPOSALS TO COLLECT AND SPEND BILLIONS DO NOT ADDRESS AFFORDABLE SERVICE TO LOW INCOME CUSTOMERS, NYUP Update, November 12, 2014.
- CATCHING UP IS HARD TO DO – NEW YORK’S UTILITY CUSTOMERS AND THE GREAT RECESSION, NYUP Update, Feb. 3, 2014;
- UTILITY PROJECT URGES PSC REFORMS TO REDUCE HARM TO UTILITY CUSTOMERS FROM PRICE SPIKES, NYUP Update May 14, 2014;
- CANDLE FIRES: A SYMPTOM OF “ROLLING BLACKOUTS” AFFECTING LOW-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS.
The Utility Project opposed the current Central Hudson rate plan, established in the context of the Fortis takeover of Central Hudson, asking for investigation of Central Hudson’s low income rates and practices regarding the interruption of service for bill collection purposes. The PSC rejected the effort to modify the rate plan to address low-income customer issues. All of Central Hudson’s rates, charges, terms and conditions of service, tariffs, rules, regulations and practices are again subject to PSC review in the pending Central Hudson rate case. The case is considering a requested rate increase and adoption of new policies in connection with its pending REV case which could result in increased bills under automatic rate adjustment mechanisms that could, for example, reduce charges to solar customers and shift them to non-solar – and generally lower-income — customers. See SOLAR PV MAY RESULT IN HIGHER NY ELECTRIC RATES, NYUP Update ; CAPUC REPORT: ROOFTOP SOLAR “NET METERING” PROGRAM BENEFITS HIGHER INCOME CUSTOMERS AND IS SHIFTING ADDITIONAL COSTS TO LOWER INCOME CUSTOMERS. At this time, the following litigation schedule dates, as proposed by Department of Public Service Staff and others, are:
- Staff and Intervenor Direct Testimony November 21, 2014
- Rebuttal Testimony December 19, 2014
- Evidentiary Hearings begin January 12, 2015
No independent representative of residential customers is an active party in the case. See
- MORELAND COMMISSION RECOMMENDS STRONGER UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCACY;
- AARP Report- David v. Goliath Why consumers are losing New York’s utility game;
- UTILITIES ATTACK CREATION OF INDEPENDENT STATE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE OFFICE, March 21, 2014;
- NY BUDGET ADOPTED WITHOUT REFORM OF STATE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATE FUNCTION, April 3 2014.
Gerald A. Norlander