EDITORIAL: The year of crises gets worse with increase in energy bills

EDITORIAL: The year of crises gets worse with increase in energy bills

“I think that our customers are really, really struggling. … And these energy bills — the timing is just difficult.”

That was Eversource spokeswoman Penni Conner, in what may turn out to be the understatement of the year, at least here in Connecticut. What had been characterized as a planned and relatively moderate hike on the “delivery” side of consumers’ electric bills, effective July 1, instead emerged as a huge increase for many, leading the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority — which had approved the rate hike — to suspend the increase and announce an investigation. A public hearing is expected this month.

This comes on top of a viral epidemic that has severely damaged the economy, with many people out of work for months in what was already a high-energy-cost state. Factor in the increased energy use of people staying at home, plus the extra demand for electricity during this hot summer, and what has emerged is a perfect storm.

It hardly needs to be said that this price shock comes at about the worst possible time, in a year of unprecedented economic strain. At least PURA has agreed to suspend the price hike for a time, but it’s too soon to predict how the matter will be resolved. Meanwhile, consumers are being advised to reach out to Eversource and make payment arrangements. 

That hardly seems an adequate response to this additional crisis.

If former state Sen. and Republican candidate in the 13th Senate District Len Suzio is correct, this story goes back at least to 2018, when the General Assembly decided that the utilities should purchase more of the electricity they resell from “green” sources such as the carbon-free Millstone Nuclear Plant.

According to Suzio, writing Tuesday in an op-ed on this page, the lawmakers did so without calculating the added cost burden it would place on consumers. And now many officials — from our senators in Washington, to the governor and the attorney general in Hartford, to local mayors — are up in arms as well.

“They might have the ability to pass on this increase (to customers),” said Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati. “And they did. But it does't make it right.” We agree.

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