The New York state Public Service Commission has approved a rate hike for Con Edison. The three-year plan approval is for an amount far less than what the utility proposed, but there is still opposition among Westchester customers.
The PSC says Con Ed sought electric and gas rate hikes of about 75 percent more than what the Commission approved. Under the new rate plans, the PSC says a residential electric customer using 600 kilowatt hours per month would see an average total monthly bill increase of $5.46 or 4.2 percent this year; $6.37 or 4.7 percent starting January 2021, and $5.65 or 4 percent starting January 2022. Democratic state Senator Pete Harckham, of New York’s 40th District, represents portions of Westchester County. He says the approved $1.2 billion increase will hurt customers.
“It’s a big hit, and folks are struggling. As we know, salaries have not kept pace with inflation. Some people are doing really well in this economy, but most people are still struggling along, people on fixed incomes, our seniors,” Harckham says. “This is a big hit, and I hope it’s not a harbinger of things to come as they’re considering a NYSEG rate hike as well.”
In a press release, Commission Chair John Rhodes says, “The progressive plan we have adopted — endorsed with stakeholder support by environmental groups, large business customers, and municipalities in the region — benefits customers and includes provisions that further important state and Commission objectives.” He adds that Con Edison is required to pursue energy efficiency initiatives among other policies to advance the goals of New York’s climate change targets while lowering bills for most low-income customers.
In addition, the PSC-approved plan directs funding to upgrade IT, including for Con Ed’s outage management system and the replacement of the utility’s customer service system. And it orders the company to replace 270 miles of leak-prone pipe.
In a statement, Con Edison says the PSC-approved plan is essential to helping New York achieve its clean energy goals, as well as to continue providing safe and reliable service to customers. Con Ed says it will encourage customers to choose alternatives to fossil fuels with incentives and rebates for geothermal heat pumps, energy efficient appliances and electric vehicle chargers. The plan provides $700 million over the next three years for energy efficiency programs to help lower customers’ bills.
Harckham claims constituents say they don’t deserve a rate hike.
“Folks are angry. They’re certainly not pleased with the utility’s storm response, and that’s both Con Ed and NYSEG,” says Harckham. “Now, theoretically, some of this money will be going to hardening infrastructure, which is a good thing, and it does need capital investment, but folks are angry. They’re having a hard time paying their bills.”
Con Edison has about 348,000 Westchester customers, including those in Peekskill, Mount Kisco and Cortlandt, which are in Harckham’s district. Democratic State Senator David Carlucci, whose 38th District includes a bit of Westchester, echoes Harckham’s sentiments. Carlucci says Con Ed received a windfall in profit under the 2017 federal tax law while wages generally remained stagnant. Carlucci also says the PSC should better protect consumers.
The new plan will continue the Westchester County Clean Energy Plan approved by the Commission in July. The program encourages the installation of renewable energy and energy efficiency resources in Westchester. In March, New York state and its partners pledged $250 million as part of a Clean Energy Action Plan to support Con Edison’s Westchester customers.