BERLIN – Members of the community held up signs in front of Eversource headquarters Friday afternoon as they protested the recent hike in electricity costs.
Eversource customers were outraged when they recently received their bills following the mid-year rate adjustments implemented July 1, which came with it large increases in delivery costs.
“Everybody is mad at the delivery charges from Eversource. They’ve increased over 30% and just about everyone’s bill increased by about a hundred dollars or more,” said Damian Bednarczyk, protest organizer and Newington resident. “Myself, my bill went from $130 to $240 this month and I haven’t changed anything about my usage or the way I live.”
While energy bills often increase in the summer months, this year customer’s bills nearly doubled and tripled after the rate hike.
“With everything going on, a lot of people losing their jobs, there’s the covid pandemic, there’s Black Lives Matter going on, what a time to pick to spike prices and say it’s because of usage when it clearly says delivery charge. So they’re trying to lie right to our faces,” Newington resident Jacob Eigner said. “I’ve been living on my own a long time and I know what an increase to the usage looks like in the hot summer days and it’s never even been this much with my hot showers, doing dishes, all that.”
Eversource says the increase was attributed to it being much hotter this year, combined with the fact many customers are staying home due to the pandemic and using air conditioners, fans and other appliances to stay cool.
“I think it’s outrageous that we have to pay these really high delivery rates,” Portland resident J. Cherry said. “I think Eversource is a problem. It has been for years and I would like to see more towns in Connecticut control their own energy with municipal power just like six other towns, including Wallingford and Groton.”
Eversource also stated a reason for the increase was a state-mandated energy subsidy that went into effect in July to support the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant’s continued operation. Also, another fee increased to support grid reliability and the safe operation of Eversource’s high-voltage transmission system.
“The company is providing all kinds of excuses. The fact is it’s rolling in money; it’s earning seven times this quarter what it earned last quarter. They should treat consumers fairly. None of these excuses hold water,” Senator Richard Blumenthal said.
The Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) announced Friday it is ordering Eversource to immediately suspend its recent rate increase and restore rates to where they stood on June 30 while it conducts an investigation.
“Today’s decision by PURA is good news for ratepayers across the state,” Lamont said. “I’m urging the state regulators to make a suspension of this rate increase permanently and give everyone rebates. That’s what I’m going to be pushing for. And the same with the federal authority, I want them to offer rebates for the overcharges,” Gov. Ned Lamont said.
There were no representatives from Eversource at the protest, but it did put out a news release Friday morning.
“We share the concerns of our customers and know that this is an unexpected cause of distress during an already challenging time,” Eversource Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer Penni Conner said. “We’re committed to working one-on-one with customers to help reduce their energy bills and to provide flexible payment solutions. Our customer care number is 800-286-2000, and we’re here to help any customer who calls.”
Eversource says it will continue working to connect customers with energy efficiency and payment support solutions, including a no-fee, no-interest covid-19 payment plan.
“Hopefully we make a difference because small businesses can’t survive on this, especially in the middle of a pandemic,” Bednarczyk said. “If this (protest) does nothing and they can’t come to an agreement with what the people want we’re going to try to organize people not to pay the increase on the bill and make Eversource lose some money. We don’t want payment plans – we want it to be eliminated.”
This story has been edited. A quote orginally attibuted to Gov. Ned Lamont should have been attributed to Senator Richard Blumenthal.