Following an unexpected and unprecedented spike in billing in January, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul has urged electric company Con Edison to review their billing practices after some businesses and households saw their monthly bill increase up to 300%.
Despite demands for an investigation by city and state legislators, Con Edison spokes members say their company billing policy is not to blame, but instead the “volatile” high costs in energy.
“The changes in customer bills are mainly due to the supply cost of energy, and principally by the increased cost of natural gas,” said Philip O’Brien, Assistant Director of media relations at Con Edison in a statement to amNew York. “Con Edison buys energy on the wholesale market and provides it to customers at the same price we paid, without making a profit on the commodity.”
Hochul intervened on Feb 11, issuing a statement encouraging Con Edison officials to communicate with customers and review their billing and business practices as many customers are facing dire consequences of their skyrocketing bills.
“The extreme utility bill increases we are seeing across the state come at a time when New Yorkers are already struggling financially following the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hochul said in a statement through the Public Service Commission (PSC) on Friday. “Even though the spike we are seeing in electricity, natural gas and fuel prices were predicted and are due to severe winter weather, I am calling on Con Ed to review their billing practices because we must take unified action to provide relief for New Yorkers, especially our most vulnerable residents.”
This winter costs of natural gas used to heat homes and businesses as well as generate electricity, has in fact exponentially increased – resulting in the doubling or even tripling of normal billing prices. The hike in prices is driven by the global increase in demand for natural gas commodities due to the colder-than-normal winter temperatures as well as increased economic activity.
The PSC sent a letter Friday to Con Edison requesting detailed information and review of the utility’s billing practices including an assurance that the fully hedged value secured by Con Edison in January is provided to customers upon the next scheduled billing date. The letter also requested an evaluation of alternatives to their current billing practices.
“We understand that increases in winter electric and gas bills cause financial hardship,”said PSC Chair Rory M. Christian, “While the PSC and the utilities cannot control supply prices, utilities can improve their procurement and billing practices to reduce the likelihood of dramatic price swings in the future and we are requiring Con Edison to address this going forward.”
Hochul also announced increased relief efforts for struggling New York households, encouraging those affected to apply for aid. These programs include $373 million in home heating aid available through the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) for low- and middle-income New Yorkers who need assistance keeping their homes warm during the winter season. Additional federal funding available to help low-income households pay heating utility arrears and an increased budget for the statewide Energy Affordability Policy (EAP).
For more information on winter preparedness efforts and these assistance programs, visit www.dps.ny.gov/winter.