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New York commission approves Con Edison rate hike – but at a fraction of original plan

Con Edison says it'll use the funding generated by the rate hike for infrastructure improvements and to address rising costs. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Con Edison rates will be going up this year — but not as much as customers feared.

The state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) approved on Thursday a three-year “joint proposal” rate plan that allows for the utility company to increases costs to customers. However, the commission said, the initial rate year request was slashed by more than 75% of the initial increase Con Ed sought.

The progressive plan we have adopted — endorsed with stakeholder support by environmental groups, large businesses and municipalities in the region — benefits customers and includes provisions that further important state and Commission objectives,” said John B. Rhodes, the PSC chair.

Under the approved rate plan, a residential customer using 600 kilowatt hours of electricity per month will see their average bill increase by about 4.2% in 2020, followed by a 4.7% increase starting in January 2021 and another 4% jump for January 2022.

Con Edison gas customers who use an average of 100 therms per month will see a hike of about 7.5% this year, followed by an 8.8% increase in 2021 and a 7.2% spike in 2022.

The utility giant previously submitted a proposal for higher rate increases because of increased company costs, including “significant increases in the property tax burden,” the PSC noted. The burden alone accounted for “more than 40 percent of the increased cost over the three-year period.”

Greater operational efficiencies also led to reduced operating costs, but Con Edison also faced increased expenses for various capital improvements and new hires, the PSC noted.

In a statement, Con Edison said the agreed-upon rate plan “is essential to helping New York State achieve its clean energy goals, as well as to continue providing safe and reliable service to our customers.” The company will invest “about $3 billion” annual to improve service reliability, and the funds the rate hike will generate will also boost programs for clean and efficient energy.

“We will be encouraging customers to choose alternatives to fossil fuels with incentives and rebates for geothermal heat pumps, energy efficient appliances and electric vehicle chargers,” Con Edison’s statement indicated. “The plan provides $700 million over the next three years for energy efficiency programs that are some of the most cost-effective ways for customers to reduce bills.”

The utility giant also will develop “a climate change implementation plan to manage climate change risk going forward.”

Still, not everyone sees the deal as progress for the consumer or the environment.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer lamented that the state and Con Edison were “subsidizing new natural gas infrastructure,” which counters any plans to reduce emissions.

“This agreement allows Con Edison to continue to funnel ratepayer dollars into fossil fuel infrastructure that only digs us deeper into the climate crisis,” Stringer said. “Rather than building bigger pipelines, we need to invest in sustainable, reliable and affordable energy options.”

Stringer suggested that a “public takeover of New York’s natural gas system” take place if Con Ed management “can’t think past their profits.”

Con Edison is a publicly-traded company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

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