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Growing Eversource Debt Cannot Be Unloaded Onto Paying Customers



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We learned last week that Eversource plans to increase its rates as soon as May 1. The utility filed a request for a $784 million rate adjustment that would bump its CL&P electric rates by nearly 19 percent. Most households could see an increase of $38 per month, and those households have nothing to do with the reason given for the proposed increase. Eversource wants to increase rates in response to the major utility having so many customers not paying their bills.

The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) has had a shutoff moratorium in place for nearly four years, since the opening months of the pandemic. When that moratorium was put in place, the total unpaid balance was $120 million. Today it is reportedly more than $330 million.

The moratorium means the tough love we’d like to suggest cannot be done. Eversource is currently not allowed to turn off electricity to a customer due to nonpayment on an account. The utility’s answer to this part of its financial deficit is to put the burden on the backs of those who continue to pay their bills.

Ironically the first message that greeted visitors to Eversource’s website on Monday was “You May Be Eligible for an Electric Bill Discount.” That’s the good news. While there are two tiers of discount, both depending upon annual household income or receipt of a public assistance benefit, the bad news is you need to be in a pretty bad place financially to quality for either. To receive the ten percent discount rate, the annual income for all adults over the age of 18 must be at or below 60 percent of the state’s median income ($90,213 as of 2022 figures). To qualify for the 50 percent discount rate, a household annual income for all adults over 18 must be at or below 160 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. If not, the person applying for the discount must show receipt of a public assistance benefit for at least one household member.

Clearly the utility is taking care of its leaders. According to proxy statements filed for fiscal years 2022, Eversource Energy Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph R. Nolan Jr made $10.8 million, including $1.2 million received as a salary, $2.7 million as a bonus, $0 stock options, $6.8 million as stock, and $28,690 from other types of compensation. Additional top executives are just as dizzying. During the same time frame, the utility’s VP, CFO and Treasurer’s salary was $543,056, and he received a $900,000 bonus; the executive VP and COO received a $787,693 salary, and a $1.05 million bonus; and the Executive VP-Human Resources and Information Technology Officer salary was $553,808, while her 2022 bonus was $720,000. We could continue, but you get the point. Meanwhile, the utility says it is carrying debt of $926 million, including $442 million for 2023 alone.

Governor Lamont and Attorney General William Tong both offered brief comments in response to last week’s announcement. A statement released through the governor’s office said the filing was still being reviewed, “but we agree that we all need to work together to find solutions to lower electricity costs for Connecticut ratepayers.” Tong said Connecticut families already “pay far too much for basic utilities, and this latest increase is unaffordable and unsustainable. I support PURA in scrutinizing every line of this filing to ensure ratepayers do not pay a cent more than necessary. The utilities need to stop deflecting blame and focus on what they can do to mitigate the harm to ratepayers.”

A few months ago Eversource promoted electricity generated by off-shore wind. Now it’s getting out of that gig, at a huge loss. There’s a lot of energy to be gained from wind power, but right now it feels like Eversource is blowing something in a different direction. Customers don’t want to learn how to apply for discounts on their bills. They don’t want to hear that their energy company has hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. They just want to know how the utility is going to take care of its deficits without taking more out of their pockets.

The public is encouraged to provide feedback by submitting their comments to PURA by email to PURA.ExecutiveSecretary@ct.gov and referencing docket number 24-01-03.

Eversource wants to increase rates, again, this time in response to the major utility having so many customers not paying their bills.