Smart meters coming to Con Edison teritory

 

New Yorkers’ relationship with Con Edison will change dramatically in the coming years as the company outfits all of its electric and gas customers with smart meters.

Con Edison’s smart meters will give its customers — and the company — real-time data about electricity and natural gas use. Monitoring apps hooked into the meters could let you know when your spouse turns on the dishwasher, or when your kid cranks up the air conditioning.

Con Edison lags in this technology. About half of American homes already have electric smart meters. New York and Los Angeles are the last of the 10 biggest US cities where smart meters aren’t used extensively.

Con Ed expects to install 3.6 million electric smart meters and 1.2 million gas meters, state documents show. At Con Ed’s annual shareholder meeting May 16, CEO John McAvoy discussed the company’s planned $1.4 billion smart meter investment.

From the company’s press release:

McAvoy noted that a five-year smart meter installation program will begin in 2017. The technology will let customers integrate solar energy, and will offer real-time billing information based on actual energy use. The automated meters also will mean faster repairs during power outages, and enhance efficiency of the electric distribution system.

Con Edison smart metersThe new meters “will fundamentally transform Con Edison’s relationship with its customers by helping them become more active energy consumers,” the company says. “The initiative will provide customers with the information necessary to help manage their energy usage, control costs and help the environment.”

The meters will also help the growth of solar and other technology that lets Con Ed business and residential customers generate their own power. As that technology expands, Con Ed will need to do a better job managing its power grid. Having real-time data from its customers will be a help.

Smart meter data will also give Con Edison a new line of business — selling data about its customers’ energy use.

In a filing with the Public Service Commission in August, Con Edison asked permission to sell the data to community choice aggregators. [It’s so hard to avoid jargon like “community choice aggregators” when writing about this subject.] Community choice aggregators are groups of electric customers who have banded together to share a community solar project, or buy electricity from some source other than Con Edison, such as an energy service company.

The first smart meters are to be installed in mid-2017 in Westchester County and Staten Island. They’ll start to appear in Brooklyn and Manhattan in 2018, and in Queens and the Bronx in 2019.

The New York Post ran this story on the subject in June 2016.

 

Posted in Con Ed, electricity, natural gas, Solar | Leave a comment

Energy service companies win court battle, may lose war

 

Energy service companies won their court battle against the state’s effort to effectively put them out of business. But their victory is illusory.

A July 22 decision by Albany Supreme Court Justice Henry Zwack, linked here, said the Public Service Commission didn’t give energy service companies a fair hearing before it decided in February to largely shut them out of the residential gas and electricity market. The companies “were simply denied their procedural due process rights,” Zwack wrote. The PSC said its February ruling was built on a staff report and a case it was considering. But Zwack said the order “bears little rational relationship” to its previous decision-making.

Thus Zwack tossed the Feburary order.

But there was good news for the commission’s crackdown: Zwack said the PSC “[c]learly … has the authority to establish public utility rates” and noted that other courts have said it has “the very broadest of powers.” “[The] PSC has jurisdiction over rates charged by retail energy companies,” Zwack wrote.

So Zwack’s ruling left the commission plenty of room to continue its push against ESCOs operating in the residential market.

PSC chair Audrey Zibelman said as much in a statement July 26: “The Court’s decision recognizes the Commission’s authority and firmly sided with the Commission that it is both our right and obligation to protect consumers against price gouging and other abuses.  We will and we must use this authority.”

Zwack’s ruling was a disappointment, Zibelman allowed. But in the end, she sees it as merely a delay. “Unfortunately, as a result of the litigation, ESCO customers are still paying millions of dollars more every month than they should be paying for electric and gas services. But this injustice will be short-lived,” she promised.

Already the commission has barred ESCOs from serving low-income customers.

The Retail Energy Supply Association said it is “gratified” that Zwack tossed the commission’s February order. It noted Zwack’s statement that its members were “stripped of any meaningful opportunity to participate in the promulgation” of the order. The association’s statement was silent on the matter of what steps the commission might take next.

Studies show energy service company prices in New York are far higher than the gas and electricity prices charged by Con Edison and other utilities. Read more about ESCO prices here and here. If you want to dive into the weeds of the issue, try this post from December 2013.

 

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State pushes ahead with ESCO crackdown

 

New York officials are pushing ahead with their crackdown on energy service companies despite legal headwinds. Their latest gambit: barring ESCOs from doing business with low-income people.

A recap: ESCOs are the companies that send salespeople knocking on your door offering you a break on Con Edison’s rates.

Trouble is, they have a long track record of failing to deliver on that promise. Study after study has found that ESCO prices are much higher than the rates charged by Con Edison and other utility companies. On top of that, ESCOs are accused of all kinds of shady sales practices. And for years, energy service companies ignored Public Service Commission efforts to make them more transparent about their pricing.

The Public Service Commission finally got fed up. In February, the commission banned energy service companies from signing up new customers unless they guarantee their prices are equal to or lower than utilities’ full-service plans. The commission made an exception for ESCOs offering “green” electricity produced by wind, solar or other renewable sources. But effectively, the February order would shut down the entire industry.

ESCOs fought back in court, and won a stay of the PSC order that is still in effect. The Retail Energy Supply Association complained that the PSC’s order would have “unintended adverse consequences for the competitive energy market and consumers including loss of jobs, marketplace confusion, uncertainty for customers, and loss of investment by companies integral to increasing customer choice and expanding value-added services for New York energy consumers.”

The PSC seemed happy to push these companies out of the marketplace. State law requires the commission to assure “just and reasonable” utility rates. The PSC found that some ESCOs charge eight times what utility companies charge. “We can’t tolerate that kind of behavior,” PSC chair Audrey Zibelman said at the commission’s February meeting.

A little more on the state’s views of ESCOs’ business practices, from an AARP/Public Utilities Law Project news release:

Last year, 5,044 New Yorkers lodged complaints against ESCOs with the PSC; there were 1,076 “escalated” complaints – complaints not initially resolved by the ESCO. Of those, 30% involved questionable marketing practices, 25% involved dissatisfaction with prices charged – or no savings realized, and 22% involved “slamming” – enrollment of customers without their authorization.

But since the ESCOs persuaded a judge to stay the commission’s order, they’ve pretty much operated as usual.

That brings us to the Commission’s July 15 decision to bar ESCOs from doing business with low-income customers. The commission said ESCOs can not take part in programs run by Con Edison and other utilities that discount service to low-income families. One definition of such customers would be a family of four with income at 60 percent of the state median income, or $51,792 a year.

In meetings with the PSC, the ESCOs admitted “that they were not likely to provide a guaranteed savings to low-income customers,” said Michael Corso, the PSC’s consumer advocate.

If they can’t cut your power bill, what good are they?

Vincent Palmieri, CEO of Bronx-based East Coast Power & Gas, has one answer: Just as folks with money can buy a “Cadillac” health insurance plan, some people want to buy Cadillac energy plans.

“East Coast’s customers seek East Coast out for the premium level, value-added services received in addition to base electric or natural gas supply,” Palmieri wrote in a filing before the commission dated July 13.

“East Coast’s customers are educated and understand that East Coast may be more expensive than the utility’s price,” Palmieri says. In return, he says, East Coast’s customers get quick service when their heat and hot water fail in winter.

In other words, this company promises to get a plumber or electrician to your house sooner when something goes wrong.

Maybe that’s a valid selling point if you’ve got cash to burn and don’t want to call an electrician or plumber yourself. What about the other companies in this business? Are their high-priced electrons and gas molecules better than the cheaper ones sold by Con Ed?

 

Posted in AARP, consumer advocacy, energy service companies, Public Service Commission, PULP | Leave a comment

Con Ed’s summer prices will go easy on your wallet

 

Con Ed’s summer prices are expected to drop again this year compared to last. The company said in a news release May 26 that it expects “slightly” lower prices this summer, thanks to lower prices charged by companies that generate electricity.

From the news release:

“A typical New York City residential customer using 350 kilowatt hours (kWh) per month can expect a 2.4 percent drop from $98.80 in 2015 to $96.47 this year. A typical Westchester residential customer using 500 kWh per month can expect an average decrease of 2.3 percent from $125.38 in 2015 to $122.51. A typical New York City business customer using 10,800 kWh and having a peak demand of 31 kW, can expect average monthly summer bills to decrease from $2,350 in 2015 to $2,264 this year, or 3.7 percent.”

State government has put out a similar message. Statewide, wholesale electricity prices are significantly off their peak in 2008, the Public Service Commission says.

2016-06 Con Ed summer bills graphWholesale electricity prices have been on a long-term downward trend. This chart shows the wholesale power price paid in July by a typical Con Edison residential customer. These figures only apply to part of your power bill. Con Ed charges you separately to deliver this power to your home.

If you want to really get into the weeds of this stuff, here’s the US Energy Information Administration’s short-term price forecast. [The data is updated monthly; this post refers to numbers released June 7.] The numbers here are nationwide, and don’t directly translate to Con Ed bills. But a dive into the government’s data brings up some interesting points.

Nationally, the data shows, wholesale natural gas prices are down significantly over the last year, by about 15.5 percent. That’s important to New Yorkers’ electricity bills. Lower natural gas prices are fueling much of the decline in the state’s electricity prices, since natural gas is the leading fuel in New York’s electric generating plants. Fracking and new gas discoveries have helped drive down gas prices.

To understand how much we benefit from lower natural gas prices, consider that nationally, electricity prices are not down as steeply as in New York. The government says that nationwide, residential prices are down by 0.24 percent over the last year. But other states’ electric grids do not rely as much on natural gas as New York.

What you actually pay depends on how much power you actually use. If it’s hotter this year than it was last year — leading you and everyone else to crank up their air conditioners — your 2016 power bills might exceed what you paid in 2015.

But conservation also plays a role. As the state’s news release notes, the state hit its all-time record load a decade ago. On August 2, 2006, the state’s power plants and transmission wires delivered 33,939 megawatts of power. (If you need to visualize that, one megawatt is enough electricity to power between 800 to 1,000 average-sized homes.)

Peak demand has dropped ever since. A big part of that has come about from efficiency. Bit by bit, those newfangled light bulbs have made a difference in power use. More efficient building heating and cooling systems have also helped.

Government forecasters don’t think the good times will last — they’re forecasting a boost in electricity and natural gas prices next year. And Con Ed is looking to raise its charges for delivering power to your home and running the power grid in 2017. But this summer, you can keep cool for less money.

 

Posted in Con Ed, electricity, natural gas | Leave a comment

Albany tries again on utility consumer advocate bill

 

The state Assembly is trying again to set up a new agency called the Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate. The advocate would push for lower rates from Con Edison and other utilities.

Spoiler alert: the bill will probably die in the state Senate.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Bronx Democrat, is this year’s lead sponsor of the bill. It passed the Assembly May 11 by a 119-24 vote.

“When you look at the astounding lack of representation that New York’s utility consumers have during rate hike proceedings it is easy to see how New Yorkers pay the highest utility costs in the continental United States,” Dinowitz said in a March 17 news release.

That’s as true now as it was when Albany first considered the idea several years ago. Similar agencies in more than 40 other states are proven consumer money savers. California’s Office of Ratepayer Advocates says that in 2015, it reduced utility bills in the state by $5.3 billion. The agency says that for every dollar it spent in 2015, consumers saved about $191 on their utility bills.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz

Dinowitz’s bill and its predecessors have had strong support in the Democratic-controlled state Assembly. But the idea of a consumer advocate office is not popular in the Republican-dominated Senate. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is also not a fan.

Opponents of a consumer advocate office say that consumer advocacy is the Public Service Commission’s job. It’s true that the PSC is charged with ensuring that utility rates are just and reasonable. It’s also true that the PSC staff is dedicated to investigating utility operations and arguing for fair rates.

But at bottom the PSC is a judicial agency, not a consumer advocate. And those who appear before the agency are overwhelmingly utilities and business groups.

Back in 2013, a Moreland Commission appointed to study the state’s response to Hurricane Sandy recommended the establishment of a utility consumer advocate agency. From the commission’s report:

Invariably, the PSC must weigh the needs of regulated utilities against the needs of ratepayers. But a problem arises when the judge – i.e., the PSC – hears overwhelmingly from well-funded and professional advocates and economists representing business interests but not from consumer interests. This status quo brings to mind the observation of the late Senator Warren Magnuson (D-WA), who said “all anybody wants in life is an unfair advantage.”

But fairness and due process – as there is in judicial proceedings – requires that two sides debate crucial issues involving, say, utility rates, modernizing the electric grid, establishing the right level of capital investments, and storm hardening so the State is not penny-wise-and-pound-foolish when the next devastating Hurricane Sandy hits.

The doom Dinowitz’s bill faces in the Senate seems like another case of legislators listening to the folks who inhabit the Albany insider world — lobbyists — rather than the people who elected them.

If legislators listened to voters, they’d know high utility rates are a big issue. An AARP study last year noted that more than half of New York City voters between ages 35 and 69 worry about their ability to pay utility bills. Another AARP study two years ago found that utilities spend $10 million per year advocating for their interests in Albany.

Lobbyists do their all to keep New Yorkers paying some of the highest utility rates in the nation. Who in Albany will stick up for people who don’t have lobbyists speaking for them?

Posted in AARP, consumer advocacy, Public Service Commission | Leave a comment

Widespread Internet outage hits NYC and region

 

Somebody cut the cord to much of the Internet service in the New York region on May 9, knocking out phone service to 750,000 people, the state says.

The problems began at about 3:09 p.m., according to DownDetector.com, a web site that monitors Internet outages. Service was more or less back to normal around 9 p.m., the site says. But in New York City, Time Warner Cable reported at 9:30 p.m. that it was still having problems which it labeled “a service interruption … due to lost network connectivity.”

Other cable and Internet companies in the Northeast also reported outages. The problems don’t seem to have affected everyone — but they caused plenty of trouble nonetheless. CNN found a pizza parlor in Sunnyside, Queens that lost about $300 in business because its phone and credit card service crashed.

Level 3 Communications, which operates trunk Internet fiber optic lines that serve cable and Internet companies like Time Warner, Cablevision and Verizon, tweeted at 8:09 p.m. that the outage resulted from a fiber cut caused by a third party. It’s unclear where the cut occurred.

2016-05-09 Level 3 Internet outageThis map, taken from DownDetector’s web site at about 9:30 p.m., gives some idea of the extent of the problem. Thousand Eyes, a San Francisco network monitoring company, said on Twitter that the outage impacted Internet users as far away as Salt Lake City and Seattle.

New York state officials plan an investigation of the outage, which they fear affected 911 service. “Service is being restored, and [the state] Department of Public Service will continue to investigate the incident to determine the cause,” the agency said in a statement issued at 9 p.m.

The outage comes amid a state Public Service Commission investigation of telecommunications service in New York. The Commission says its probe will cover “emergency response systems, regulatory oversight, quality of service, consumer protections, and affordability.”

 

Posted in Cable TV, Internet, Time Warner Cable | Leave a comment

Verizon landline customers fund mobile and FiOS networks, consumer group claims

 

Verizon has wrongly overcharged its traditional phone customers and spent the cash building out its FiOS and mobile networks, a consumer group alleges.

The allegations — outlined in this New York Post story — might lead to lawsuits or other action against the company, says Bruce Kushnick, executive director of New Networks Institute.

Verizon denies Kushnick’s claims in no uncertain terms. “There is absolutely no factual basis for his allegations,” the company said in a statement to The Post.

2015-09 new-verizon-logoAnd New York regulators seem uninterested in probing Verizon’s fees, which are no bargain.  As The Post story notes, the only regulation of Verizon’s price is a $23 monthly charge for a basic level of service. People who buy the basic service actually pay around $30 after government taxes and fees are tacked on. Charges for things like long distance service, an optional plan by which Verizon maintains the wires inside your home, and add-ons like call waiting and voice mail jack up the price even further.

The state doesn’t regulate the prices of those extras. Kushnick and his group say that’s a big problem. You can read more about Kushnick and New Networks’ claims here.

Though New York shows little interest in regulating Verizon’s prices, it does care about the quality of landline service. The Public Service Commission voted March 17 to investigate whether the company does enough to keep up its copper-wire network.

2016-03-21 Verizon chart from PSC order

Source: NYS Department of Public Service

Fewer and fewer people rely on Verizon’s copper network, which dates to the late 1800s. But the abandonment trend is slowing. This chart shows what’s going on. The blue line’s gradual trend toward horizontal shows that fewer customers are giving up traditional phone service. This is happening despite the fact that Verizon’s copper-wire service is very expensive compared to what Time Warner, Cablevision and other TV/Internet companies charge for phone service. It’s also pricey compared to mobile service. People save money by giving up their Verizon land lines.

“(N)otwithstanding competition, millions of Verizon’s customers … may very well opt to rely on the copper network for critical voice services,” the Commission noted in an order March 21. Commission chair Audrey Zibelman said at the March 17 meeting that for years, state policymakers have assumed Verizon’s customers would choose cheaper phone options. State officials are puzzled by their loyalty to the company. “They’re not walking,” Zibelman said.

Customers are staying with Verizon despite evidence that the quality of its service is declining. At public hearings and other forums, Verizon customers have complained to the state that “service quality was poor and that they were often out-of-service for extended periods of time,” the March 21 order says. “They expressed dismay in [sic] Verizon’s response to their service quality concerns and cited many examples of repair times taking far longer than 24 hours.” The Commission sees an obligation to make sure Verizon’s remaining landline customers have decent service.

New York and other states have had little interest over the last decade or so in the price and quality of old-fashioned telephone service. The Ma Bell monopoly days have passed to history, and phone customers have plenty of choices. As rules and laws have evolved, the federal government has more responsibility for regulating Internet and wireless service.

Verizon has less interest in old-fashioned phones. It has told New York regulators that it’s not interested in expanding its FiOS network beyond areas it now serves. In other states, the company has sold its landline operations as it shifts focus to mobile service. Frontier Communications takes over Verizon’s landline and Internet business in Florida, Texas and California on April 1.

Now we’ll find out if a state investigation can make the company care more about what it sees as obsolete technology.

 

Posted in consumer advocacy, Public Service Commission, Verizon | Leave a comment

New York ESCO crackdown challenged in court

 

Energy service companies — better known as ESCOs — are waging a court battle over their right to stay in business in New York.

A state Supreme Court judge in Albany on March 4 stayed a Public Service Commission order cracking down on the companies. That means ESCOs can continue to sell their products while their legal challenge is pending. The stay remains in effect at least until Albany Supreme Court Judge Kimberly O’Connor holds a hearing on the case, now set for April 14.

A decision by the commission February 20 said in sum that ESCOs not selling renewable or “green” energy plans must guarantee prices lower than the default plans offered by Con Edison and other utilities. That will effectively shut many New York ESCOs that promise residential customers a better deal on their electric and gas bills. Several studies have shown that despite the promises, ESCO customers pay more than those who stick with their utilities’ plans.

The Retail Energy Supply Association, an ESCO industry group, says the Public Service Commmission has “effectively eliminated the right of residential and small commercial customers in New York to choose among competitive energy offerings.” It called the stay issued by Albany Supreme Court Judge Kimberly O’Connor “great news for consumers as it protects their right to freely decide for themselves what energy products offer value.”

The Public Service Commission sees the stay as a temporary measure. “This preliminary ruling is merely procedural — it does not address the merits of the PSC’s order,” said commission spokesman James Denn.

In court papers, the ESCOs gripe the commission’s February 20 order took them by surprise. The commission’s decision came in a case set up last year as a review of “requirements that Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) must satisfy when providing electric or gas services in New York State.” Those words “did not put Petitioners [ESCOs] on notice of the requirements now being imposed,” their lawyers complain.

Maybe. But the commission’s action is no surprise to anyone who has followed the issue. It followed years of ESCO intransigence over the state’s efforts to make their pricing more transparent. It also comes amid a spike in consumer complaints against ESCOs. In January 2016, the state collected 592 consumer complaints about ESCOs, 29 percent more than the 459 complaints it collected in January 2015. The commission has also stepped up enforcement against some ESCOs’ shady business practices. Now a judge will decide if the state is right to crack down.

 

Posted in consumer advocacy, energy service companies, Public Service Commission | 1 Comment

Fed up state regulators end energy service companies’ ripoffs

 

Say goodbye to the energy service companies that promise a deal on your home’s Con Edison bill: New York regulators say they’re a ripoff, and will effectively shut them down.

It’s a big move by the state Public Service Commission. A commission order issued February 23 bars energy service companies from signing up new customers unless they guarantee their prices are equal to or lower than utilities’ full-service plans, or guarantee that 30 percent or more of their product comes from renewable sources like wind and solar.

The new rules mark the failure of the state’s two-decade old policy of offering consumers choice in their electric and gas bills. Having a choice of electricity or gas suppliers was supposed to save everyone money. Instead, study after study shows that energy service companies – ESCOs, for short – cost consumers big bucks.

ESCOs simply can’t compete with the default plans of Con Edison, National Grid and other utility companies. PSC Commissioner Greg Sayre explained why: “Both the ESCO and the utilities are buying the energy in the same wholesale market.” Con Ed resells the electricity or gas to its full-service customers without markup. But ESCOs have marketing costs and other overhead, Sayre noted. That’s why ESCOs almost always charge more.

Sayre said letting ESCOs continue to sell if they guarantee lower prices leaves an opening if some company really does have a better deal. “Maybe somebody has got a secret sauce,” he said. But he and other PSC commissioners expressed doubt the ESCO industry can promise lower prices.

“The market is simply not a competitive market,” said PSC chair Audrey Zibelman.

New York law requires the commission to assure consumers just and reasonable utility rates, Zibelman noted. “When people are paying two times, four times, as a much as eight times more than they would if they bought it from the retail utility, that’s not just and reasonable,” she said. “We can’t tolerate that kind of behavior.”

The commission’s move comes as New Yorkers have finally wised up to the ESCO ripoff. Electricity ESCOs lost 6.1 percent of their residential market share in Con Ed territory from May 2014 to May 2015, state data shows.

There’s ample evidence that ESCOs charge more. Federal data released last October shows that in 2014, electric customers who signed up with ESCOs paid 14.7 percent more for electricity than if they stayed with the plans offered by their local utilities. The higher prices have been an issue for years. A Public Utility Law Project study completed in 2012 as in the upstate Niagara Mohawk/National Grid territory found that on average, electric customers using ESCOs paid an extra $413 over a two-year period; gas customers paid an extra $235.

In a news release issued after the February 23 vote, the PSC cited several examples of ESCO ripoffs:

  • A New York City company charges more than triple Con Edison’s rate for electricity, and several companies charged more than double Con Ed’s rate for natural gas.
  • Four companies in the Hudson Valley charged more than double what Central Hudson charged for electricity. Another charged triple the utility rate for natural gas.
  • Several upstate ESCOs charged more than double National Grid’s electric rate. And in the Finger Lakes region, one company’s variable rate electricity plan charged eight times more than Rochester Gas & Electric’s prices.

Since ESCOs charge higher prices, it seems no surprise that they did not cooperate with a state effort to make their pricing more transparent. Unfortunately, that effort was a flop.

A bit more from the state’s news release:

[A state review] found several instances where companies were blatantly misrepresenting themselves, such as pretending to represent the local utility in order to trick customers into signing costly and harmful contracts. While these practices violate state rules, many consumers are simply unaware that they are or have been defrauded, and so are unable to protect themselves.

In December, Governor Cuomo announced that a separate investigation by the Commission’s Consumer Advocate resulted in 1,566 consumers receiving $950,700 in energy refunds from Ambit Energy, one of the largest ESCOs in the State. Customer complaints related to issues like predatory sales tactics and higher-than-expected prices have more than doubled since 2013 and today’s action is the latest effort to put an end to these dishonest business practices.

And:

Furthermore, the review found several instances where companies were blatantly misrepresenting themselves, such as pretending to represent the local utility in order to trick customers into signing costly and harmful contracts. While these practices violate state rules, many consumers are simply unaware that they are or have been defrauded, and so are unable to protect themselves.

Want to read some harrowing tales about ESCO cheating and ripoffs? Check out this piece posted February 2 in the Village Voice. More than 5,000 people complained to the state about ESCO ripoffs last year, the commission says.

Of course, there’s fine print to the commission’s order. ESCOs have 60 days to show the state that their products are worthwhile, “such as aggregating customers or providing energy efficiency services.” If services like that will save people money, the commission says, it may let ESCOs sell them.

ESCOs may find some wiggle room in the state’s tax code. In some counties — not in New York City — ESCO customers get a break on sales taxes. Some ESCOs might leverage that break in a way that keeps them in business.

The state’s move has no effect on ESCO services provided to big energy users like factories and office buildings. ESCOs save money for big electricity and energy users. But those of us who struggle to pay our household Con Ed bill every month don’t have enough pull in the marketplace to get an energy deal any better than our neighbor’s.

Update: The Retail Energy Supply Association, an ESCO trade group, issued a news release February 23 denouncing the commission’s decision. The association says New York is “effectively eliminating retail choice for residential and small commercial customers.”

Posted in Deregulation, energy service companies, Public Service Commission | Leave a comment

National Grid wants 2017 gas price hike for NYC, LI customers

 

National Grid gas customers in New York City face big rate hikes in January 2017 under a plan the company submitted January 29 to the state Public Service Commission.

A typical National Grid gas heating customer in Brooklyn, Staten Island or Queens now pays about $99.85 per month. Under the proposed rate plan, that typical bill would rise 14 percent to $113.83 per month, the company says.

People who live in the Rockaways and on Long Island will see smaller percentage increases. But that’s no bonus – their bills are already higher. A typical Rockaways/Long Island heating bill is now about $111.67 per month. Under National Grid’s plan, they’d rise 12 percent, to about $125.06 per month.

National Grid gas pricesIf the state decides one-year increases of 14 percent or 12 percent are too harsh, National Grid has proposed phasing in the boost over several years.

National Grid says the price increase will let it “significantly accelerate” its pipe replacement program to 165 miles per year in its New York City and Long Island territories. “Many of those miles of natural gas pipe are now aging, and although they are still very reliably serving our customers they are in need of replacement and modernization,” said Ken Daly, National Grid’s president of New York operations.

National Grid says that adjusted for inflation, its charges for delivering gas to customers’ homes are lower than what it charged in 1996.

It also notes that its customers have gained by plunging natural gas prices, which are now at a 14-year low. Natural gas, oil and other energy prices are at historic lows. But even oil’s dramatic price drop since 2013 hasn’t matched natural gas prices. National Grid says that it beats oil’s price by 44 to 45 percent.

As with the Con Ed rate case also filed on January 29, it’ll take the state about 11 months to decide on National Grid’s price boost.

Posted in National Grid, natural gas, Public Service Commission | 1 Comment