Utility companies seek to end pandemic-related shut-off ban

Published on Thursday, 25 February 2021 11:41
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ASSOCIATED PRESS

HARTFORD - Gov. Ned Lamont's is asking Connecticut utility regulators to continue a moratorium that prevents electric customers from having their service shut off during the pandemic.

Companies including Eversource Energy and United Illuminating have submitted motions to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority asking to resume shutting off power for the first time since the moratorium was put into effect last March.

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on Wednesday filed an objection to the motions filed by UI and Eversource, arguing that PURA should keep the moratorium in place until planned federal programs designed to help struggling utility customers come online.

“PURA’s shut-off moratorium and other state actions have provided crucial mitigation to the pandemic burden for all of our residents, but especially those disproportionately impacted minority communities who have the highest energy burdens on their household budgets,” Lamont said in a statement. "We are simply too early in our comeback to begin lifting these lifesaving protections now and we believe that there is potential for more help to be on the way.”

More than $200 million has been designated by the federal government to assist Connecticut residents with rent and utility payments, the administration said.

Eversource spokeswoman Tricia Taskey Modifica said the company has programs in place to help customers manage their bills to prevent any power disconnections.

In its request to resume shut-offs, Eversource said it would send affected customers a transition letter and email that will remind them of that COVID-19 payment plans, hardship protections and any programs for which they may be eligible.

Customers who enroll in a COVID-19 payment program can pay their past-due bills over a 24-month period without risk of having their utilities shut off.

“The last thing we want to do is shut off anyone’s power," Modifica said. “In fact, we haven’t disconnected service to any customers since the beginning of the pandemic.”

Eversource said it plans to send initial disconnect notices to residential customers with balances in arrears over $1,000 and commercial customers who owe more than $500.

United Illuminating said it also is committed to helping customers keep the power on.

“These are challenging times for many of our customers who are struggling during the pandemic. We understand that and we’re working hard to provide support and information to help our customers get by and stay current on their bills,” UI spokesman Edward Crowder said. "We look forward to PURA’s ruling on the motion and we will fully support the authority’s direction, whatever it is.”

The DEEP said that of Eversource’s 2.2 million electric customers and 200,000 gas customers, at least 7% qualify for assistance programs.

PURA has not indicated when it might rule on companies requests to resume shut-offs.



Posted in New Britain Herald, General News on Thursday, 25 February 2021 11:41. Updated: Thursday, 25 February 2021 11:44.