Eversource seeks 19% rate hike for CL&P customers

Millstone nuclear power station.

Photo by Sean D. Elliot/The Day of New London

Eversource seeks 19% rate hike for CL&P customers

Eversource filed a request Thursday, Feb. 15 for a $784 million rate adjustment that would bump its Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) electric rates by nearly 19%, costing an average residential customer an additional $38 a month May 1.

The United Illuminating Company, an Avangrid subsidiary and the smaller of Connecticut’s two regulated electric monopolies, filed a request Friday, Feb. 16 to raise rates by 12%, or $26 a month, on May 1.

Twice a year, the utilities seek rate adjustments to recover costs imposed by public policies, notably a directive that they purchase electricity at a favorable rate from Millstone, the state’s last nuclear plant and its biggest source of carbon-free power.

Eversource said the Millstone credit authorized by the General Assembly in 2017 caused $605 million of the $784 million in unrecovered costs; another $160 million is blamed on mandated benefits for the poor and medical hardship cases.

The filing comes as Eversource is looking to raise cash by selling Aquarion Water to offset a one-time $1.9 billion loss on off-shore wind investments and a day after it told stock analysts that Connecticut regulators were making its cash crunch worse.

Eversource complains that a change that the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) unanimously adopted in December 2020 in its methodology for assessing biannual rate adjustments have slowed cost recovery.

The company’s cash issues were “primarily driven” by PURA’s shift in methodology away from forecasts of recoverable costs to using actual costs in the previous year as a benchmark, said John M. Moreira, the Eversource chief financial officer.

“We’ve been significantly under-recovered at the CL&P franchise in 2023 by a sizable amount, close to $1 billion,” Moreira told stock analysts on an earnings call Wednesday.

Eversource offered no estimate, however, of how using the older methodology would have mitigated the proposed increase by allowing some cost recovery earlier. Eversource proposed Thursday that the increase be phased in.

The criticism of PURA has a broader subtext: Eversource and Avangrid, the owner of United Illuminating, have been urging Gov. Ned Lamont not to reappoint Marissa P. Gillett, the authority’s chair, to another term.

Gillett declined comment on the filing. Neither she nor the other two commissioners, John W. Betkoski III and Michael Caron, were mentioned by name in the Eversource filing or accompanying letter or press statement.

Two lawmakers on the Energy and Technology Committee said they saw new messaging around the filing as part of the broader campaign against Gillett.

“It’s pretty clear that the utilities are not a great fan of Marissa Gillett,” said Sen. Ryan Fazio, R-Greenwich. “I think she has the interest of consumers at heart, and whether every decision she and the other commissioners make is right or wrong is a complicated question. Each of those decisions should be examined and judged on their merits.”

He called the campaign against her “untoward.”

Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex, co-chair of the committee, was blunter.

“In my opinion, they are just trying to get her fired. And that’s as simple as it is,” Needleman said.

Lamont has both praised Gillett for her close oversight of utilities’ expenses and rates, but he has urged her to work more collaboratively with her two colleagues on the PURA commission as well as the companies.

The governor’s office reacted with caution Thursday night.

“We need to review the filing. We agree that we ought to work together to lower electric costs,” said Julia Bergman, the governor’s spokeswoman. “We’ll continue to collaborate with all the parties to do that.”

Whether the numbers are correct, the types of expenses claimed by Eversource clearly are recoverable, lawmakers said. Fazio said the methodology challenged by Eversource did not change that.

The ranking House Republican, Rep. Bill Buckbee of New Milford, blamed Democratic policies.

“This proposed rate increase comes at a time when residents simply cannot afford to pay more out of pocket to cover the financial ramifications of policy decisions that have been made by the Democrat-controlled legislature, the governor’s office, and his regulators,” Buckbee said.

Actually, the Millstone bill had more Republican support in the House than Democrat — Buckbee among them. In 2017, Republicans held half the seats in the Senate and were five short of a majority in the House. The governor was a Democrat, Dannel P. Malloy.

At the time, Millstone’s profits were eroded by competition from electricity generated by what then was plentiful and cheap natural gas, and its owner said its future was threatened without help.

The bill allowed the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and PURA to permit Millstone to compete in a more favorable market against solar, wind and hydro power that commands higher prices.

What resulted was a fixed price for much of the electricity generated by Millstone. Eversource and Avangrid would buy it and immediately resell it on the competitive market.

When the market prices were low, the utilities took a loss that PURA would let them recover from ratepayers. When the prices rose, as occurred during the first year of the war in Ukraine, the utilities turned a profit on the Millstone power that flowed back to ratepayers.

Millstone’s electricity is once again above market rates, meaning UI and Eversource are owed a recovery of their costs.

“Now we’ve got to pay the piper,” said Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, co-chair of energy. “There’s not much way around it, and they stand on very firm ground with that one aspect.”

Latest News

Fresh perspectives in Norfolk Library film series

Diego Ongaro

Photo submitted

Parisian filmmaker Diego Ongaro, who has been living in Norfolk for the past 20 years, has composed a collection of films for viewing based on his unique taste.

The series, titled “Visions of Europe,” began over the winter at the Norfolk Library with a focus on under-the-radar contemporary films with unique voices, highlighting the creative richness and vitality of the European film landscape.

Keep ReadingShow less
New ground to cover and plenty of groundcover

Young native pachysandra from Lindera Nursery shows a variety of color and delicate flowers.

Dee Salomon

It is still too early to sow seeds outside, except for peas, both the edible and floral kind. I have transplanted a few shrubs and a dogwood tree that was root pruned in the fall. I have also moved a few hellebores that seeded in the near woods back into their garden beds near the house; they seem not to mind the few frosty mornings we have recently had. In years past I would have been cleaning up the plant beds but I now know better and will wait at least six weeks more. I have instead found the most perfect time-consuming activity for early spring: teasing out Vinca minor, also known as periwinkle and myrtle, from the ground in places it was never meant to be.

Planting the stuff in the first place is my biggest ever garden regret. It was recommended to me as a groundcover that would hold together a hillside, bare after a removal of invasive plants save for a dozen or so trees. And here we are, twelve years later; there is vinca everywhere. It blankets the hillside and has crept over the top into the woods. It has made its way left and right. I am convinced that vinca is the plastic of the plant world. The stuff won’t die. (The name Vinca comes from the Latin ‘vincire’ which means ‘to bind or fetter.’) Last year I pulled a bunch and left it strewn on the roof of the root cellar for 6 months and the leaves were still green.

Keep ReadingShow less
Matza Lasagne by 'The Cook and the Rabbi'

Culinary craftsmanship intersects with spiritual insights in the wonderfully collaborative book, “The Cook and the Rabbi.” On April 14 at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck (6422 Montgomery Street), the cook, Susan Simon, and the rabbi, Zoe B. Zak, will lead a conversation about food, tradition, holidays, resilience and what to cook this Passover.

Passover, marked by the traditional seder meal, holds profound significance within Jewish culture and for many carries extra meaning this year at a time of great conflict. The word seder, meaning “order” in Hebrew, unfolds in a 15-step progression intertwining prayers, blessings, stories, and songs that narrate the ancient saga of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery. It’s a narrative that has endured for over two millennia, evolving with time yet retaining its essence, a theme echoed beautifully in “The Cook and the Rabbi.”

Keep ReadingShow less
Housy baseball drops 3-2 to Northwestern

Freshman pitcher Wyatt Bayer threw three strikeouts when HVRHS played Northwestern April 9.

Riley Klein

WINSTED — A back-and-forth baseball game between Housatonic Valley Regional High School and Northwestern Regional High School ended 3-2 in favor of Northwestern on Tuesday, April 9.

The Highlanders played a disciplined defensive game and kept errors to a minimum. Wyatt Bayer pitched a strong six innings for HVRHS, but the Mountaineers fell behind late and were unable to come back in the seventh.

Keep ReadingShow less