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2011-12 Storms Prompt United Illuminating to Ask to Raise Rates in 2014

United Illuminating (UI) has made a formal filling to the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to raise customers’ distribution rates beginning in January 2014. This would affect all UI customers, including those that have chosen a retail electricity provider, since the rates are distribution-related.

Three storms – Sandy, Tropical Storm Irene, and the Nor’Easter of 2011 – have prompted request. UI claims that the rate hikes will allow for the utility to recover losses from the storms and upgrade infrastructure. Connecticut’s Attorney General, George Jepsen, stated that PURA would review the request but would not approve any rates that are unreasonable or unnecessary.

While the increase would not go into effect until 2014, many Connecticut citizens that are aware of the filing are not pleased.

UI faced a great deal of scrutiny during and after Sandy, most notably from Bridgeport’s mayor Bill Finch, who accused UI of discriminating against lower-income neighborhoods and towns including Bridgeport. Many of UI’s customers were left without power for weeks, and many are still struggling to get their lives back together. Even if the hikes are necessary, many customers feel they’re being kicked while they’re down.

Indeed, the need for rate hikes is most likely valid. Leaders from UI’s parent company, UIL Holdings, stated that losses for all of its utilities combined during Sandy amounted to $35-40 million. This is higher than all losses from storms combined from 2009 to July 2012, which totaled $26.1 million. Other than UI, UIL Holding’s utilities include Southern Connecticut Gas Company, Connecticut Natural Gas Corporation, and Berkshire Gas Company. It is not clear what portion of the losses were attributed to UI.

While customers can’t avoid the rate hikes (if approved), they can still save on their bills by shopping around for a retail electricity provider for the supply portion of their electric service.