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Clean Energy and Consumer Organizations Launch Campaign Calling for Lower Monthly Mandatory Electric Charges

NEW YORK — Acadia Center, Alliance for a Green Economy, Citizens for Local Power, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Public Utility Law Project of New York, and Vote Solar today launched a campaign to decrease one of New York’s most regressive and unfair charges for utility service: the fixed charge, an unavoidable monthly fee that all residential electric customers must pay regardless of the amount of electricity they use.

New York has very high fixed customer charges compared to other states, which can make energy unaffordable for many households and discourages investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

For example, National Grid has a residential fixed charge of $17 in New York, but only $5 in Rhode Island and $5.50 in Massachusetts. Central Hudson has even higher fixed charges at $24, which it is seeking to increase to $25, as well as add an additional tiered “service size charge” for many customers. Acadia Center found that current average residential customer charges for major investor-owned utilities are higher in New York than in all of its neighboring states.

A newly launched website, www.lowerfixedcharges.org, explains why a majority of utility customers would substantially benefit from lower fixed charges and contains original analysis and supporting information, including:

Cullen Howe, Acadia Center’s New York director, said: “Fixed charges remain a stubborn and pressing problem in New York as it looks to modernize its energy system and give customers more control over their energy bills. Most states across the country use a definition for residential fixed charges that is much narrower than New York’s approach. This new web campaign gives New Yorkers valuable information on why residential fixed charges are too high and what they can do to address this problem.”

“We see no reason why utility customers in New York should be paying fixed charges that are three times higher than those paid to the same company by customers in other states,” said Jessica Azulay, program director of Alliance for a Green Economy. “It’s high time to reduce these charges so that low-income customers, low energy users, and people who want to invest in energy efficiency and renewables are no longer overburdened with these regressive and unfair costs.”

“A key goal of the Governor’s Reforming the Energy Vision Initiative is to empower New Yorkers to manage their energy use in a way that both supports the State’s clean energy goals and also reduces their bills,” said Jen Metzger, Director of Citizens for Local Power. “Lowering utility fixed charges must be part of this reform effort because high fixed charges prevent customers from realizing the savings that they should when they use less energy or install solar panels on their homes.”

Miles Farmer, a clean energy attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said: “For New York to lead in developing utility regulation for the future, it must end its practice of high unavoidable fixed charges and instead design utility rates to encourage customers to save energy and install advanced technologies that will help them use energy even smarter.”

“New York has an energy affordability crisis, where as much as 50% or more of energy consumers chronically struggle to pay their vital bills like heat, light or medicine, due in large part to high energy prices,” said Richard Berkley, Executive Director of the Public Utility Law Project of New York. “High fixed charges worsen those affordability problems for low- and fixed-income and low-usage customers, and they disincentivize conservation. Both of those results are contrary to the State’s low-income affordability program and REV program goals. This coalition is dedicated to lowering high fixed charges to address those affordability concerns for New York’s vulnerable households, and also to help the State meet its renewable energy goals by helping consumers get ‘more green for less green.’”

Nathan Phelps, Program Manager at Vote Solar, said: “Families and business owners should be reaping the benefits of solar and wind energy, which are more affordable than ever, especially compared to traditional fuels. Instead, New Yorkers pay unnecessarily high fixed fees on their utility bill, regardless of how much electricity they use. Instead of passing on savings to customers, New York utilities are making it more expensive for them to invest in private solar, efficiency, and other clean energy technology. This brand new resource will shed light and offer solutions to New York’s high customer fee problem.”


Media Contacts:
Cullen Howe, NY Director
chowe@acadiacenter.org, 212-256-1535 x501

Krysia Wazny, Communications Director
kwazny@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x107