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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

45 Organizations Call for New York to Lower Monthly Mandatory Electric Charges

New York, N.Y. — Today, Acadia Center, Alliance for a Green Economy, Natural Resources Defense Council, Vote Solar, and 41 other organizations joined to support a common set of principles to address one of New York’s most regressive charges for utility service: the unavoidable monthly fee that all residential customers must pay regardless of the amount of electricity consumed. “Joint Principles on Residential Fixed Charges in New York” calls on New York utility regulators to lower these inefficient and regressive rates. The 45 organizations come from many different perspectives, including low-income and consumer advocates, environmental and clean energy public interest organizations, solar advocates, and clean energy industry groups, and span national organizations as well as community organizations across New York.

“In order to achieve a cleaner, more modern and consumer friendly energy system, New York needs to reform and lower fixed charges. The current regressive approach was adopted in the 1990s and places barriers in the way of consumer adoption of modern technologies like solar and energy efficiency” said Daniel Sosland, president of Acadia Center, which has successfully advocated for lower residential fixed charges in Connecticut. “The diverse array of groups who have endorsed lowering fixed charges show that this would be a win for ratepayers, clean energy, and communities across New York.”

New York has very high fixed customer charges compared to other states. 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 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 all of its neighboring states. New York’s fixed charges are even higher than Wisconsin, a state that has been widely criticized for approving large fixed charge increases since 2014.

Mark LeBel, Attorney and Associate Director of Acadia Center’s Grid Modernization and Utility Reform Initiative, said: “Most states across the country use a definition for residential fixed charges that is much narrower than New York’s approach. Our testimony in the National Grid rate case demonstrated that residential fixed charges are currently far too high and that reform would benefit the majority of residential ratepayers. Large consumers would pay more, but 61% of monthly bills would go down with lower residential fixed charges.”

“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.”

“High unavoidable charges on electricity bills have a disproportionate impact on lower income customers who use less energy and decrease the incentive for customers to make energy efficiency improvements or invest in clean energy through actions like participating in a community solar project or installing solar panels,” said Miles Farmer, a Clean Energy Attorney at Natural Resources Defense Council. “New York utilities should reduce fixed charges and instead focus on designing rates that empower customers.”

“Vote Solar is proud to stand with dozens of organizations working for customer rights, community health, environmental justice and clean energy progress in the call for lower fixed charges,” said Nathan Phelps, program manager of DG regulatory policy at Vote Solar. “In order for New York to succeed in its ambitious and laudable clean energy vision, it must empower families and businesses to take control of their own electric bills. Lowering fixed charges is a critical step to achieving that vision.”

Cullen Howe, Acadia Center’s New York Director, noted, “Acadia Center supports the overall vision that has been laid out by the Public Service Commission and Cuomo Administration over the last several years. Lower residential fixed charges will help enable the goals of Reforming the Energy Vision, including increased energy efficiency and vibrant markets for clean energy.”


Media Contacts:

Cullen Howe, Senior Attorney & New York Director
chowe@acadiacenter.org, 212-256-1535

Mark LeBel, Attorney & Associate Director, Grid Modernization and Utility Reform Initiative
mlebel@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x104

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