State weighs in on sky-high energy costs

WTNH–When Rich Perotti opened his February power bill, he was convinced there had been a mistake.

“I was just in shock when I saw it,” said Perotti.

For a single month, in his single level home, his Connecticut Light & Power bill was $1,672.64, more than double what he had paid just one year ago.

Retired and caring for his sick wife, money is very tight.

“It’s killing me,” he said.

Perotti is not alone in his frustration. Hundreds of residents are complaining to the states regulatory agency, PURA and to the Attorney General, over skyrocketing utility costs.

The high costs are being passed on from third party energy suppliers, who have put customers on flexible plans, meaning the energy cost is purchased on an as-needed basis. That means that during harsh winters, when energy is at high demand, it will cost more.

Attorney General George Jepsen takes issue with certain parts of how these companies are marketing the plans to consumers.

“It’s not like they’re selling cupcakes or t-shirts,” said Jepsen. “This is something people need.”

Jepsen is supporting Senate Bill 2, a plan that would beef up a state website, offering more information to consumers about energy rates and what they should be paying.

Some companies, like Starion Energy, have weighed in, asking to be closely involved in what information is included in the website.

On June 25, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority is slated to announce a final decision into whether or not they will require more from energy suppliers.

“You have to have some protections for consumers who may not read their bills as intently as they should as many admitted during public hearings,” said PURA Commissioner Michael Caron. ”There are also some issues with the marketing of these companies. We want to flesh that out going forward.”

“Unfortunately, there is [sic] a lot of unscrupulous suppliers out there who rely on consumer ignorance,” said Jepsen.

North American Energy, the company that provided power to Perotti at nearly double the standard rate, issued the following statement to News8. They declined an on camera interview request or to answer any further questions.

“This year’s close-to-record cold weather caused winter demand levels to increase significantly, and severely impacted electricity prices. We understand these circumstances created a hardship for many families.

Although not required by any regulatory body, North American Power notified all of its variable rate customers of the increase in rates, and encouraged them to contact us to switch to a fixed rate plan. Many customers took advantage of this offer.

As a normal course of business, North American Power notifies all fixed rate customers, whose fixed rate terms are about to expire, and provides them the option to renew into a new fixed rate plan.”

Further energy industry explanation can be found here.

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