Battling Higher Electric Prices? Read The Small Print, Officials Say

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CTNOW discusses options that consumers can consider when seeking to lower their energy bills and best practices when shopping for a competitive energy supplier.

Contact: Brian Dowling

HARTFORD — With electric bills increasing in Connecticut, officials and consumer advocates are advising ratepayers to be careful in how they respond.

Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz, Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, and consumer advocates from the AARP and the Connecticut Citizen Action Group held a press conference Tuesday, the day after regulators preliminary approved a $130 million rate increase for Connecticut Light & Power.

The officials and advocates urged people who pay electric bills in Connecticut to plan increases into their monthly budgets — a total of $25.60 for typical Connecticut Light & Power customers, and $35.25 for typical United Illuminating customers — as well as conserve all the energy they can.

Another option they expect customers to consider is getting their power from a third-party company, rather than either utility’s standard generation offer. The higher rates are bound to generate interest in these alternative suppliers, who are likely to respond by ramping up their often already aggressive marketing, Katz said.

For Connecticut Light & Power customers, offers from these alternative suppliers start at 10.39 cents a kilowatt hour, and more than a dozen beat the standard offer rate that begins in January of 12.63 cents a kilowatt hour. Among those offers, however, are many that have termination fees, and others that have terms of two or more years.

“We caution folks,” Katz said, “to make sure you are very educated” if you choose an alternative supplier.

Pay attention to the terms and conditions, Katz urged consumers, especially if the term is fixed, and know whether there are cancellation or termination fees. She recommends that residential consumers do not choose variable rates, which can change each month.

If you choose an alternative supplier for a fixed term, Katz said, be sure you mark on your calendar when that term is over, so you can choose another supplier or plan. If not, that supplier can put you on a variable plan. Customers were urged to pay attention to all notices from the supplier.

On the other hand, if you are not the type of person who will stay on top of the details of your electricity supplier, “consider staying with standard service,” Katz said.

John Erlinghauser, advocacy director for AARP, warned that the increases — especially the higher fixed monthly fee for Connecticut Light & Power customers — will hit seniors and those on fixed incomes the most.

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