Back in December we reported about the price hike that Wallingford Electric was implementing to correct an “error in calculation”by CMEEC (Connecticut Municipal Electrical Energy Cooperative), the company they purchase their energy from. We were hoping that was the last increase we’d see for a while. It seems we were mistaken.
The New Increase
Faced with increased operating expenses and decreased demand for electricity, the Department of Public Utilities is hoping to raise electric rates by 2.5% in the coming year. If it’s approved, the average residential customer using 700 kilowatt hours of electricity would see an additional $2.50 added to their bill, making the average bill about $99.50. Department Director george Adair said the increases were necessary due to declines in sales during the past year that were causing revenues to be lower than expected. He attributed the drop in sales to a sluggish economy and the success of the department’s energy conservation efforts.
“A Double-Edged Sword”
Robert Beaumont, a member of the Public Utilities Commission, said the department’s energy conservation programs is a “double-edged sword”, since they help consumers decrease their energy consumption but also cause a drop in revenue that must be made up elsewhere. Richard Hendershot, General Manager of the Electric Division, said that they never told consumers that energy conservation would lower their rates, they said it would lower their consumption.
Well, isn’t that the one of the purposes of conserving energy, to lower your energy bill? We all want to save energy to help the environment and conserve our resources, but don’t most people first think of energy conservation as a means to save money in this economy? Don’t we use fluorescent light bulbs, programmable thermostats, home energy audits and Energy Star compliant appliances because of the potential savings on our electric bill? We know we do. We’re persuaded to think that lower consumption equals lower cost, so we follow all the energy-saving tips we can find to help put a few dollars back in our overtaxed wallets. Now the Electric Division is showing us the error in our math.
Other Utility Hikes
Also part of the budget proposal that contained the electric rate hike were hikes for Water and Sewer customers as well. Slated to begin June 1st, charges for water usage could rise from $2.66 to $2.88 per hundred cubic feet, while sewer rates would rise from $3.52 to $3.73, a quarterly increase of about $9.00.
Mayor William Dickinson has said that he has asked all departments to submit budgets that do not show an increase from the previous year, but the Department of Public Utilities couldn’t comply, citing salary and benefit increases and the previously mentioned “error in calculation” from CMEEC as primary causes. The budget still has to be approved by Dickinson and then go before the Town Council for approval before the rate hikes will take effect. We hope that they will see reason and ask for an amendment to the department’s budget before passing it.
Please feel free to weigh in with your opinion on this proposed rate hike in the comments.