State regulators have approved a rate hike that was proposed by two of the state's power companies.
The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority said on Monday revised standard service rates for residential and business customers of Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating will take effect on Jan. 1, 2015.
"CL&P and UI recently submitted proposed rates based on competitive auctions held earlier this year to procure sufficient power to meet forecast load," PURA said in a news release.
PURA said it approved the new rates on Monday.
Under the rates, the CL&P would raise the standard service rate, known as the "generation rate" from 9.990 cents per kilowatt hour to nearly 12.629 cents. It could bump the average bill from about $70 to $87 per month.
"It's hard to make ends meet now," said Steven Christino, of Bristol. "I understand everyone needs to make a profit, but this is digging in way too deep."
Connecticut Light and Power officials said they won't be profiting from the move.
"As a regulated company, we purchase electricity for our customers and pass that along to them at no profit to the company. It's done twice per year - Jan. 1 and July 1 the rates are set," said Tricia Modifica, of CL&P.
For UI customers, the rate will increase from 8.6657 cents to 13,3108 cents.
PURA said the rates cover roughly 50 percent of the monthly electric bill for most residential users. About 40 percent of homeowners receive the standard service generation. The remaining percentage chose approved electric suppliers, which could be more or less depending on contract terms.
Regulators said customers can compare rates on the website EnergizeCT. A link to that can be found here. They can also call 1-877-WISE-USE.
Natural gas costs are climbing too, and officials said it is because pipeline access isn't easy to maintain.
"We're seeing dramatic increases because of constraints to natural gas pipeline systems coming in to New England, which operates electricity producing companies. We buy it on behalf of our customers and pass it along to them," Modifica said.
A number of consumer advocates plan to gather Monday night.
Labor, religious and environmental groups want to gather for a roundtable discussion at the Machinists' Union Hall on Main Street in Hartford. They said the Connecticut Light and Power hike will put the squeeze on Connecticut families.
They said what really has them fired up is that customers could be paying more before even flipping on the light switch.
"You don't want to do things that are going to hurt people and have them living on the streets because they can't pay their bills," said Imogene Ellison, of East Hartford.
"I think the electric prices are too high already," Ellison said.
In addition to Monday's approved rate hike, CL&P also wants to increase the fixed monthly service fee.
Right now, the fee is $16 a month. The proposal would raise it by 60 percent to $25.
That means the average customer would pay $114 more per year before plugging anything in or turning on the lights.
The final decision is up to PURA.
For months, it listened to consumers call out CL&P at packed public hearings.
CL&P said it needs the increases to upgrade equipment in order to prevent future power outages.
In a statement to Eyewitness News, it said “there are significant costs associated with running a large and complex electrical system like ours. Over time, we need to make significant investments to provide our customers with a strong, reliable system.”
"I think it's awful,” said Kim Sevigny, of East Hampton. “I think big business is getting richer, richer, and richer and we are just putting out more and more and more."
Modifica said CL&P needs to increase rates to offer better service to customers.
"Essentially to build the electric grid of the future. Larger, stronger poles, wires, transformers and tree trimming around the state to give customers the best service possible," Modifica said. "We sympathize with the customers and look into energy efficient home energy assesesments where they can save more at home."
The roundtable is set for 7 p.m.
Copyright 2014 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.