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ALBANY, NY (WENY) — During last year’s winter season, utility prices skyrocketed leaving New Yorker’s to pay bills significantly higher than usual. According to a recent report from the State Senate Investigations Committee, utility companies across the state failed to protect New Yorker’s from this surge.
“Customers from all around the state from Long Island to Buffalo to Albany were just socked and seemingly out of the blue. I mean we’re talking triple, quadruple, sometimes six or seven times their normal bill,” said state Senator James Skoufis.
Skoufis said utility companies could have shielded customers from price increases through a process called hedging, where utility companies can essentially purchase extra electricity or gas when the price is lower. Then they can store it away to use during times when the price of utilities is higher like during the winter months.
Skoufis said that utility companies are not participating in this price protection process and or not effectively participating.
“We need to put parameters in place—the legislature, regulators—to basically force them to do a better job of hedging to protect their customers,” he said.
Skoufis added that utility companies also need to do a better job of communicating to their customers. And some advocates agreed.
“Utilities really didn’t get out there and talk to customers until it started to happen, until prices started to jump,” said Laurie Wheelock, Executive Director of The Public Utility Law Project of New York.
New York State Electric and Gas stated in an email to WENY that they communicate extensively with their customers to manage rising costs of fuel.
They added they also encourage customers to take steps to ensure they have the information needed to use energy efficiently including weatherization projects, implementing low- and no-cost energy conservation measures and enrolling in their budget billing service.
WENY reached out to other utility companies, National Grid, Rochester Gas and Electric Corporation, and Con Edison Energy about this report, but they did not respond in time for publication.
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