With a predicted scorching summer on the way in New York, AARP is making another prediction: soaring electric bills to match soaring temperatures — all just in time for cooling season.
A new report out from AARP’s Public Policy Institute says that, nationwide, electric bills likely will increase by some 5 percent this summer for residential consumers. In New York, electric rates already have soared to nearly double that: 9.8 percent over last summer’s rates. The average for the region is a 6.2 percent increase over this point in last summer.
It all comes down to seemingly just pennies on the dollar. Last year, New Yorkers’ summer rates were 17.8 cents per kilowatt-hour. This year they are already 19.56 cents per kilowatt-hour, but AARP warns they add up, particularly for older residents and families on budgets.
“For older consumers, a group prone to heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke, high cooling costs could prove fatal,” said Beth Finkel, state director for AARP in New York. “The threat of high bills finds some not turning on their air conditioning when they should. One thing is clear: Our members, the 50-plus, and indeed most New Yorkers are sick of paying sky-high utility bills to simply stay comfortable, and in many cases healthy.”
In April 2014, New Yorker’s electric rates were already nearly 60 percent higher than the national average.
This legislative session in New York, AARP pressed for an independent utility consumer advocate, a watchdog that most states have, to combat rate hikes and represent consumers before the New York Public Service Commission. The issue passed the assembly with bipartisan support and was supported by Sen. Jeff Klein and the Independent Democratic Conference but was stonewalled by Sen. Dean Skelos and his conference.
Neighboring Connecticut’s independent utility consumer advocate reported saving ratepayers $730 million in 2012 at a cost of $3 million: a 243-to-1 return on investment. California’s advocate reported a 153-to-1 return. Across the United States, utility consumer advocates save Americans billions of dollars a year.