To the Editor:
Our state is still reeling from the significant impacts of Tropical Storm Isaias. We have bills to pay for lost food and many [people] required lodging due to the length of the power outage. Patients with critical medical needs had to depend on hospitals for their care. Isaias brought with it unforeseen and costly issues across Connecticut, all while people and businesses in our community continued to deal with the economic impacts of the pandemic. However, a problem of this magnitude was made much worse by Eversource’s slow response, lack of communication, and inability to properly prepare for moments when we needed their services most. We are all angry, but our anger will only take us so far. It’s time to do something.
This is not about Eversource’s CEO Jim Judge. His management will be judged by the board of Eversource and they will determine his fate as the leader of a company that has completely lost the trust of its customers and the public at large. It’s about what we can do to change a system that has failed us in this crisis and will likely fail us again if we let the status quo continue.
According to State Senator Will Haskell and State Representative Jonathan Steinberg, the delivery and management of electricity in Connecticut is antiquated beyond measure and ripe for change. We lag our state peers, some of which are even served by Eversource, in legislating and regulating a forward-thinking energy agenda. Connecticut pays some of the highest energy bills in the nation and our poor system adds insult to injury when we see our monthly bills.
Among the items we should demand are:
- Increased Competition: We need to seek effective solutions for Connecticut. That means not having a one-size-fits-all provider that controls the market. Imagine having only one option for mobile phone service–you would be at the mercy of their decisions and plans, having little voice or control regarding their services and cost. That is the current situation. We need competition and partnerships that create solutions and unlock the ability of local leadership to quickly and efficiently get repair work done.
- Innovation to Build a Better Grid: Delivery and management of electricity, response to outages, and maintenance of grids have evolved–but not in Connecticut. There are smart meters that allow solar to be uploaded to the grid, smart transformers that detect outages and reroute electricity, microgrids that are better planned to reduce storm impact, and distributed generation systems that enhance resiliency. Our old-fashioned regulatory environment and our cost-plus system of rewarding Eversource simply does not promote innovation.
- Carrot and Stick Regulation: Our current system rewards Eversource regardless of their performance. Unlike other states, we don’t have rules in place to compensate ratepayers for loss of food and electric service. In Connecticut ratepayers, time and again, bear the costs of Eversource’s response to a crisis. While Gov. Lamont is correct that we need to incent innovation that results in better service, we need to create ways to hit the leaders and shareholders of Eversource, not the ratepayers, for our out-of-pocket costs when they fail.
- Better Communication: Eversource failed to communicate to the public and our municipal officials at every stage of this crisis. Our state leadership and our town governments were literally left in the dark. We should expect and demand 21st-century communications that are timely, informative, and precise. And, we should demand internal communications at our utility so that crews are not left without direction, often sitting idle as they waited for instructions that took hours to come from the “home office.”
UPDATED INFORMATION: To submit comment/communication by email to CT-PURA, mention “Docket number 20-08-03″ in the subject line for the storm investigation. The date and time of any hearing has not yet been confirmed.
Editor’s note: an earlier version of the article included the docket number and meeting time for the PURA investigation into Eversource’s recent rate increase. The hearing for that rate increase investigation is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 24 at 10 a.m. To submit testimony for the rate increase, include “Docket Number 20-01-01” in the subject line.
To mail comments, sent communication to the following address:
Public Utilities Regulatory Authority
10 Franklin Square
New Britain, Connecticut 06051
Write to your legislators as well. We all had to sit idle for a week while our power was out. It may be back on, but it’s now time to take the power back to where it belongs. All of us.