Brooklyn politicians have united to call on the state to investigate Con Edison, as hundreds of Brooklynites report skyrocketing energy bills this month.
On Tuesday, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso and 15 City Council members from Brooklyn delivered a letter to the Chair of the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC).
The letter urges the agency to call for an investigation into whether ConEd has been "acting responsibly when it comes to planning for winter costs and forecasting said costs."
It comes after dozens of Brooklynites took to social media this week to share their surging energy bills and ask the question: Is anyone else seeing this?
Surging bills in Brooklyn
East Williamsburg graphic designer Tiffany Pilgrim told BK Reader her ConEd bill suddenly doubled in January. Thinking it was her fault, she spent a month drastically reducing her energy and appliance use.
However in February, she was "bowled over" when she received another "astronomical bill" of $246.87 in new charges for the month.
"I'm upset and confused, I don't know what's making my bill so high," she said. "I can now add panic to the list of emotions I'm dealing with in a global pandemic."
Bushwick resident Nicole Agosto told BK Reader the Con Ed bill for the three bedroom apartment she shares with three others more than doubled this month from $95 to $228.
When she contacted the utility, a representative told her there was a delay in tallying their usage from 2020/21, and offered to reduce the bill to $189 to "offset the surprise cost."
"It’s frustrating because half of us work out of the house full time, so there isn’t much we can do regarding reducing consumption," she said.
"I also wonder if there’s a resource issue, especially with natural gas."
Global energy shortage
Agosto is right. According to Con Ed, the sudden price hikes across New York are mainly due to the supply cost of energy and the increased cost of natural gas, as well as higher energy use during a "frigid" January.
"Energy prices are volatile and can be affected by factors such as weather, demand and economic trends," a Con Edison spokesperson told BK Reader.
"Con Edison buys energy on the wholesale market and provides it to customers at the same price we paid, without making a profit on the commodity.”
BK pols tell state to act now
However Brooklyn politicians say this isn't good enough, especially as constituents continue to deal with economic hardships related to the pandemic, including the recent expiration of the eviction moratorium.
"We understand that the sudden increase in electricity costs reflects in part the fluctuations in the market price of natural gas," the representatives said in Tuesday's letter to the PSC.
"Utilities, however, are supposed to hedge to smooth the swings in supply costs, and the Commission should be responsible for ensuring they do so."
They called on the PSC to deny a "double-digit rate hike" Con Edison has planned for New York for 2023, unless the increases are significantly reduced.
They also said the commission needed to start regulating utilities to create plans to mitigate sudden cost increases, as well as notifying customers well ahead of time that their bills may go up.
Con Edison sent an email to customers Friday afternoon — days after most people received their new charges — to advise them that bills "may be higher this month."
In response to the letter, Con Edison told BK Reader it was taking action to address the increase in energy supply costs and its impact on our customers.
"We are reviewing all of our practices that affect customer supply costs, including our energy-buying practices, the tools we use to reduce supply price volatility, the way we communicate changes in supply prices, and our programs to help customers who have fallen behind on their bills.”