• Sat. May 21st, 2022

Public Service Commission launches audit of Central Hudson on top of ice storm and billing inquiries – Daily Freeman

KINGSTON, NY – The New York State Public Service Commission on Wednesday approved an independent, third-party consulting firm to perform a comprehensive audit of Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation, including its bill estimating process.

The commission said in a statement it was also reviewing Central Hudson’s response to February’s winter storm that left more than 67,000 homes and businesses without power, most in Ulster County, and investigating on ongoing billing issues related to the recent upgrade to a new billing system, which has prevented many customers from receiving their monthly bills on time.

“The audit we have launched will examine Central Hudson’s electricity and gas operations in New York State,” Commission Chairman Rory M. Christian said in a statement. “The audit will also provide an assessment of Central Hudson’s network modernization efforts and examine how the company plans and manages projects related to the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

“We are also closely reviewing Central Hudson’s storm response efforts and its ongoing customer billing issues,” the commission said.

Joseph Jenkins, a spokesman for Central Hudson, said the company was ready to cooperate.

“We look forward to working with the Civil Service Commission and the independent consulting firm on their management audit,” Jenkins said in a statement. “The announced investigations are part of a regular performance audit conducted by the New York State Civil Service Commission for each public service every five years.”

Jenkins said, “Central Hudson is maintaining its exceptional restoration efforts in the wake of the winter storm.

“A contingent of more than 900 line and tree workers handled more than 1,370 individual damage locations that left more than 67,000 customers without power. Central Hudson restored power to over 97% of customers within 4 days.

“The review is part of a routine assessment that the PSC and New York State Utilities conduct following major storms,” ​​Jenkins said.

Central Hudson offers payment options and financial assistance to customers, and covers energy purchases to help mitigate market price volatility, Jenkins said.

Central Hudson is rolling out a new customer service platform to replace a nearly 40-year-old legacy system, he said.

“As we transition to this new system, we have encountered challenges that we are actively working to resolve as quickly as possible,” Jenkins wrote.

In February bills, Central Hudson said projected impacts on natural gas bills would be an average increase of about 19%; about 46% for electricity bills; and about 29% for combined electricity and natural gas bills. Last week, Central Hudson said residential electricity prices starting Friday, March 11 in the Mid-Hudson area will be 46% lower per kilowatt hour than the previous month.

“Continued volatility in energy markets is causing fluctuations in electricity and natural gas prices,” the utility said at the time. “Central Hudson’s residential electricity supply price fell 46% from 21.6 cents per kilowatt hour (kwh) in February to 11.6 cents per kwh in March, effective March 11.”

“Market analysts predict that energy prices will likely remain elevated through the year compared to last year due to an economic recovery, energy supply constraints, strong energy demands and ‘world events,’ the company added.

The commission said the audit will also look at governance, management and customer operations, including invoice estimating processes.

“The law gives the Commission the power to conduct management and operational audits of natural gas and electric utilities,” the commission said. “For large electric and natural gas utilities, such as Central Hudson, the law requires such audits at least once every five years.”

The commission said its review of Central Hudson’s actions regarding the storm will lead to a decision on what to do next.

“As the Commission publicly stated at its February session, it requires detailed dashboard reports from Central Hudson based on the duration and severity of the recent winter storm,” the commission said. “These publicly filed scorecards serve as a tool for the quantitative assessment of the performance of New York State electric utilities in restoring power to customers after a major outage. These reports will be carefully reviewed by staff and a decision will be made on next steps.

Regarding the recent spike in bid prices, on March 1, 2022, the commission sent letters to all major electric and gas utilities in New York, including Central Hudson, asking them to increase their outreach and education efforts on the continuing spike in energy supply prices and its impact on utility bills.

“The Board views this awareness as critical given the rising utility bills customers are experiencing due to the rising cost of fossil fuels,” the panel said.

Additionally, Governor Kathy Hochul has launched an enhanced statewide campaign to increase relief efforts for low-income guests.

New York State is also providing $250 million in additional federal funding to help low-income households pay heating arrears of up to $10,000 per household, the commission said. Additionally, $58 million in emergency funding from HEAP remains available to help low- and middle-income New Yorkers prevent their home’s heat from being disconnected or their heating source running out in fuel price increases this winter.

Central Hudson, based in Poughkeepsie, serves approximately 309,000 electricity customers and 84,000 natural gas customers in the Mid-Hudson region.