KINGSTON, NY – The Public Service Commission has launched an online portal for the public to comment on recent issues with Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp.’s billing system.
The notice of commission portal at https://on.ny.gov/3DsikKl said the probe is set to examine “Central Hudson’s customer information system implementation and resulting billing errors.”
Last week, the Public Service Commission announced its audit of billing estimating issues as well as a separate review of Central Hudson’s response to February’s winter storm that left more than 67,000 homes and businesses without electricity, most in Ulster County, and is investigating ongoing billing issues related to the company’s recent upgrade to a new billing system which has resulted in many customers not receiving their monthly bills in a timely manner.
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan urged residents to participate in the comments section of the commission’s portal.
“This is a pressing issue for countless Ulster County residents who have been severely affected by the failure to implement Central Hudson’s new billing system, which has been compounded by increases unexpected and unprecedented bills,” Ryan said in a statement. “I want to thank (the commission) for their immediate attention to this matter and reassure the residents of Ulster County that their concerns are being taken very seriously by my office.”
Ryan wrote a letter to the Public Service Commission the 3 of March citing Ulster County residents’ concerns ranging from bills not being received for months, to grossly overstated bills, to large automatic withdrawals from customer accounts without notice. Since September, at least 11,000 Central Hudson electricity customers have experienced billing issues.
The Public Service Commission review comes at a time when a Senate committee, led by State Senator James Skoufis, D-Cornwall, is investigating soaring electricity bills.
Joseph Jenkins, a spokesperson for Central Hudson, said the company was willing 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,” he said.
“The review is part of a routine assessment that the PSC and New York State Utilities conduct following major storms,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said the portal issue was part of the audit already launched.
“We understand this is a survey conducted by PSC staff alongside the management audit, which takes place every five years,” Jenkins said.
In the February bills, Central Hudson said projected impacts on natural gas bills were expected to have an average increase of about 19%; about 46% for electricity bills; and about 29% for combined electricity and natural gas bills. In early March, Central Hudson said residential electricity prices beginning Friday, March 11 in the Mid-Hudson area would 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.”
Still, energy prices are expected to rise through the end of this year, the utility said.
“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.
In addition, Central Hudson’s electricity and gas delivery charges will increase in July.
In November, the PSC said Central Hudson’s revenue from power delivery will decrease by $1.1 million in the first year of the new rates and increase by $8 million and $8.7 million the second and third years, respectively. The utility’s gas delivery revenue is expected to increase by $3.9 million in year one, $3.9 million in year two and $4 million in year three, the commission said.