AARP: Con Ed $420 Million Rate Hike Proposal Bad News for NYC Kitchen Table Economies

Oct 09, 2013, 11:21 ET from AARP New York

Con Ed Customers Already Pay Double U.S. Avg., Proposal Comes as Half of NYC's 50+ Worry about Paying Utility Bills

NEW YORK, Oct. 9, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With the harsh Northeast winter months on their way, Con Edison is looking to push residential customers' bills even higher than the already highest-in-the-continental-U.S.-rates they currently pay. The $420 million proposed rate hike has drawn the ire of AARP, which says seniors and families - already having difficulty paying New York City's sky high utility bills - will be hit the hardest.

AARP members will make the case against the Con Ed proposal at rate hike hearings before the Public Service Commission tonight (at 5:30 p.m., PSC, 90 Church Street, New York, NY) and tomorrow (5:30 p.m. Yonkers Public Library, Riverfront Branch, Yonkers, NY). The PSC is expected to make a ruling on the rate hike in the coming weeks.

"Another Con Ed rate hike would be disastrous news for many New Yorker's kitchen table economies; middle class families and older adults are already performing a delicate balancing act," said Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York State. "This rate hike is unwarranted and AARP is calling on the PSC to deny it."

According to a recent AARP analysis of data compiled from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Con Ed's residential customers are already paying more than twice (117% more) the national average for their electricity. If approved, the Con Ed hike would see those current rates soar by 8%. The utility giant's rates are already on the rise, with electric consumers paying roughly 4% more than they did last year.

The majority (58%) of New York City's 50+ population is already extremely to very concerned about paying their rent in the coming years, and 48% are similarly concerned about paying their utility bills, according to a recent AARP survey of 50+ voters in the city. Utility increases hit older New Yorkers particularly hard, since many are on fixed incomes and must sometimes choose between paying the rent, the utility bill or the grocery bill.

When it comes to Con Ed rates, residential consumers are bearing the brunt. Last year, rates for commercial users actually dropped, while commercial rates increase at just half that of residential rates. 

"Utility companies should not be able to balance their corporate check books on the backs of residential consumers," added Finkel. "We need a level playing field in New York; residential consumers are the only class that seems to get left out of rate hike cases because they don't have the same money to hire high priced consultants and attorneys as other classes, such as commercial and industrial, do."

Con Ed's current rates are already problematic for many, with the utility company shutting off 81,148 people last year for non-payment (222 people a day, more than 9 homes every hour). In January and February of 2012 alone, 10,904 customers had their utility service shut off.  The proposed hike would take effect in January, 2014.

The Association says this all adds fuel to the need for a utility consumer advocate office in New York to represent the needs of residential consumers in rate hike and complex regulatory matters before the PSC. Establishing the office is key part of the utility recommendations in Governor Andrew Cuomo's Moreland Act Commission. AARP is calling on the Governor to propose the CUB, or a similar adequately-funded and independent Office of Utility Consumer Advocate, as part of the 2014-15 Executive Budget.

Forty other states – whose average residential electric rates are well below those in New York - have strong, independent utility consumer advocate functions. AARP urges New York to join them.

Follow us on Twitter: @AARPNY and Facebook: AARP New York

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services. A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world's largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin;; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Español, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity of AARP that is working to win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50+ by being a force for change on the most serious issues they face today: housing, hunger, income and isolation. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at