A Suffolk legislator and the state Department of Public Service are looking for ways to bring relief to the tens of thousands of Long Islanders whose homes are heated by electricity only, and who pay sky-high bills during the winter.
Suffolk Legis. Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said she will explore ways to help residents of two all-electric communities in Suffolk with high winter bills, including through expansion of a current low-income rate. The state Department of Public Service is also looking into the prospect, an official said.
Some 42,000 PSEG Long Island customers have all-electric heating. Most have access to a special PSEG rate class that offers a discount on their delivery charge once they’ve hit a usage threshold.
Anker said it’s not enough. “I have no doubt there’s more that can be done to address this issue, be it energy-efficiency measures or reduction in rate,” she said.
Two dozen residents from two all-electric communities in Ridge who attended a meeting at the Rocky Point VFW hall recently said relief is needed.
“There are a lot of people who can’t afford their electric bill,” said Elizabeth Conlon, a resident of all-electric senior community, Leisure Village in Ridge, whose monthly bill exceeds $300. Some have faced bills of up to $1,000 depending on the power supply charge and usage. “A lower rate would make a big difference,” Conlon said.
The Leisure communities were built during the 1970s, when electricity was cheap and was expected to get cheaper with the anticipated opening of the Shoreham nuclear power plant. Instead, a state agreement led to the decommissioning of the plant and ratepayers assumed billions in debt, a move that has helped keep rates high.
Because they use electricity to heat their homes along with running other electric appliances, their bills tend to be higher than most residential customers. Conversely, they do not have natural gas or oil bills.
PSEG Long Island spokesman Jeff Weir said the utility’s special rate class, called rate 580, offers a 40 percent discount on the delivery charge for all-electric customers. The rate takes effect after the first 400 kilowatt hours of usage. He declined to comment on whether an additional rate class for seniors would be feasible or even considered.
Anker also has enlisted the help of the AARP, a seniors advocacy group. “AARP is always looking to get better costs for our members,” said Charlie McAteer, a local AARP representative.
Anker, recently named chair of the Suffolk Legislature’s Senior and Consumer Protection Committee, said she will petition the state to have a senior advocate named to the Public Service Commission. “They need to be influenced by the senior community,” she said of the agency.