More than 3,000 retirement-age LIPA customers who heat their homes with all-electric heating systems have formed a coalition to advocate for lower rates.
In a letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last month, the newly formed Long Island Coalition of All-Electric Senior Communities charged the “systematic raising of electric rates on Long Island is significantly impacting their lives.” They say they plan to take their demands to local politicians.
A founder of the group said the 3,380 homes represented in the coalition are just the start. LIPA has some 42,000 all-electric customers.
“Electric rates on Long Island are ridiculous to begin with, but it’s really a problem for all-electric senior communities,” said Steve Gleason, 65, a founder of the coalition who lives at Fairfield St. James. The homes in winter use far more than the average 775 kilowatt-hours average homeowners on Long Island do.
PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said recent state rate proceedings doubled the discount for certain all-electric customers to $10 a month. He said the utility is “investing millions to help our customers lower their bills and become more energy efficient.”
Senior communities built in the 1970s and 1980s had banked on the prospect of cheap energy from the Shoreham nuclear plant, which was subsequently mothballed.
“Heating with electricity on Long Island, simply stated, is foolish,” the letter states. “Even more foolish: senior citizens on fixed incomes, attempting to keep warm with electric heat.”
More recently, the group cited new bill charges such as revenue decoupling, an upstate nuclear plant bailout and a three-year rate hike as chief factors making their electricity less affordable. They also cited the cost of pending projects such as the $1.62 billion South Fork wind farm.
“We are seniors on fixed incomes, and every time we turn around they add something” to increase the bills, said Carole Leonard, president of the Leisure Village Assocation in Ridge, a member of the new coalition.
A spokeswoman for Cuomo referred calls to the state Department of Public Service, which is “aware of community concerns regarding electricity costs, and we are actively engaged in discussions with PSEG and National Grid to identify potential energy efficient opportunities to help lower energy,” DPS spokesman James Denn said.
Until the coalition members can benefit from cheaper green energy, the group is calling for a special rate code that would “substantially” lower all portions of the electric bill, not just the delivery charge.
The letter was signed by six communities, all in Suffolk: Leisure Village and Leisure Knoll in Ridge, Fairfield St. James, Snug Harbor in Amityville; Strathmore Gate and The Knolls in Stony Brook.