Electric power customers can expect to see a slight increase in their bills this month, as PSEG Long Island hikes the May power supply charge to 10.6 cents -- the seventh increase in the past eight months.
For average customers, the change from a previous 10.4 cents a kilowatt hour means an increase of around $1.50. But after a steady drumbeat of winter increases, some customers appeared to be losing patience. In May 2013, the power supply charge stood at 8.8 cents.
"I'm afraid to open my bill," said Crestina Gandjos, 72, of Bohemia, a retiree who said she recently applied for food stamps. The PSEG bill "has gone up every month."
Gandjos is among the roughly half of PSEG customers who have balanced billing, which is supposed to smooth out bill increases by averaging costs over 12 months. But her balanced bill went from $80 in January to $100 in February, then $119 in April, she said, even though she has a balance surplus of $92. "Something has to give here," she said. "It's totally out of control."
Last month, a News 12/Hofstra University poll found 42 percent of respondents said PSEG was doing a "poor" job holding down electric rates.
Nearly 28 percent gave PSEG a "fair" grade, while 14 percent said it was doing a good job at controlling rates. Only 1 percent said PSEG was doing an excellent job. News 12 and Newsday are owned by Cablevision.
PSEG has blamed higher bills on spiking natural-gas and electricity prices tied to the prolonged winter cold.
"This slight increase in May is due to colder weather early in March requiring the purchase of additional generation and driving up commodity prices," the company said in a statement. "The power supply charge reflects the actual invoices for the purchase of electricity and the fuels used to generate the electricity so that customers pay only what it actually costs to provide the electricity they are using."
Asked if balanced billing customers such as Gandjos would see any relief this spring and summer as winter fuel effects recede, a PSEG spokeswoman said, "Depending on the customers' individual usage, weather and future power supply charges, a customer's balance billing will be adjusted accordingly."