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PSEG Long Island working to reduce price volatility

PSEG Long Island crews in July 2014.

PSEG Long Island crews in July 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Some PSEG Long Island measures to reduce the effects of fuel-price volatility are already in place, but the plan remains a work in progress.

This month, about 100,000 of the 480,000 PSEG Long Island customers who participate in the utility's cost-stabilizing balanced billing system saw an increase of more than $25 in their bills, according to the company. The increase is expected to continue through the remaining months of their balanced billing cycle.

The increase comes even as PSEG works to reduce the frequent changes that plagued the balanced billing program by raising the threshold that would cause the company to readjust the balanced bill amount. Rather than $5, which was the Long Island Power Authority's baseline, it shifted to a $25 minimum.

PSEG wasn't able to say exactly how much the average balanced bills increased this month, but Franklin Square ratepayer Dan O'Connell said his had been set to rise about $40 a month -- until he called the company and negotiated a lower amount.

O'Donnell's approach was to tell a customer service representative, "I'm telling you I'm not paying that number."

A year ago, when the power supply charge decreased 22.7 percent, 57.2 percent of all balanced billing customers saw a recalculation of their bills.

With the power supply charge increasing over the prior year, PSEG said it recalculated 1.6 percent fewer customer bills under the new program.

The power supply charge, which makes up about half of typical electric bills, represents the cost of fueling power plants and buying energy from various sources.

"The big news is that in November 2014, 21 percent more of our customers on balanced billing opened their bill and saw exactly what they expected -- the same as the month prior," said PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir. "We are continuing to find ways to reduce the month-to-month volatility our customers have experienced in the past."

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