Monthly and semiannual fluctuations in electric bills would be reduced under plans being enacted by PSEG Long Island and LIPA.
Starting this month, PSEG has begun changes to the balanced billing program that will keep the monthly amount stable for a year. Previously, the bill-leveling program experienced three or more changes per year depending on fuel prices and customer usage.
But on Oct. 7, PSEG changed the program. Customers whose annual anniversary date comes up will start with the new 12-month same-bill program. PSEG will provide customers a six-month option to change the monthly payment amount if bills are way below or way above the balanced bill estimate, said Fred Daum, director of customer contact and billing.
“We want to make it easy for customers to do balanced billing,” he said.
In January, meanwhile, PSEG and LIPA are expected to start a new program that makes the “decoupling” charge portion of bills a once-annual adjustment rather than every six months. This year, the charge resulted in two increases tied to unexpected weather costs and the greater use of renewables. Decoupling charges were intended for investor-owned utilities to make up revenue losses tied to renewables, giving them an incentive to push the programs and earn a profit in the face of lower revenue because customers generally use less power.
LIPA board members are expected to vote on the change in December.
Next year will see other changes to bills.
By April, if all goes as planned, LIPA ratepayers will begin paying a charge to cover the $45 million annual cost of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s clean energy standard, with all the money going to bail out upstate nuclear facilities. Estimates put the increase for average residential customers at around $2 a month.
LIPA also is rejiggering the power supply portion of bills to include costs related to power-plant tax bills as well as the $500 million annual cost of the National Grid power supply agreement, which currently appears in the delivery portion of bills. The nuclear proposal will result in around $2 a month for average customers, while the change in the power supply related to the National Grid plants won’t increase bills, LIPA said.
The changes come as PSEG enacts long-planned improvements to customer online bill and service tools, called My Account. Customers who’ve signed up for the service now can complete any online interaction — signing up, paying bills, reporting an outage — in three steps or less. They can submit photos of their meters for current readings, rather than use the utility’s estimate. They can also request years of usage data sent to contractors for solar installations.
“We want as many customers as possible to utilize this information,” Daum said.
Currently around 280,000 customers are signed up for My Account. The plan is to have over half of LIPA’s 1.1 million customers on the service. Users can access the new My Account site at psegliny.com/myaccount.