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Fighting to Save You Money on Your Utility Bills

In recent years, New York’s utility prices have been among the highest in the nation. Electricity customers in New York pay, on average, $185 more annually than residents in other states. These rates are the third highest in the nation, second only to Hawaii and Connecticut.

In recent years, New York’s utility prices have been among the highest in the nation. Electricity customers in New York pay, on average, $185 more annually than residents in other states. These rates are the third highest in the nation, second only to Hawaii and Connecticut.

See Also: Expensive Electricity

An AARP survey conducted earlier this year revealed that 40% of New Yorkers age 50 and older have difficulty paying their monthly electric bills. Older New Yorkers are disproportionately affected by high utility rates because they spend a higher percentage of their overall household budgets on energy costs.

AARP believes so many New Yorkers have difficulty paying for their utility services because of several factors including the state’s high wholesale electricity prices, which are volatile and may be subject to manipulation. There are economic reasons as well including high unemployment rates, reduced household incomes, and reduced retirement incomes and savings due to the recession and the downturn in interest rates.

According to a March 2011 AARP New York report titled "The Quiet Blackout - New York’s Utility Termination Storm", an average of 36 residential ratepayers every hour of every day lost their electrical and/or gas service for non-payment in 2010. Together, terminations for residential ratepayers in 2010 totaled 321,995.

“The staggering number of shutoffs and people struggling to pay their bills provide ample grounds for the governor and state legislature to revisit New York’s policies supporting continuous utility service for residential customers and to re-examine whether we have sufficient consumer protection laws on our books,” says Lois Aronstein, AARP New York State Director. “It is unacceptable that so many people are losing the ability to turn on their lights or to heat their homes in the winter.”

The report, which analyzes data from the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC), also brings to light extreme variations among utilities regarding when they decide to terminate service as well as significant seasonal variations among utility termination practices. Only two utilities significantly slowed down their terminations for non-payment in cold weather months. The majority of the utilities terminated residential customer service over 50,000 times from December through March.

Additionally, AARP recently sent a letter to the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) requesting that the organization reconsider FERC’s January 28th decision that could raise electricity prices for New York City residents. Approximately 800,000 AARP members live in New York’s five boroughs.

The price increases resulting from FERC’s actions would only make matters worse for New York’s residential consumers who struggle to pay their electric bills. AARP believes this decision does not address real world concerns of consumers and that the method used for setting prices may rely too much on abstract market theories rather than actual experience and future capacity needs.

For the past 20 years, AARP has been working on the federal and state levels to help people save money on their utility bills. For more information or to join us in the fight to stop unfair utility bill increases, email nyaarp@aarp.org or call toll free, 1-866-227-7442 and ask for the AARP NY Legislative Office.

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