LIPA customers now face hike in monthly electric bill

A pedestrian walks along Rockaway Beach Boulevard in the Rockaways in the days after Hurricane Sandy.
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LIPA customers will see a rise in their bills this month after the power utility increased its charge for its monthly power supply.

The typical resident will see an increase of about $5.71 for the month of August, according to Long Island Power Authority officials.

The increase comes from a rise in the price of natural gas and the wholesale price of purchased power in the Northwest resulting from hotter-than-normal weather, officials said.

“The same factors that have caused our bills to increase in August are affecting all of the utilities in our area, and we are passing along our costs just like the other utilities in the state,” officials said in a statement.

Mark Gross, a spokesman for LIPA, noted that the actual rate has not increased. The power supply charge, which varies from month to month, actually decreased during the prior four months, Gross said.

Chris Olert, a spokesman for ConEd, said the utility’s supply charge dropped about $10.68 for a typical user in August, although bills may still be high if users “have cranked up the A/C,” he said.

Gross said the difference may be due to the way the two companies calculate their supply charges.

LIPA supplied much of the power to the Rockaways, where customers were cut off for months after Sandy struck on Oct. 29.

The charge increase comes days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that will restructure the power utility.

National Grid, under contract with LIPA, has managed operations of the electric grid for the last fifteen years. That contract expires in December, and PSE&G of New Jersey will take over in January. Along with maintenance of the system, the company’s responsibilities will include day-to-day operations such as budgeting, storm preparedness and response, infrastructure improvements and energy efficiency, the governor said. LIPA will be reduced to a holding company which maintains its eligibility for tax benefits and aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.“The legislation that was signed into law today ends the LIPA as we know it, and creates a new utility system that puts Long Island ratepayers first,” Cuomo said in late July when he signed the bill. “LIPA has offered lackluster service for too long and after its failure to perform during Superstorm Sandy it was clear we needed a change.”After Hurricane Sandy, Cuomo initiated an investigation to evaluate how efficiently utility companies throughout the state responded to natural disasters. The investigation found that LIPA’s failures were the result of a dysfunctional management structure that allowed poor customer service, high rates, lackluster storm preparations and inadequate infrastructure, officials said.

More than 150 Breezy Point residents are suing both National Grid and LIPA, alleging that the companies are responsible for the fires that leveled their homes when Sandy struck. The FDNY determined that several of the fires were caused by rising seawater coming into contact with electrical systems inside the homes.

The new restructuring allowed the company some savings, and the legislation attempts to establish a rate freeze for the next three years, Cuomo said.

Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at bfortis@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Posted 4:20 am, August 15, 2013
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