CEO of BlueRock Energy: Low Income Families Lose Out
Because Of New York’s Public Service Comission’s Decision
To Curb Energy Choices
Syracuse, NY – July 20, 2016
New York’s Public Service Commission (PSC), with the approval of Governor Andrew Cuomo, is restricting those with the most finite resources to a single choice regarding essential services for themselves and their families. The PSC is placing a moratorium on the ability of competitive energy service companies (ESCO’s) to sell electricity and natural gas to low-income customers. For those customers, this means a single utility will be their only option. These new PSC restrictions fly in the face of state deregulation efforts and work against making New York energy markets more competitive.
BlueRock Energy, an ESCO based in Syracuse, New York, is calling for greater choice for the state’s diverse residents and believes the vote to issue the moratorium is counterintuitive, condescending, and counterproductive. We ask, “why are New Yorkers that need public assistance less capable of selecting their energy supplier than any other New Yorker?” The PSC has taken choice away from low-income customers, including products that offered fixed price for energy rather than month-to-month fluctuations in utility energy prices – no utility offers any fixed price plan.
Natural gas prices for the upcoming winter are currently 55 percent higher than last year. If the weather is colder and natural gas prices continue higher, then low-income customers could be in dire straits. There is never an instance where fewer choices lead to lower prices.
The attitude that Albany knows best is insulting and demeaning to the affected customers. They claim the decision was made to protect low-income families from unscrupulous energy service providers. The PSC has had the authority to discipline any misbehaving ESCO’s or remove them from doing business in New York entirely, yet they are not doing this. This means either the alleged behavior did not happen, or they are not doing their job.
Ethically-run, price-competitive ESCO’s, like BlueRock Energy, want nothing more than for the PSC to crack down on those who are out to take advantage of New Yorkers and drag down the reputation of the entire industry. BlueRock Energy is saving New Yorkers money, providing them with real value, protection from price fluctuation, and the assurance of budget certainty. We strongly doubt we are the only ESCO doing so.
Meanwhile, one of the very utilities that will now get the exclusive business of the energy assistance customers was found to have overcharged its current customers $152 million dollars. These charges were deemed “customer IOU’s” and the PSC actually determined they did not have to be repaid. National Grid only has to freeze delivery rates for two years, which are subsidized, and repair infrastructure, which is also subsidized, and has a $152 million head start (see this related article).
Utilities repeatedly deploy these behaviors with impunity. Only they get a different vocabulary, a different paradigm – one that always incorrectly positions them as the base-line bottom price to beat. This has created two sets of rules for one market.
The bottom line is this: the requirements of New Yorkers in need vary far too widely for an agency to force them into a single option. The best choice for a struggling farmer in Cazenovia, a family of six in Jamaica Queens, or a suburban family in the Strathmore neighborhood of Syracuse, right in BlueRock’s backyard, are not one in the same. Energy choice is essential for all customer groups and should be preserved. The options should be determined in the real competitive marketplace, not as a result of theoretical conference room discussions.
The assumption that income level makes anyone less capable of making an informed choice or a choice that suits their unique situation, is insulting and patronizing, and is too important when it comes to essential services. BlueRock Energy holds all New Yorkers in higher regard.
Phil Van Horne
President and CEO of BlueRock Energy