State Sen. Tony Hwang (opinion): A resolution to make meaningful energy utility cost reforms

State Sen. Tony Hwang, of Fairfield, speaks during a press conference in Bridgeport.

State Sen. Tony Hwang, of Fairfield, speaks during a press conference in Bridgeport.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

Higher electric bills starting in the new year will be due to the supply cost which is based on market conditions that we do not control …”

Those words from a recent Eversource statement are thought-provoking.

As state ratepayers brace themselves for this month’s punishing rate increases on the “generation’' portion of their bill — spikes which will inflict further sticker shock — it’s time for us all to take a close look at achievable reforms that can provide short- and long-term relief.

No more blame games. This is a crisis. Pointing fingers is not a strategy. Our collective focus as Republicans, Democrats, ratepayers and utilities must be on straightening this mess out.

We get it: The utilities pass their supply purchase costs on to us. They have no control over those specific costs. But focusing on what costs can actually be “controlled” by the utilities is most definitely a needed and productive discussion.

For us to get those answers, we first need full transparency with regard to the utilities’ financial records. Throw open the books. Hold public hearings. Where can savings be achieved? What can be “controlled”?

Next, a fresh look at the various camouflaged costs on our monthly utility bills is in order. A significant portion of those bills does not actually pay for electric generation and distribution. Have those added costs produced meaningful results? Which of those costs can be reduced or eliminated? While environmental interests are important, they must be weighed against ratepayers’ interests. As of today, ratepayers are taking it on the chin via their wallets, big time.

Speaking of ratepayers: They need a more amplified voice. There needs to be a simpler, better publicized and more accessible review process to accommodate public testimony and in-person participation. People must be afforded an opportunity to challenge and question the veracity of the utilities’ requests. They deserve answers for what they are paying.

And now let’s talk about the big picture: American energy security. What we have today is energy insecurity . How do we change that unfortunate fact? How do we end our reliance on foreign oil and gas sources controlled by dictators and those who hate American democracy? There’s that word “control” again. We need to strategically plan and control our own energy destiny.

As a state lawmaker, I am ready to have these urgent conversations at the state Capitol, with our federal policymakers and within our communities. I will do my best to stay solution-based, and I will not demonize anyone or any entity. I simply want to help my constituents and job creators who have been digging deeper and deeper into their savings to keep their heat and lights on. They see this situation as unsustainable and ridiculous.

That said, our utilities' latest storm power restoration and customer service responses were, in the words of customers and blunt town leaders, “pitiful.” They are angry, and they want action.

We have to stop the bleeding, and we must listen to each other if we want to make that happen. Can we all agree on that? So, let’s get to work.

If you have constructive thoughts on this, please contact me at: Tony.Hwang@cga.ct.gov .

State Sen. Tony Hwang, a chief deputy Republican Senate leader, was a former vice chairman of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Energy & Technology Committee.