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More Eversource competition?

If state legislators are looking for a way to get the attention of Eversource executives, the suggestion in a recent letter to the editor could do the trick. By showing it has options, the legislature can work to persuade the utility giant that it has to up its game when it comes to customer service, storm preparation and response.

Maura J. Casey, whose writings graced these pages when she worked as an editor and columnist for the opinion section, pointed in her recent letter to the superior performance of municipal electric utilities in the state and suggested the legislature make it easier to expand them as a way of giving Eversource some competition and the motivation to improve.

Casey knows more than a little something about utility abuses. Her editorials in the 1990s got the attention of state and federal regulators when a bygone electric company, Northeast Utilities, was cutting corners on safety at the Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Waterford.

In New London County, Groton Utilities, Norwich Public Utilities, Bozrah Light & Power, and the Jewett City Department of Public Utilities see fewer outages in storm events, get the power back faster, and offer it at lower costs. These systems cover smaller areas, making it easier to aggressively trim trees and maintain the infrastructure, which local crews know inside and out.

After compensating administrators and workers, profits at these utilities go back into the product rather than to shareholders or for lavish executive pay.

Yes, the utilities faced a serious scandal a few years back when funds accumulated by their jointly owned cooperative were misappropriated to pay for junkets, including trips to the Kentucky Derby. But the public nature of the operation led to the eventual disclosure. And the fact is Eversource executives live far more lavish lifestyles, and quite legally, on the backs of their ratepayers.

The legislature could start by making it easier for these local utilities to expand their territories if adjoining towns are interested. The cost of purchasing the distribution systems from Eversource would be formidable, but legislation and state regulators could prevent excessive charges and the state might act as a co-partner in making such expansions possible.

Can this work? We’re not sure. Should it be looked into? Definitely. Nothing can help control prices and improve quality like a little competition.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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