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    Saturday, April 20, 2024

    Norwich Public Utilities sees strong interest in new discount for low-income customers

    Norwich ― Four months after Norwich Public Utilities launched the state’s first discount electric rate for low-income families, more than 1,800 Norwich electric customers have signed up for discounts that total nearly $78,000, NPU officials said.

    NPU started the new community assistance rate Nov. 1, allowing residential electric customers whose incomes are below 60% of the state median household income for their family size to apply for 10% discounts on their electricity bills for up to 1,000 kilowatts of power consumed. The new rate coincided with a three-year rate structure the Norwich utilities commission approved that included a 4.5% per year electricity rate increase.

    According to the state Department of Social Services figures provided by NPU, 60% of the state median income amounted to $39,761 for a single person, $51,996 for two people, $76,465 for four people and $105,521 for a household of eight people.

    While the electric rates did increase, NPU estimated at the time that customers would see an average 10% drop in their utility bills attributed to the falling cost to purchase power and natural gas. NPU spokesman Chris Riley said Thursday that the cost reduction is holding to that projection.

    On Tuesday, NPU Customer Services Manager Ruth Swift gave a presentation to the Board of Public Utilities Commissioners with the initial results of the community assistance rate. NPU advertised the new program through social media, announcements in utility bills, billboards in downtown Norwich and ads on Southeast Area Transit buses.

    The new community assistance rate is available to customers who meet the income requirement and are current on their utility bills. Customers who sign up for automatic bill payment will save another 10% on their electricity bills.

    NPU anticipated about 20% of the utility’s 20,000 residential customers would qualify for the new rate. As of Feb. 26, Swift reported, 1,815 customers ―9% of NPU’s total residential electric customers ― had signed up for the community assistance rate, saving a combined $77,916 in the first four months. The totals are in line with the utility’s expectations, Riley said.

    Of those who enrolled in the community assistance rate, 136 customers also signed up for autopay, Riley said, higher than expected for the early months of the program, Riley said.

    NPU works with the Thames Valley Council for Community Action to confirm income information for community assistance rate applicants as part of TVCCA’s annual process for energy assistance programs.

    Riley said NPU would be launching a new incentive program in the next several weeks to try to boost autopay enrollment to urge people to convert to paperless billing and to ease the workload on customer service staff.

    c.bessette@theday.com

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