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    Op-Ed
    Thursday, June 20, 2024

    NPU’s new Community Assistance Rate addresses a need in Norwich

    To be successful, the best organizations anticipate the needs of their customers. If your company is a municipal utility, understanding how to best address the needs of a big segment of your community in a thoughtful and reasonable way makes a lot of sense.

    At Norwich Public Utilities (NPU), we have the enormous responsibility of meeting the daily utility needs of a community of 40,000 people. Safely and reliably providing natural gas, electricity, water and wastewater utilities all day, every day, takes a lot of smart, hard work by 150 very committed individuals.

    We also understand that because NPU plays a vital role in a community that is consistently among the most distressed municipalities in Connecticut, we need to help our customers who have trouble paying their utility bills. And every year, we make millions of dollars in direct and indirect support available to our customers who are struggling.

    And yet, that has not always been enough.

    So, we have adapted to better meet the needs of our customers and our community.

    At their most recent meeting, the NPU Board of Commissioners approved new rates for the next three years for our natural gas, electric and water rates; they also approved a new one-year rate for our sewer customers.

    As part of our new electric rates, we have initiated our ‘Community Assistance Rate’ which will provide a discounted rate for eligible customers starting on Nov. 1. NPU customers with household incomes below 60% of the state’s median household income would be eligible for a 10% discount on their electric bills. Customers participating in our Community Assistance Rate who enroll in our AutoPay program will be eligible for an additional 10% discount, subject to certain conditions.

    We will work with our partners at the Thames Valley Council for Community Action (TVCCA) to confirm the annual income of applicants and enroll them in the new rate; this process will take place year-round as part of our application process for energy assistance.

    NPU will be the first utility in Connecticut to offer a low-income rate to its customers.

    There are likely thousands of NPU customers who will qualify for our Community Assistance Rate. Our calculations indicate that a customer who meets the income guidelines and enrolls in AutoPay could save between $240 and $480 per year.

    The Community Assistance Rate has been carefully developed by NPU with the hopes of helping customers who are struggling to pay their bills each month. And while we will forgo an estimated $1 million in electric revenue in the coming year, we hope that the number of past-due accounts that we manage each month will decrease.

    Over the next several months, we will monitor the interest and activity in this program and consider adjustments over time if necessary. As a smaller, more nimble utility company, we can make improvements or enhancements for our customers quickly.

    Anticipating and meeting the needs of our community is part of what has made NPU successful in the past. Our Community Assistance Rate will help us continue to be successful in the future.

    Editor’s Note: This version corrects the author’s name.

    Chris LaRose is the General Manager of Norwich Public Utilities.

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