Utility Debt Cancellation

fighting to cancel utility bill debt for all new yorkers

Across New York, the COVID-19 pandemic has left people without income and without any means to pay their bills. The average New Yorker who is behind on utility payments is now over  $1,000 in energy debt. This debt is slowing our recovery and putting the most vulnerable New Yorkers at risk of power shutoffs when the utility shut off moratorium is lifted. This is why the Energy Democracy Alliance is fighting for full debt forgiveness. During an emergency, it must be the shareholders, not everyday people, who pay for energy relief.

New York has a handful of investor-owned corporations that control our electricity and gas utilities. Our communities experience that corporations do not prioritize consumers in their decision-making. Rather, they focus on their investors making money. These corporations argue that they are entitled to the same rate of profit established prior to the pandemic, and most are asking to raise their customers’ bills even as many New Yorkers have been furloughed, had hours of work reduced, and have had to close their businesses. As customers’ energy debt grows, our energy regulators have failed to act to reduce bills, provide meaningful debt relief, or establish improved energy affordability policies.  

Utilities are legally required to provide safe, reliable service at fair and reasonable rates. They have failed to do so. We argue that this failure constitutes a breach of their responsibilities, and support legislation that would make shareholders pay for energy debt instead of customers. We are working to draft legislation that will cancel energy debt.

Quick Facts:

  • According to the Public Service Commission, utility arrears have increased by over $700 million since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. This brings the total unpaid electric and gas bill to almost $1.5 billion in New York. If we don’t put up a fight, then all of that debt will fall on the backs of everyday people. To read more about the energy debt and the lackluster response from regulators, HERE.

  • The utilities have plenty of money. Con Edison shareholders received $1.3 billion in net income for 2019, Central Hudson shareholders received $64 million, Rochester Gas and Electric filed a net income of $45 million as of March 2020, National Fuel filed income of $57 million in 2020, and National Grid shareholders received $272 Million in 2019. 

  • Utilities will likely claim that capital costs will go up if they have to forgive their customers’ debt, and they will therefore have no choice but to raise rates even further. We do not believe that the utilities need to be borrowing nearly as much money as they borrow. For instance, they could cancel costly investments in new climate-destructive gas infrastructure, and they could return far less money to shareholders and still fulfill their basic obligation to maintain reliable service. If the utilities are going to make this claim, then they need to provide an accounting of how much customer money goes to pay for services and how much gets pocketed by high paid executives and investors.

Request a Training

The EDA offers trainings about how to understand your energy bill and help build the public pressure to change utility rates.