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AARP State Offices Fight Utility Rate Hikes Across the Country

House model wrapped in scarf on radiator winter energy, heating and insulation background
BrianAJackson/Getty Images/iStockphoto

En español | Home heating costs can take a big bite out of anyone’s budget in winter. With many Americans already struggling to pay for groceries and other necessities, AARP has been working to make sure older adults can afford to keep the heat on.

In states around the country, we’ve helped scale back unnecessary rate hikes and pushed for reforms to help older adults pay their utility bills and stay warm in their homes as temperatures dip.

Homeowners with natural gas are expected to spend $600 to heat their homes this winter, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Those with electric or oil heat face even heftier bills, at $1,063 and $1,856, respectively.

High utility bills are especially hard on people 50 and older, who tend to devote a larger percentage of their overall spending to energy costs. An AARP study found that roughly 1.6 million of the 3.3 million households that couldn’t afford heating fuel, electricity or natural gas were headed by someone 50 or older.

But ratepayers will see relief in states like Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, Indiana and California, where AARP scored wins last month after our state offices mobilized against significant increases proposed by local utilities.

  • In Oklahoma, regulators approved a settlement with electricity provider Public Service Company of Oklahoma that slashed a proposed $14 average monthly residential electric bill increase to just $3.57 a month. Regulators agreed to approve a 2.5 percent residential rate cap and other AARP-recommended rate reductions. When combined with a decrease in the cost of fuel, the average customer will see their monthly electric bill drop by more than $13.

  • In Chicago, People’s Gas customers avoided a $15 increase in the monthly customer charge — the flat fee on customers’ bills before charges based on energy use are added. AARP Illinois represented residents 50 and older in a rate case before the Illinois Commerce Commission, which regulates state utilities, and presented the commission with more than 15,000 petitions opposing the increase.

  • In California, state regulators adopted a more measured spending proposal on meters and pipeline replacement for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), saving customers millions, after AARP pushback this year. 

  • In Kansas, some customers of local utility company Evergy Inc. will see electric bills go down by an average of $6 a month, thanks in large part to lobbying by our state office. Other customers will see a smaller increase than Evergy proposed.

  • And after pressure from AARP Indiana, electric company AES backed off a plan to raise its monthly customer charge from $17 to $25 as part of a settlement reached with state regulators last week.

Those victories are “just the tip of the iceberg in AARP’s fight for consumers on utilities,” Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s chief advocacy and engagement officer, wrote in a blog post this week. So far this year, AARP has notched more than 30 utility wins in 17 states, including Connecticut, Kansas and New York.

Meanwhile, our state offices in Maine, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Colorado are working to educate consumers about the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a federal initiative that helps with heating and cooling costs, weatherization and more.

“Utility costs are a pocketbook issue for our members, many of whom are on fixed or low incomes,” said Bill Malcolm, an AARP government affairs director. “With the plethora of huge rate increase filings we’re now seeing, our fight for affordable utilities has never been more important.”

Learn more about how to save on utility bills, and listen to our Today’s Tips podcast for more winter energy-saving advice.

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