NYSEG billing issues examined

Posted 3/21/23

UPSTATE NY — Residents of upstate New York continue to face issues getting timely electrical bills. 

New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG) and Rochester Gas and Electric (RG&E) …

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NYSEG billing issues examined


UPSTATE NY — Residents of upstate New York continue to face issues getting timely electrical bills. 

New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG) and Rochester Gas and Electric (RG&E) together supply power to a population of approximately 3.7 million in upstate New York. NYSEG provides electric power in much of Sullivan County. 

NYSEG and RG&E customers have experienced billing issues for well over a year. A new system of billing that was rolled out in 2021 sought to consolidate the billing process for customers who opted into community-distributed generation (CDG) programs, which allow customers to source their energy from renewable sources such as solar, making it easier for those customers to pay their bills. Instead, customers began to receive bills late, or were incorrectly billed. 

The companies updated their billing systems in September 2022. That was meant to provide a platform for better consolidated billing throughout 2023. 

So far, the update has led to an increased number of customers experiencing errors, according to NY-19 Congressman Marc Molinaro. 

“I have heard story after story of NYSEG customers who have received late or incorrect bills, with some being told they have to pay hundreds of dollars more than they should,” Molinaro said in a press release dated February 15. “Upstate New Yorkers cannot afford to pay for NYSEG’s errors, especially at a time when so many families, farms and small businesses are dealing with inflation.”

Molinaro called upon NYSEG to account for its errors with a written response to his questions, as well as a full briefing. 

NYSEG’s response

NYSEG responded to Molinaro’s concerns with a letter from president/CEO Patricia Nilsen, dated February 27. 

“At NYSEG, we always strive for excellence in customer service… Unfortunately, in 2022 we noted a material increase in billing issues that stem from challenges that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic and were outside anyone’s control,” wrote Nilsen. 

These factors included:

  • A significant rise in the global cost of energy from 2020 to 2022. 
  • The company’s inability to access many of its meters during the pandemic, from a combination of pandemic safety measures and staff turnover. This led to an increased number of estimated bills, which required additional manual review as customers’ energy use changed. 
  • The growth of the CDG program, from under 1,000 customers in 2019 to over 44,000 customers at the present. Those bills still need to be processed manually, though the company is working on implementing an automatic system. 

All of the above factors led to more calls to the NYSEG call center—168,000 more in 2022 than in 2019—at a time of high staff turnover. 

Nilsen pointed to some indicators of improvement. Only 23 percent of CDG customers had their bills processed within 60 days in July 2022; that number increased to 93 percent by November. Adding call center agents and other staffers, as well as implementing automatic meters, will help with backlogs throughout the company, she said. 

“I recognize the challenges we are facing and am aggressively working to ensure we are taking action to overcome them,” Nilsen wrote. 

“While I appreciate NYSEG’s response to my push, this does not mean they are off the hook,” Molinaro responded in a statement. “I’m closely monitoring the implementation of NYSEG’s proposed fixes.”

Rates rising

As NYSEG and RG&E continue to sort out their billing problems, the companies remain knee deep in discussions about increasing the rates they charge to customers. 

The companies initiated their rate case proceedings in May 2022, beginning a discussion with the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC). Their proposal, as updated in August, would raise NYSEG electric delivery rates by 31.3 percent, NYSEG gas delivery rates by 14.4 percent and RG&E electric and gas delivery rates by 18.9 and 18.1 percent respectively. 

Those rates are still in negotiation. In a fourth-quarter 2022 earnings call, Catherine Stempien, the president/CEO of Avangrid Network (NYSEG and RG&E’s parent company), told analysts that the companies had an extension through March 6 for their proceedings, and that they estimated they would have rates in effect for May. A decision filed February 22, the same day as the earnings call, pushed an evidentiary hearing for the rate case back to April 17. In the meantime, the companies have come under renewed pressure from New York State advocates concerned about the impact the rate increases may have on the state’s residents. 

A coalition of groups, including AARP New York and the Public Utility Law Project of New York, called upon the PSC to reject the proposed rate increases. They pointed to dozens of lines from PSC staff testimony that pointed out flaws in the NYSEG and RG&E proposals, including suggestions that the companies failed to provide clarity either in their initial filings or in follow up requests for information. 

“We suggest that a rate increase based on a flawed filing—whether by litigation or settlement—in the face of the customer service and billing problems the companies are experiencing—would be very poorly received, and frankly, would further erode public confidence in both the companies and the commission,” wrote the coalition.

nyseg, power, bills, rochester, gas, electric, sullivan county


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