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Central Hudson billing issues persist, probe continues

Oct 21, 2022 1:00 am

Roger Hannigan Gilson reporting in the Times Union that officials and utility customer advocates in the Hudson Valley said Central Hudson Gas and Electric's billing has improved since the disastrous rollout of new billing software in September 2021. But some customers still complain of inflated and inaccurate billing, while others say they have not received a bill for months. A Central Hudson spokesperson said the utility is working to resolve these issues, and that the current problems with billing were because of issues caused when customers were switched back to Central Hudson from renewable energy provider, Columbia Utilities. The Public Service Commission has launched an investigation into the software rollout and related billing issues. Central Hudson itself is under investigation by the state Public Service Commission because of the billing problems that began last fall. Saugerties Town Supervisor Fred Costello said residents were having the "same billing issues" as they did last fall and winter, but "the magnitude is way less." After Central Hudson started using the new billing software, customers began receiving wildly fluctuating bills, some of which could bankrupt the average utility customer. Customers described their bills doubling or tripling in one month with no explanation; Newburgh Mayor Torrance Harvey was back billed $708,000 by Central Hudson in March for his residential service. As of this week, the commission had received more than 4,200 comments from Central Hudson customers describing issues with the utility. Costello said the most common issue in Saugerties was customers not receiving bills for months, then getting many bills at once, all due at the end of the month. According to Central Hudson Assistant Director of Media Relations Joe Jenkins, the reason for the "majority of customers" now experiencing issues is that the state excluded Columbia Utilities, a local energy supplier, from the energy marketplace. Columbia Utilities had promised to deliver 100 percent renewable energy to customers at fixed rates by buying energy in bulk. Ten Hudson Valley communities, including Saugerties, Beacon, and Poughkeepsie, signed up, but in April, the company filed notice with the Public Service Commission that it wanted to pull out of the contract. In June, eight towns, the Public Service Commission and others filed a lawsuit against Columbia Utilities for reneging on its agreement, according to court documents. Jenkins said on Oct. 19 that "virtually all customers" that were switched back to Central Hudson from Columbia Utilities had their bills delayed, but he expected all back bills to be delivered by mid-November. Read the full story in the Times Union.

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