Private utilities have cut power to American households more than 3.5 million times since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, even as electric companies have reaped windfall profits and the compensation of their leaders exploded, a report released on Monday showed.
“Utility companies are deliberately prolonging their reliance on fossil fuels and passing on volatile fuel prices to consumers.”
The research, titled Helpless in the face of the 2.0 pandemic– was produced by advocacy groups Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and Bailout Watch following a September 2021 post that showed how utilities raised $1.25 billion in pandemic aid , then disconnected household electricity nearly a million times.
“Utility companies are deliberately prolonging their reliance on fossil fuels and passing volatile fuel prices onto consumers,” Chris Kuveke, data analyst at BailoutWatch, said in a statement. “Our research shows that millions of Americans go offline when they can’t pay their monthly electric bills, while these utilities pass windfall profits to shareholders and executives through dividends and bonuses.”
Among the key findings of the report:
- Utility cuts soared 79% from 2020 to 2021;
- Seven companies – Nextera Energy, Duke Energy, The Southern Co., Exelon Corp., American Electric Power Co., Ameren and AES Corp. – accounted for 78% of all disconnections identified;
- Only 33 states and the District of Columbia have made disconnection data public, while 17 states and Puerto Rico do not require private utilities to disclose disconnection information; and
- More than 40% of disconnections in the report occurred in Florida, while nearly 70% of outages occurred in just five states: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Illinois.
The alarming rate of utility disconnections, coupled with soaring energy prices resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and fossil fuel industry greed, has created a crisis for households. low income.
“It’s appalling that millions of families across the United States have lost power while utility oligarchs are reaping huge windfall gains,” said Jean Su, director of CBD’s energy justice program. “Russia’s war on Ukraine has only increased the fragility of domestic energy and put more people at risk. This moment is a clear call for the federal government to reform the energy sector. electricity, which relentlessly shifts profits onto people and the planet.”
The report’s authors offer a set of policy recommendations, including recognizing domestic public services as a basic human right, creating a federal cuts database, imposing meaningful oversight of public services, and transition to a renewable energy system.
“The system is failing,” the report concludes. “Until it is fundamentally changed, these companies will continue to pursue these same perverse incentives to come to the same inhumane conclusions.”