By Nathan Duke
The PSC released its bi-annual survey of state utility bills earlier this year which found that Con Ed's customers in New York City and Westchester County pay significantly higher monthly bills than upstate residents who use Central Hudson Gas & Electric.The survey found that Con Ed customers who use 500 kilowatt hours of electricity in January paid an average $110.20, while Central Hudson customers paid $67.66 during that same time period. Customer bills are split up into two charges: one for service and another for delivery.Queens elected officials said the PSC's survey is evidence that city residents are paying too much for electricity.”The reality is that we pay so much more because Con Ed mismanages the money that they take from ratepayers,” state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said. “Con Ed cannot hide behind the fact that things are more expensive in New York City and disguise their horrible efforts at managing their own system.”A Con Ed spokesman said the utility charges customers the same amount that they pay for supply, which is the actual electricity. But Con Ed charges higher amounts than upstate utilities for delivery of services for a variety of reasons, he said.”Delivery charges are higher due to the higher costs of maintaining our vast underground system and the higher taxes that exist downstate,” he said.He said the utility manages miles of underground cable throughout the five boroughs and thousands of transformers.But Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said that downstate rates should not be so much higher than upstate rates.”I think Con Ed has a lot to answer for,” he said. “You can't tell me that the costs are not just as expensive for repair upstate when you have transmission lines that are further and further apart. In New York City, you have customers in tight proximity. I'm sure the lines go down upstate when there are frequent storms whereas in the city it has to be a major storm to cause disruption.”The PSC is expected to make a decision this week on the utility's proposed $1.2 billion rate hike that would increase customers' bills by as much as 36 percent, making it the largest rate hike in the company's history.Gianaris said he expected the PSC to approve Con Ed's rate hike, which would increase bills for residents paying $70 per month by an estimated 17 percent, or $12, and force businesses paying $2,200 a month to pay 10.7 percent, or $235, more.A PSC spokeswoman said the commission would very likely make a decision on the hike at its meeting this week.Western Queens elected officials previously blasted the utility for its performance during the 10-day borough blackout in July 2006, which caused 174,000 residents to lose power and resulted in the loss of millions of dollars for businesses.Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.