“Utility companies are deliberately prolonging their dependence on fossil fuels and passing volatile fuel prices on to consumers.”
The research—entitled Powerless in the Pandemic 2.0—was produced by the advocacy groups Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and Bailout Watch as a follow-up to a September 2021 publication that showed how utilities took $1.25 billion in pandemic aid and then disconnected households’ electricity nearly a million times.
“Utility companies are deliberately prolonging their dependence on fossil fuels and passing volatile fuel prices on to consumers,” Chris Kuveke, data analyst at BailoutWatch, said in a statement. “Our research shows that millions of Americans are disconnected 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 report’s key findings:
- Utility shutoffs 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 identified disconnections;
- 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 information about shutoffs; and
- More than 40% of the disconnections in the report occurred in Florida, while nearly 70% of the shutoffs were 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, have created a crisis for low-income households.
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