Editorial: LIPA progress may be nice, but we need more

LIPA basement fire Riverhead

Residents across Long Island whose wallets continue to be squeezed by electric rates higher than nearly anywhere else in the country didn’t need to read a 34-page audit to know that current costs are unsustainable and unacceptable.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued the report last week, claiming the Long Island Power Authority has been ineffective at reducing costs amid its ever-growing debt. The change in 2014 to bring in Public Service Enterprise Group to run LIPA’s electrical grid has so far brought minimal improvement, the comptroller said.

In its initial response to the report, PSEG Long Island went on the defensive.

“We challenge this report on several points,” a statement from company spokesman Jeffrey Weir began.

A challenge is not what customers want to hear. A solution would be more appropriate.

The statement from the utility notes how its J.D. Power customer satisfaction score jumped by 52 points to become “the most improved large utility in the country.”

It’s hard to say that’s a trophy worth displaying.

PSEG Long Island still came in last — 18th among the utilities listed — in the East Region ranking for 2015. Only its margin behind the second-to-last utility has improved.

What does it say when a jump that large — 52 points — still can’t propel the utility out of the cellar?

More work remains to be done to meet the demands of Long Island’s massive population.

PSEG’s proposed rate increase, which will be voted on in December, was roundly criticized following its announcement earlier this year. The initial increase for an average residential customer of 3.8 percent in 2016 and 3.9 percent for the following two years would have seemed somewhat modest if not for the already huge cost. The rates were scaled back in June after an acknowledged “miscalculation” by the Department of Public Service.

PSEG says its goal is “to keep rates stable for our customers while improving the level of service our customers receive.” To reach that goal, the utility would be wise to heed some of the criticism leveled in the audit, rather than tout its customer satisfaction score.