For Immediate Release, March 16, 2021
Greer Ryan, (812) 345-8571, GRyan@biologicaldiversity.org
Data From 10 States Shows Alarming Number of Utility Shutoffs During Pandemic
WASHINGTON— Utilities in just 10 states have reported at least 765,262 household power shutoffs since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an analysis released today by the Center for Biological Diversity. Georgia Power, for example, reported more than 131,000 shutoffs — equivalent to 6% of its customers.
“These alarming shutoff numbers from just 10 states suggest a much broader problem for families across the United States,” said Greer Ryan, the Center energy policy analyst who wrote the report. “Being cut off from electricity is devastating under any circumstance, but it’s a matter of life and death during a pandemic when the best defense against disease is to stay home. The Biden administration needs to impose a nationwide shutoffs moratorium immediately.”
For today’s Power Crisis report, the Center surveyed 50 state utility commissions to see if they collect and share data on disconnects for nonpayment from regulated utilities. Thirty states do not publicly disclose this information, and 10 other states do report such data but are covered by shutoff moratoria. But the available numbers from the 10 states at the center of the report suggest a massive number of disconnects across the country.
“It’s appalling that state regulators don’t require private utilities to disclose how many families they’re shutting off,” said Ryan. “State regulators are mandated to protect the public interest, but that mandate is undermined by this reporting failure. We need transparency and accountability to prevent unnecessary shutoffs during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.”
Losing essential utility services is a major issue for low-wealth communities and those of color, who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Research has shown that if there had been a nationwide utility-shutoff moratorium in place since March 2020, as many as 77,000 lives lost to COVID might have been saved.
Duke Energy, Georgia Power and Florida Power & Light report shutoffs equivalent to 2.6% of their customers in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia since July. If this percentage were applied to total U.S. households, it would equal nearly 3.14 million shutoffs.
While it’s estimated that utility arrearages amount to more than $25 billion, President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package has set aside only $4.5 billion to tackle customer debt. The Center and other groups have called on the Biden administration to immediately issue an executive order to impose a nationwide moratorium on all utility shutoffs and include substantial investments in community and rooftop solar in the next infrastructure package that can prevent shutoffs and ensure climate resilience in the long-term.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.