Some of America’s largest utilities cut power to millions of struggling customers in recent years even as they spent billions of dollars on stock buybacks, dividend payments to shareholders and executive salaries, a new analysis of industry data has found.
The shutoffs disproportionately affect low income and customers from communities of color, and the “harrowing” situation is driven by corporate profiteering, said Selah Goodson Bell, a study co-author and energy justice campaigner with the Center For Biological Diversity.
Losing power has an often devastating impact on a household, including in terms of health and safety. “Shutoffs allow corporate utilities to punish customers’ economic precarity while guaranteeing record profits and massive payouts for themselves and their investors,” the authors wrote in the report. It was compiled with utility industry analyst Energy and Policy Institute and BailoutWatch.
In the 30 states where shut off data was available, utilities cut service 1.5m times during the first 10 months of 2022, and an estimated 4.2m times nationwide. The report also reveals the issue is worsening: the number of electric shutoffs jumped by nearly one-third and gas shutoffs spiked by 76% between 2021 and the first 10 months of 2022.
Illinois posted the highest number of shutoffs during that time period at over 500,000, and it was followed by Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Ohio. Exelon Corp, the parent company to utility giants like ComEd in Illinois and Peco in Pennsylvania, reported 648,000 shutoffs. It was followed by The Southern Co, DTE Energy, Ameren and FirstEnergy.