HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A fight is brewing over a request by Connecticut’s largest utility to raise rates by $232 million to upgrade equipment following destructive storms.

As WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau reported, Connecticut Light & Power is seeking permission from regulators to raise the fixed monthly residential service charge from $16 to $25.50 — a 56 percent hike.

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If approved, it could take effect by the end of the year.

Consumer advocates say the increase would threaten efforts to conserve electricity.

“Before you turn on a single light in your home, your bill will go up $115 a year,” John Erlingheuser of the AARP told Schneidau.

“It puts older people and disabled people in a very bad position because they may be in a position to try to conserve more when it won’t actually help, and could put their health and safety at risk,” he added.

CL&P, a subsidiary of Northeast Utilities, says about $117 million would pay for new and stronger poles, wires, transformers and substation upgrades.

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Another $89.5 million is to repair damage from storms in 2011 and 2012, and $25.3 million is to protect equipment from future storms.

CL&P said energy efficiency is part of the reason billed revenue per customer has diminished.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., has written a letter to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority voicing concerns about the proposed rate hike, CBS Connecticut reported.

Blumenthal calls CL&P’s request “unconscionable and unfair.” The senator wrote that Connecticut already pays among the highest electricity rates in the nation.

The first of three public hearings is scheduled for Wednesday. A draft decision is expected in December.

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