Thanks to the bipartisan leadership of the legislature’s Energy & Technology Committee, Connecticut took important steps this year toward reducing energy costs for business and residential customers.
CBIA began the session emphasizing the need for the legislature to turn its focus to costs. While the state has made great progress in promoting energy conservation, renewables, and efficiency, Connecticut remains the nation’s overall most expensive state for energy costs, other than Hawaii.
Solving the crisis should start with ensuring that regional natural gas power plants, which generate roughly half of our electricity, gain access to plentiful supplies of cheap, clean-burning natural gas from New York and Pennsylvania.
Lack of access to these resources is costing electricity ratepayers in Connecticut from a half billion to more than a billion dollars each year.
SB 1078 opens the door for Connecticut to partner with other New England states to bring the gas to the power plants, thereby reducing and stabilizing our electricity prices.
It’s a regional solution that needs full regional participation; Maine has already passed similar legislation and measures are being considered in Massachusetts and other New England states.
In addition to expanding the natural gas infrastructure, SB 1078 also provides for regional expansion of the electricity infrastructure. The goal is to allow plentiful quantities of renewable power, generated at specific power facilities in New England and eastern Canada, to be distributed throughout Connecticut and New England.
Another component that leads to Connecticut having more expensive electricity than other states is the significant amount of ratepayer-funded incentives we provide for renewable power – especially solar.
These incentives have been important for jump-starting the solar industry, but the technology has become more affordable and popular in the marketplace.
HB 6838 continues the state’s commitment to this technology by providing up to 300 additional megawatts of solar installation in Connecticut. It also phases out the subsidies by 2022.
Hopefully, the credits will help utilities comply with Connecticut’s renewable portfolio standards (RPS) that are the most burdensome in New England. Currently, utilities and their ratepayers are paying a penalty because there aren’t enough credits available to meet the RPS.
The theory is that forcing ratepayers to pay for the solar credits will be cheaper than having to pay the current RPS penalty—which remains to be seen. A better idea would have been to modify Connecticut’s RPS to be more in line with other states.
Consistent with this trend of moving Connecticut away from ratepayer subsidies for renewable power and energy efficiency, HB 6991 broadens the Connecticut Green Bank’s access to private capital for financing these projects. This should reduce the financial burden on ratepayers and thus lower their bills.
A measure that will add to ratepayers’ bills, however, is SB 928.
Originally, the bill called for a massive new ratepayer-funded solar subsidy program with an estimated price tag of close to $200 million. The final bill was significantly scaled back to a two-year pilot project in which ratepayers will subsidize up to six megawatts of solar power shared among a finite number of subscribers located in close proximity to the solar installation.
DEEP and the utilities will use this opportunity to study the costs and benefits of “shared solar,” along with any consumer protection issues, and report their findings back to the legislature.