Legislature’s Energy Priorities Need Re-Focus

Issues & Policies

With Connecticut continuing to be the most expensive state—except Hawaii—for energy, the business community is looking for the legislature to have a laser-like focus on reducing costs and improving the state’s competitiveness rankings.
Yet many proposals, despite good intentions, would only push prices higher for electricity customers, especially job creators and lower-income residents.
For example, SB 570 would increase from 83% to 90% the portion of electric bills based on usage. Result? Customers that use more electricity (generally businesses), and those who are already using as little as possible to save money (including the poor) would see their bills increase.
Energy-inefficient homes or those that otherwise use more energy than needed, could see a savings on their bills if they invest in energy efficiency measures or change their energy use behaviors.
SB 928 seeks to expand the use of solar energy by requiring non-solar customers to subsidize the costs and reliability risks associated with installation of neighborhood-shared solar systems.
Result? Higher energy bills for Connecticut’s non-solar customers.
And who would benefit from these ratepayer subsidies? According to the One World Literacy Foundation, data from California reflects that a typical rooftop solar customer has an average household income of $91,000—much higher than the median income for some minority populations of $39,005.
The foundation concludes that, “minority and low-income communities can find common cause with an array of other Americans in resisting the unfair cost-shift that’s occurring because of net-metering policies.”
This isn’t to say we shouldn’t promote the use of renewable energy. But broad ratepayer financial support should yield broad ratepayer financial benefits.
On a related note, the committee failed to take action before its deadline on HB 6958 and HB 6985, which called on the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to determine the fairest way to pay for the urgent need to expand infrastructure for natural gas to serve gas-fired power plants in our region.
The lack of this infrastructure is estimated to be costing Connecticut nearly a billion dollars annually and additional energy costs.
Count the cost
SB 140 calls for a study to determine the impacts of renewable policies on the state’s energy costs. It’s a good idea–except that at least one study of the issue has already been conducted.
A recent report prepared by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Boston estimates that Connecticut’s renewable portfolio standards (RPS) will cost state consumers $1.6 billion in higher electricity costs over the next five years, 2,660 lost jobs, and $283 million in lost income if no changes are made to the RPS.
Some legislators complain that the Beacon Hill study doesn’t consider environmental benefits. But Connecticut’s major focus on environmental impacts and climate change already have the state ranked the fifth-lowest for energy consumption per capita and the sixth most energy efficient state in the country.
Yet we have made absolutely no progress in reducing our energy costs compared with other states. Residents and businesses can relocate almost anywhere else in the United States and expect to lower their energy costs.
It’s time for Connecticut policymakers put addressing our energy cost competitive disadvantage at the very top of our energy priorities.
Reports from the White House and others have said that Connecticut has one of the highest-speed broadband systems in the world, and private-sector investments are continuing to grow to make it even better and more accessible.
Yet SB 572 asks ratepayers to fund additional staff within the Office of Consumer Counsel to advocate for broadband in Connecticut.
For more information, contact CBIA’s Eric Brown at 860.244.1926 | eric.brown@cbia.com | @CBIAericb


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