Predictably, this was a quieter year at the Capitol for energy issues after the landmark legislation of the past few sessions, including the Comprehensive Energy Plan legislation of 2013.
Much of the focus now is on implementing that plan, which will largely happen through the regulatory process.
SB 357, however, includes a broad variety of measures that will affect certain aspects of energy policy in Connecticut.
Specifically, the bill requires the state to solicit proposals from Class II renewable energy sources generated at trash-to-energy facilities.
This is intended, in part, to address the impact of the state’s new recycling policy on these facilities.
The bill also streamlines the process for certain applications before the Connecticut Siting Council, including solid waste land disposal facilities.
It also requires the adoption of new regulations for state building energy efficiency standards based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) national energy performance rating system and Energy Star Target Finder tool.
Connecticut’s Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority has been a success since its creation just a few short years ago.
This bill will change its official name to what it’s commonly known as--the Connecticut Green Bank--and it expands the financing activities of the bank to include microgrids.
The Connecticut Energy Advisory Board is eliminated under the bill, and electric companies are allowed to recover their costs, investments, and lost revenues incurred as a result of on-bill repayment programs established for residential clean energy and heating equipment financing programs as well as costs incurred under certain DEEP-mandated power purchasing agreements.
A program important to construction and other development-related businesses--the “call before your dig” program--is modified in the bill to generally make it more rigorous and effective.
Further, the bill modifies how certain gas company revenues are used to offset the costs of expanding gas company infrastructure through the, so called, “hurdle rate.”
SB 357 also limits property tax exemptions for solar thermal and geothermal energy systems to the difference between the property's value with the installed system and with only the system's conventional portion.
Importantly, the bill also modifies SB 2 (see below) with respect to information on customer’s bill and notices required to customers concerning changes in electric rates.
From the outset of the session, many legislators were hearing from their constituents about significant electric rate increases they experienced during the winter. In general, these were customers who had chosen to have their electricity supplied through an alternative to the two major electric distribution companies in Connecticut.
Thus a campaign started that was designed to protect consumers who felt they had been misled even though the opportunities for rapid price increases (or decreases) was part of the contracts they had chosen.
The outcome of the session-long discussion is found in SB 2, which contains a variety of new notice and billing requirements, marketing and pricing constraints largely on alternative electric suppliers and for the most part, in the context of residential customers rather than commercial or industrial customers.
However, the bill does require that each electrical supplier provide potential commercial or industrial customers with a written notice describing the rates, information on air emissions and resource mix of generation facilities operated by and under long-term contract to the supplier, terms and conditions of the service, and a notice describing the customer's right to cancel the service.