Legislature looking at cost of power

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BY PAUL HUGHES

REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

HARTFORD — With the cost of electricity, heating oil and natural gas all up, state legislators and Gov. Ned Lamont are exploring short- and long-term approaches to lowering energy costs in Connecticut.

House and Senate Republicans on Jan. 17 unveiled GOP ideas for providing relief to residents and businesses from some of the highest prices in the nation for electricity, natural gas, heating oil, gasoline and diesel fuel.

“”I don’t care if you’re in a boardroom or a barber shop, this is the conversation. People know their energy is too expensive, and they’re asking us to do our job and find a better way,” said Senate Minority Leader Kevin C. Kelly, R-Stratford.

One of the proposed Republican solutions is having the state government pick up public policy charges to save ratepayers an estimated $362 million annually on electric bills. This would require spending trade-offs in the state budget.

Based on 2020 energy costs, the change would save the average Connecticut household around $210 per year, GOP legislators said.

“There are many costs embedded into our bills that are policies that lawmakers have passed. Some of them are laudable, but they are all paid for by the ratepayers,” said House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford.

Both Democrats and Republicans focused on the high cost of energy during a confirmation hearing Tuesday on Lamont’s renomination of Katie Dykes to serve as commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Dykes testified that diversifying the sources of the state’s energy supplies is the solution, including incorporating more offshore wind power, hydropower, renewable energy sources, and nuclear power. In addition, she stressed energy efficiency programs.

Dykes reiterated how Connecticut has some of the highest electric rates in the continental United States because of the heavy reliance on natural gas to fuel power plants in New England and the difficulties in supplying natural gas to the region.

She said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused higher prices for oil and natural gas globally.

In addition, inflation is affecting energy costs. Nationally, electricity costs were up 14.3% in December compared to a year earlier and natural gas prices increased 19.3% over the same period. In Northeastern states, electricity prices were up 22% over December 2021, and natural gas costs were 23.6% higher, and fuel oil also rose.

Dykes told the Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee that Connecticut, with the backing of five other New England states, applied to receive a share of $250 million in federal infrastructure funding to build out transmission lines to better integrate wind power into the regional electric grid.

“We’ve got amazing offshore wind resources, but we don’t a have a grid that is really built out to cost effectively integrate wind power,” she said.

Dykes also said state officials are supporting the New England Clean Power Link, a proposed $1.6 billion project to build an underwater and underground transmission cable to bring additional hydropower from Canada through Vermont to the New England marketplace. She said this project would be eligible for up to $250 million in federal infrastructure funding to defray construction costs for that 1,000-kilowatt transmission line.

LAMONT AND DEMOCRATIC LEADERS of the Energy and Technology Committee last week outlined energy policy ideas, including reducing reliance on natural gas for power generation and increasing wind, nuclear, and hydropower energy.

It was also announced then that the energy committee plans to hold a series of informational hearings on energy affordability and reliability.

House and Senate Republicans proposed to add nuclear power and all sources of hydropower, including here in Connecticut, to the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard program.

The GOP energy affordability plan also proposes to establish the Public Utlitiies Regulatory Authority as an independent state agency, undoing the 2011 merger of the former departments of Environmental Protection and Public Utility Control. Republicans said this move and other proposals would revamp power procurement practices, regulation and oversight to increase affordability and the reliability of the electric grid.

“We’re not looking to throw rocks and throw bricks. We want to find solutions,” said state Rep. Bill Buckbee, R-New Milford, the ranking House member of the energy committee.