Senator Kelly: “Lower Electricity Rates Will Provide Families Much Needed Relief” [Connecticut Post]

May 2, 2013

Article as it appeared in the Connecticut Post on May 1, 2013

State energy bill passes Senate, moves to House
By Ken Dixon

HARTFORD — The Senate on Wednesday easily passed legislation that the Gov. Dannel P. Malloy administration says would foster renewable sources of energy and lower state electric costs.

But consumer and environmental activists oppose the bill, saying it is tailored for Northeast Utilities to cut a major deal with Canadian hydropower at the expense of Connecticut’s budding solar- and wind-power industries.

The legislation, which for the first time would consider large-scale hydropower a state renewable resource, passed the Senate 26-6 and next moves to the House.

State Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, co-chairman of the legislative Energy and Technology Committee, said the bill would allow the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to establish contracts for as long as 15 years, giving potential power suppliers a stable market in which to develop new technologies.

“What we’re trying to do here is get more cheaper, cleaner renewable energy,” Duff said. “The cost of doing nothing will raise rates. This is why this bill is so important. We’re trying to think big.”

Sen. Michael A. McLachlan, R-Danbury, said he was worried about the potential length of the deals.

“I’m very uncomfortable with long-term contracts,” he said during the floor debate. “I think the energy business is too volatile for a long-term contract.”

The center of the bill is the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires the state to use 20 percent renewable-energy sources by the year 2020. A number of different benchmarks would have to be met before large-scale hydropower is used, Duff said.

Tom Swan, executive director of the nonprofit Connecticut Citizen Action Group, who joined environmental groups in lobbying against the bill, said it’s a victory for the power industry and “climate change deniers,” while weakening the state’s portfolio of renewable energy.

“It would be a disincentive to create the kind of wind and solar we’re going to need in the future,” Swan said in a phone interview.

He charged that it would give the DEEP commissioner the power to declare Canadian hydropower a major renewable resource, available for tax credits that are better spent supporting in-state wind and solar industries.

Sen. Kevin C. Kelly, R-Stratford, said he voted for it because state residents pay among the highest costs in the country for their electricity.

“While I understand the concerns that this bill could take funding away from other sources of renewable energy, I believe that lower electricity rates will provide families much needed relief in their household budgets and improve the prospect of jobs going forward,” Kelly said after the vote.