Sen. Fazio: CT Republicans to unveil plan to lower electric rates

January 13, 2023

Connecticut looking to bring Canadian hydropower to state as part of plan to address soaring energy costs

Alison Cross, Hartford Courant
Thu, January 12, 2023

With Connecticut residents suffering from soaring fuel costs, the Lamont administration presented a new energy plan Wednesday morning that seeks to supply the state with Canadian hydroelectric power and offer immediate payment assistance to low-income customers.

Gov. Ned Lamont, alongside Sen. Richard Blumenthal, state legislators and commissioners from Connecticut’s Departments of Social Services and Energy and Environmental Protection, put forth several short- and long-term changes to the state’s energy system, including a potential opportunity to tap into Hydro-Québec power.

In order to get Canadian-harvested renewable energy, the state would need to forge a path through Vermont, a plan that Lamont said he will discuss with regional governors in the coming weeks.

“The state and the country are going through a transition when it comes to energy and our focus here is on reliability, affordability and a carbon-free future,” Lamont said.

In addition to the possible hydropower deal, Lamont also emphasized Connecticut’s growing supply of “good, consistent, reliable wind offshore,” out of New London, calling Connecticut the “Texas of wind power.”

DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said that the state is looking to beef up its transmission systems to bring hydro and wind power to homes and businesses.

Connecticut is applying for federal grants that could fund up to 50% of the cost of transmission lines, she said.

The price tag for the Hydro-Québec transmission could be upwards of $1 billion.

“This route in Vermont is quite far along in terms of being fully permanent. And so, it’s just a question of activating the procurement process and capturing these federal dollars that will help make these projects more affordable,” Dykes said.

“I’ve never seen so much enthusiasm and cooperation among sister states,” Dykes added. “I think folks are really eager to get this done.”

As Connecticut looks toward its long-term goals, the governor touted current payment relief options for the residents.

Department of Social Services Commissioner-designate Andrea Barton Reeves said that applications for the state’s Connecticut Energy Assistance Program are up 27% and the department predicts that more than 100,000 households will need relief this winter.

“It’s really clear that the need for heating assistance is pretty significant in the state, and it’s across the state for all families who really have a desire and a great need to stave off the cold winters that New England is known for,” Barton Reeves said.

Sen. Blumenthal said that the uptick in enrollment mirrors “a tough economy and rising prices of natural gas and electricity.”

“A lot of families are living paycheck to paycheck. These numbers reflect the needs that this economy has imposed,” Blumenthal said. “People should not be forced to choose between heating and eating.”

Last month, Blumenthal secured $5 million for the state’s CEAP fund through the Federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Now, eligible families can access up to $2,320 for their home heating bills, but state Republicans said that the funding is not enough.

“Last year, that benefit was $4,825. The poorest families aren’t getting even half of what they received last year,” said Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly. “We welcome any and all assistance to help our families stay warm this winter. But the work is far from done and the amount of funding from Washington even with the latest addition remains insufficient to meet Connecticut families’ needs.”

Kelly said that the party will “continue to advocate for appropriate funding to help our working and middle-class families.”

Sen. Ryan Fazio, ranking member of the Energy & Technology Committee, said that the Senate Republicans will release their own energy plan.

“Senate Republicans will be releasing a plan that will lower rates both in the medium and long term and improve reliability for everyone,” Fazio said. “We are ready and willing to work with our friends on the other side of the aisle to make the change that is long overdue.”

The Democratic Chairs of the Energy and Technology Committee Sen. Norman Needleman and Rep. Jonathan Steinberg said Wednesday that they will welcome “all issues are on the table” this session.

“Hopefully in the near future, Connecticut in collaboration with the surrounding states … will have a plan which will lead to a little bit more energy security, a little bit more energy autonomy, and we will have agency over our energy future,” Steinberg said.