Connecticut Sued for Using Clean Energy Funds to Fill Budget Gap

by Paula Panzarella, Fight the Hike

The state legislature’s attempt to raid $155 million from the clean energy and efficiency funds has met with strong resistance.

On May 15, with CT Fund for the Environment as the lead plaintiff, a lawsuit was filed in federal court in Hartford. Fight the Hike is one of twelve groups suing to get the funds restored for clean energy, conservation, and efficiency programs. These programs have helped Connecticut’s economy, improved health by lowering pollution from fossil fuels and resulted in lower costs for taxpayers. We demand their funding be fully restored!

These funds were for the energy programs that we have paid for through the surcharge fee on our United Illuminating and Eversource electric bills. The money was collected specifically to help consumers improve energy efficiency, take part in energy conservation programs, low-interest loans to help with solar panels, modernize furnaces, water heaters, etc.

Besides these programs helping consumers, they helped build up Connecticut’s economy. There are more than 34,000 people working in the energy-efficiency industry in Connecticut. It will be a staggering blow to these businesses and their employees if people cannot continue to have the assistance of these clean-energy programs.

The “Combined Public Benefits Charge” portion of our electric bill is how the Energy Efficiency Fund, CT Green Bank, and Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative are funded. To bolster the General Fund, the state is planning on seizing $155 million that was collected and earmarked for clean energy and efficiency programs.

By crippling these programs, it’s estimated that more than 6,600 jobs will be lost in the next two years, $21 million in state tax revenue will be lost, tens of thousands of people will not be able to receive energy assessments, weatherization upgrades, energy efficiency programs, and financial assistance for low-income ratepayers. The case will be heard before the end of June for a ruling to be made to stop the planned seizure of funds on July 1.

In other news, the legislature failed to pass an important large-scale community solar bill that would have allowed for 300 megawatts of new solar power. They passed a bill that would sunset net metering, another blow to the growing clean energy industry. Net metering allows homeowners to be credited for solar energy produced by their home that exceeds their usage (like rollover minutes on a cell phone).

New Haven To UI: Not One More Dime | New Haven Independent

by Markeshia Ricks, Sep 13, 2016 ©2016 New Haven Independent

New Haveners concerned about a proposed rate increase said that they want United Illuminating to have the infrastructure to withstand superstorms, but that they’ve already paid for it.

The electric company is asking the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to grant a more than $100 million distribution rate increase over a three year period. The increase would generate $65.6 million next year, $27.1 million the following year and another $13.4 million in 2019. This would raise individual customer bills by an average of about $30 a month over that three-year period, according to the Office of Consumer Counsel.

The counsel’s office opposes the rate increase. It also came out for reducing by almost $10, to $7.63, a residential fixed charge that UI levies.

UI said it needs the increase to replace poles and wires and make other investments to avoid power outages during major storms.

More than 35 residents from New Haven and other parts of the state attended a PURA hearing Monday in the Hall of Records at 200 Orange St. to oppose the rate increase. They said some people already can’t afford their bills. And they argued that the rate increase de-incentivizes energy-efficiency efforts.
Several people also argued that UI is primarily seeking to line the pockets of its new parent company, Spain-based Iberdrola.

Frank Panzarella said that stats already showed during the last rate increase request that Connecticut residents are having trouble paying their bills. He asked what made UI think that customers can afford to pay more. [….]

For the complete article, visit: New Haven To UI: Not One More Dime | New Haven Independent.

News to Get All Steamed Up About: UI Is Planning a Rate Increase of the Distribution Charge

by Paula Panzarella, Fight the Hike

UI is now owned by Iberdrola, one of the world’s largest utility companies, with over 31 million customers. This adds to the insult that Connecticut customers, already paying the highest rates for electricity in the continental United States, are faced with even higher bills if we don’t stop the proposed increase.
According to the press release from the Office of Consumer Counsel, “If UI’s rate phase-in plan were approved as proposed, a typical residential customer on standard service generation who is using 700kWh per month would see their total bill rise by approximately $9.34, from $162.46 to $171.80, effective Jan. 1, 2017. Monthly bills would also increase by approximately $9.50 per month on Jan. 1, 2018 and by an incremental $11.00 monthly on Jan. 1, 2019.”

Note this is only the distribution charge. Should there be an increase in the generation charge, transmission, basic service or any other charge on our UI bill, we’re looking at even more.
Again, we already have the highest rates in the continental United States!

How to fight this: we have to pack the public hearings in Bridgeport and New Haven.

  • Bridgeport hearing: Thursday, Sept. 8, 6:30 p.m., City Common Council Chambers, Bridgeport City Hall, 45 Lyon Terrace.
  • New Haven hearing: Monday, Sept. 12, 6:30 p.m., Hearing Room G2, Kennedy Mitchell Hall of Records, 200 Orange St.

This proposal is identified as Docket No. 16-06-04. Please use this number when you write, e-mail or call PURA.

To mail your commentary, write to PURA,10 Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051. Send e-mail to dpuc.executivesecretary@po.state.ct.us.

Thank you!

For questions or more information, please call (203) 562-2798 or e-mail paulapanzarella@yahoo.com.