With the winter months upon us, Connecticut electric customers are seeing higher than usual costs for energy consumption. Eversource and United Illuminating will see increased rate prices on their bills after those companies raised supply rates by double starting on the first of the year.
With a new gubernatorial term underway and a new legislative session begun, energy prices are on the list of concerns for state lawmakers. On Wednesday, Gov. Lamont outlined both a short and long-term plan to lower energy costs within the state, relying on both state and federal funding.
The Lamont administration has already announced short-term relief plans, which focus on low- and middle-income residents who will be hardest hit by increases in energy costs. Part of the plan involves increasing allocated funds from the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) for households using deliverable fuels (like home heating oil).
Heating oil prices increased to nearly $6 per gallon in November 2022. Those prices have come down slightly, currently sitting at $4.46 per gallon in Connecticut. Under the new rules, households have access to an additional $430 for the season, bringing the total available funds per household to $2,320.
“Last winter, we saw a 27% increase in CEAP enrollments. So far this year, applications for the program are up nearly 23%, and we are anticipating serving over 100,000 households this winter,” said Connecticut Department of Social Services Commissioner-designate Andrea Barton Reeves in a statement. “The extra money allocated to CEAP by Congress, Governor Lamont, and the state legislature will allow the Department of Social Services, community action agencies, and other partners to help more Connecticut families stay warm this winter.”
Additionally, Eversource and United Illuminating customers may receive bill credits “returning earnings under the Millstone contract, an accelerated discount for low-income hardship customers, and $13 million in utility-funded assistance programs for low and moderate-income customers including through Operation Fuel, which provides emergency energy assistance to low-to-moderate-income households that don’t qualify for CEAP or who run out of CEAP benefits.”
Long-term cost-saving measures are much less concrete than direct funding or savings programs for ratepayers. According to plans outlined by the governor, the state is committed to “building a cleaner, more affordable, and more reliable energy supply” going forward. These plans include off-shore wind projects, like those that are planned to run out of the State Pier in New London; large-scale hydropower out of Canada; a commitment to nuclear energy; and “other clean energy resources,” which include solar power, land-based wind energy, and small-scale hydropower.
Currently, Connecticut and the entire New England region rely heavily on natural gas to generate electricity. Additionally, most homes in the region use natural gas to provide heat directly. Both of those sources follow the same pipelines. As a result, natural gas resources are stretched thin during the winter months which forces utility companies to use alternate, and more expensive sources like Liquified Natural Gas to make up the difference.
In a warning to electric customers late last year, New England ISO, which tracks and monitor’s the New England grid, raised concerns that extremely cold days during the winter season could cause rolling blackouts or brownouts. The organization stressed, however, that this would only happen in extreme situations.
“Until we further diversify and clean up the grid, we will remain at the mercy of volatile price swings in the energy market,” said Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes. “That’s why, longer-term, the state is employing a strategy that builds on the actions the state has taken to help insulate residents from situations that are driven by external forces, focusing on energy efficiency and clean energy resources. This strategy will better insulate residents from price volatility, increase reliability, and help us meet our greenhouse gas emissions goals.”
Other long-term solutions in the governor’s plan include “capitalizing on federal funds” and working to build energy efficiency and electrification solutions into current projects.