As State Pier Costs Come in High of Estimates, Lawmakers ask ‘How High?’

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The Connecticut State Bond Commission approved an additional $55 million for the New London State Pier redevelopment project on Friday – which officials said is now estimated to cost a total of $235.5 million. The costs for controversial plans to redevelop the State Pier into a staging ground for planned offshore wind projects – touted by state officials but facing local opposition, particularly from businesses that use the pier – were originally pegged at $93 million.  The price was later estimated to be about $157 million, before Gov. Ned Lamont told The Day editorial board in January that the costs

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Costs and Benefits Debated as Connecticut Moves Toward Carbon Caps for Gas and Diesel

The Transportation and Climate Initiative will almost certainly cost owners of gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles more at the pump if lawmakers sign onto the multistate agreement. The program will require fuel suppliers to purchase emissions allowances for the fuels they sell in participating states. The Office of the Governor estimates that the program will generate annual revenues of up to $89 million by 2023, and as much as $117 million by 2032.” How much TCI will cost consumers — and whether those costs are outweighed by the benefits of the program —  is a matter of debate.  Each year under

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Siting Council to Hold Public Hearing on 47-acre North Stonington Solar Project

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NORTH STONINGTON — The Connecticut Siting Council will hold a public hearing for a proposed 47-acre solar project in the town that has drawn scrutiny from residents and town officials who have questioned whether the residential site is suitable for a large solar development. Nashville-based Silicon Ranch has proposed building a 9.9 megawatt solar project that would cover about 47 acres of land on the north side of Interstate 95, west of Boombridge Road. The project, which would involve clearing about 46 acres of forest. Town officials requested the public hearing, and for the deadline for public comments to be

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State Regulators Reject Service Disconnections by Eversource and UI

State regulators rejected plans by Connecticut’s two largest electric utilities to begin disconnecting service to customers with unpaid bills, after audits of customer phone calls turned up instances when the companies failed to provide sufficient information regarding options for payment plans. PURA ruled on Monday that Eversource, United Illuminating, and their gas subsidiaries cannot reapply for regulatory approval until Gov. Ned Lamont’s declaration of a state of emergency expires or the regulated winter protection period ends on May 1.  According to the ruling, UI and Eversource provided customers with “inconsistent and incomplete” information about payment plan options, and both companies,

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Compromise Boosts Share of Cap-and-Trade Revenues for Environmental Justice

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HARTFORD — The state legislature’s Environmental Committee approved a compromise bill that significantly increases the amount of revenues directed toward communities with the highest levels of motor vehicle pollution. Environmental justice advocates had criticized a previous draft of the bill, part of a cap-and-trade proposal for motor fuels, for not doing enough to address the disparate impacts of air pollution. The legislation, which now must be approved in the senate, would set aside 50 percent of revenues from the Transportation Climate Initiative Program for projects in communities with high levels of pollution from vehicles, or that are underserved by transportation

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State Regulators Announce Limits to Eversource Cost Recovery

Eversource will be prevented from recovering a large portion of the costs of Tropical Storm Isaias, state utility regulators announced Friday evening in a draft decision based on an investigation into widespread and lengthy power outages stemming from the August storm.  The state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority will still take public comment on the decision before the board can vote on whether to approve the decision, but its investigation concluded that Eversource was not “reasonable or prudent” in managing its municipal liaisons, executing the Make Safe programs, communicating critical information to customers or in securing adequate resources in the first

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An Early Flood of Applications as Federal Aid is Directed Toward Late Rent and Electricity Bills

Since the program was announced on Tuesday, over four thousand households have applied for help paying off overdue electric and rent bills using $235 million of federal COVID aid to Connecticut. The payments are available to landlords of tenants who are earning up to 80 percent of the HUD median area income. The application process requires tenants and landlords to work together to complete designated sections of the application for assistance. They can start the application process online. The program, called UniteCT, can provide landlords up to $10,000 in rental assistance and up to $1,500 in assistance for overdue electric

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UI Offers Plan to Offset Rate Hikes with Customer Dollars

Gov. Ned Lamont and Attorney General William Tong announced a plan today for United Illuminating to offset a proposed May electric bill increase by returning money the company over-collected from customers after the federal corporate tax rate was slashed in 2017. UI offered a plan to regulators that would use $41.55 million of savings from federal tax cuts and an additional $5 million from the company to offer bill credits that will offset a proposed electric rate increase starting May 1 – about $10-15 a month for the typical residential customer. UI – a subsidiary of Avangrid that serves about

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Eversource Proposes Rate Increases to Recover 2020 Costs

Eversource has offered state regulators three options for rate increases to its residential electric customers next summer: a $12 a month increase to the average customer, smaller increases over several years, or the possibility of borrowing about $200 million, if lawmakers approve, to spread out costs and rate increases over a number of years. In filings on Monday, Eversource asked state utility regulators at PURA to increase rates this May so that the company can recover costs from 2020 – largely citing costs from a deal that requires utilities to buy power from the Millstone Nuclear Power Station at above-market

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New Jersey-based NRG to Sell Middletown, Montville, Hartford and Devon Plants

MIDDLETOWN — NRG Energy, a New Jersey-based energy company, announced on Monday that it was selling 4.8 gigawatts worth of “non-core fossil assets” to a subsidiary of Boston-based ArcLight Capital Partners for $760 million. An NRG spokesman confirmed Tuesday that the sale includes all four of the company’s power plants in Connecticut: 1,548 megawatts worth of natural gas, oil and jet fuel-fired plants in Middletown, Montville, Hartford and Devon. NRG Spokesman Dave Schrader said the company is constantly reviewing the makeup of its portfolio, assessing the location, type and mix of assets to ensure they are suited to its customers’

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Lawmakers Look for Stopgap as Home Solar Projects Hit Year-end Reimbursement Caps in March

The solar industry has high hopes for a new home solar program set to start next year, but there’s concern the existing program won’t bridge the gap until then. Connecticut’s program for compensating owners of home solar systems for the power they provide the grid will be replaced in early 2022, and solar industry representatives say that could speed up solar development.  The existing program, the Residential Solar Incentive Program (RSIP) has reached a statutory cap with nearly a full year still to go before the new solar tariffs take effect. If lawmakers don’t raise the cap, solar developers say

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Florsheim Announces Sale of NRG Plant, Possible Energy Storage Plan

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MIDDLETOWN — A gas-fired power plant that drew controversy over plans to build a new turbine was among the fossil fuel plants NRG Energy is selling, Middletown Mayor Ben Florsheim said Monday night. NRG announced Monday that it was selling 4.8 GW of fossil fuel generating assets to Generation Bridge, an affiliate of ArcLight Capital Partners, for $760 million. Florsheim said the company announced in a meeting on Monday morning these assets include the Middletown power plant, as well as plants in New York and California. The announcement comes just over two weeks after NRG failed to secure funding in

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New London Wins 10-Year Commitment For Northeast Offshore Deal on State Pier

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HARTFORD — State officials announced today the signing of a Host City Agreement between New London and a joint venture of Ørsted and Eversource that includes a 10-year commitment paying the city an average of at least $1 million each year during offshore wind operations at State Pier. “Today’s agreement makes Connecticut’s role as a leader in the offshore wind industry official, with New London now poised to become the premier commercial east coast hub for this sector and our state set to become a leader in the transition to renewable energy and the fight against climate change,” Gov. Ned Lamont

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Largest Solar Farm in the Northeastern United States Approved for East Windsor

EAST WINDSOR — The Connecticut Siting Council on Thursday gave approval for the largest solar farm in the northeastern United States to be built in East Windsor. The council voted unanimously to approve Gravel Pit Solar, a proposed 120 megawatt solar project – enough to power about 23,000 homes – that will be built over a 485-acre site that includes tobacco fields, woods, and sand and gravel quarries. D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments, the New York hedge fund behind the project, told the council in filings that it plans to begin construction as soon as the third quarter of this year,

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Costs and Benefits Debated as Connecticut Approves New Plan for Home Solar Payments

Connecticut regulators this month approved a new method of reimbursing residential producers of solar energy – an issue that has in the past divided Eversource and the solar industry — but leaves unresolved key questions of the cost and benefit of residential solar to the state’s energy consumers. In 2018, lawmakers directed the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to revise the formula for reimbursements, in part in response to criticism by Eversource and others that the state’s net metering program was an overly expensive attempt to promote solar development. Connecticut has historically used net metering to pay homeowners for any

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Unpaid Electric Bills May Leave Eversource Customers on the Hook for Further Rate Hikes

Residential electric customers owe $276 million to Eversource for bills that haven’t been paid in over a month – a 20 percent increase since last spring when Connecticut Attorney General William Tong ordered energy providers to maintain service to customers in an effort to cushion the fallout of the pandemic. That debt amounts to about $250 for each of Eversource’s 1.1 million residential customers across Connecticut, and the company has told shareholders that it expects state regulators will approve rate increases to compensate for the unpaid bills. In its annual report, Eversource told shareholders last week that the company has

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Strong Revenues in Connecticut Boost $1.2 Billion Profit for Eversource

In a year that Eversource faced near constant public criticism over high customer bills, and perceived failures in its response to Tropical Storm Isaias — leading Connecticut lawmakers to tie future electric rates to measures of performance — the New England energy provider nevertheless made a considerable amount of money for its shareholders as its profits grew to $1.2 billion. In its annual report to shareholders and regulators issued Wednesday, Eversource boasted a profit of $1.2 billion across its subsidiaries, an increase of $304.3 million – or 34 percent over 2019.  The company attributed the gains mainly to electric rate increases, recovering

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As the Electrical Grid Collapses in Texas, New England Takes Note

As power grid operators restore power to the millions of Texans who have endured freezing temperatures and no heat or running water for days, experts say that it’s unlikely New England’s relatively hardy grid would fail due to cold weather. With the caveat that much still has to be learned about the root causes of widespread power outages and skyrocketing energy prices across Texas and the Midwest, they also cautioned that electric grids are going to have to prepare for the unexpected as the changing climate makes unlikely weather a reality. New England knows cold Dan Dolan, president of the

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Middletown Gas-fired Plant Misses Funding Again in Yearly Energy Market

MIDDLETOWN — A plan to replace two aging turbines on a Middletown natural gas-fired power plant will wait at least another year after the project failed to secure funding through the regional energy market this week. Princeton-based NRG’s plans to replace two gas-fired turbines built in 1958 and 1964 at its power plant on the Connecticut River in south Middletown hinged on the project being selected through a regional market meant to secure a reliable power supply three years in advance.  ISO-New England held its forward capacity auction on Monday and released cumulative results Thursday, which did not include individual

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Democrats Split Over Proposed Moratorium on Fossil Fuel Plants in Connecticut

Amid finger pointing over who bears responsibility for approving a new gas-fired plant in Killingly — seemingly at odds with the state’s goals for zero-carbon energy — at least one state lawmaker says she wants the legislature to stop the plant from being built. State Sen. Christine Cohen, D-Guilford, has introduced a bill proposing a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants in Connecticut – a move that would halt approvals for the 650 megawatt Killingly Energy Center that Gov. Ned Lamont says he doesn’t want, but can’t do much to stop himself. State Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex, co-chair of the

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Eyeing Obstacles, Dykes Offers Optimism for State’s Green Energy Goals

“This goal of 100 percent, zero emissions resources is achievable, it’s feasible, and we’re already well on our way,” Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes told CT Examiner in a recent interview. “The key is, how do we continue to make progress?” The latest draft of Connecticut’s Integrated Resources Plan — a semi-annual assessment of the state’s electric supply needs and possible sources of energy supply — is being touted by the department as the first to identify sources of supply to meet the state’s goal of zero-carbon electric generation by 2040. The plan highlights a variety

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Environmental Priorities — Solar Energy and Land Conservation — Compete in the Legislature

Competing environmental priorities will come to a head again in Hartford as lawmakers consider whether to add more regulations in an effort to prevent new solar projects from impacting tracts of farmland and forest. The General Assembly’s Environment Committee agreed on Wednesday to consider legislation this session on the siting of solar projects on certain farmlands and forests. As part of a larger energy bill passed in 2017, the legislature adopted regulations requiring that the Connecticut Department of Agriculture review any solar project proposed for prime farmland with a total generating capacity of more than 2 megawatts, and that the

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Lamont Remarks on Killingly Plant Raise Eyebrows of Green Energy Proponents

Remarks Gov. Ned Lamont made this week opposing a controversial plan to build a new 650 MW gas-fired plant in Killingly raised eyebrows, and questions about how to reconcile his words with recent approvals by state regulators of new gas infrastructure. The Killingly plant, which was first proposed by Florida-based NTE Energy in 2016, has become a key rallying point in the ongoing effort to promote new sources of renewable energy for Connecticut and to scale back – and eventually eliminate – power plants that burn fossil fuels. “I don’t want to build Killingly,” Lamont told environmental advocates assembled for

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State Orders Change in Tree Trimming by United Illuminating

The state’s energy regulator has ordered United Illuminating to make several changes to its tree trimming programs, changes that the energy provider has argued would make it harder for the company to ensure reliable service. According to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, United Illuminating relies too heavily on a program designed to respond to pressing and dangerous situations, for example when a branch is touching a power line, and is in effect using the program to replace regular tree trimming. In response, the state authority directed that the UI limit its targeted risk management program to priority situations where there

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Subsidies a Bone of Contention as Renewable Energy Producers Seek Federal Ruling

Supporters of expanding renewable energy are headed for a showdown with New England’s energy market operator at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over an arcane rule that could have major implications in the near future for how much is invested in solar and offshore wind compared to natural gas. Debate over the true cost of developing solar and offshore wind projects has led to two competing proposals – one from the regional energy market operator ISO-New England and the other from the New England Power Pool, a voluntary organization of stakeholders in the regional market including Eversource, energy producers, and

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Renewed Investment in Gas-Fired Energy Spurs Debate in Middletown

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MIDDLETOWN — A major energy company is pitching its replacement of two nearly 70-year old natural gas-fired turbines at a Middletown power plant as environmentally friendly, but local and statewide advocates for renewable energy question why new fossil fuel-fired infrastructure is being built at all. Princeton-based NRG has proposed replacing two gas- and fuel-powered turbines, built in 1958 and 1964, with one turbine that is more efficient and faster to start.  The 375-megawatt turbine will replace the same nameplate amount of megawatts as the two existing turbines, and generate lower emissions per hour, but the new turbine is also expected

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UI and Eversource Report Long-term Improvements in Service Reliability

Connecticut’s for-profit energy providers improved their day-to-day reliability in 2019, according to an annual report on the reliability of the state’s electric system compiled by its utility regulator, PURA. With the exception of major storms, United Illuminating and Eversource reported shorter and less frequent average outages compared to the previous four years, according to a report approved on Wednesday morning.  PURA is required by state statute to submit the annual reliability report to the General Assembly. The report includes two metrics: one for frequency and one for duration of service interruptions. The System Average Interruption Frequency Index (SAIFI) measures how

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PURA Moves to Reduce Cost Swings for Consumer Electric Bills

After a steep summer rate increase led to outrage from Eversource customers, regulators approved new rules on Wednesday that are meant to limit major fluctuations in electric bills. The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority unanimously approved a new system for setting the “distribution” rates that electric distribution companies Eversource and United Illuminating use to recover their costs from ratepayers – using real costs from the prior year rather than estimates to set rates for the new year, and lowering the interest rate the companies can charge if they recovered less than their costs in the previous year, known as “carrying costs.”

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Eversource Announces Voluntary Moratorium on Service Disconnections

Eversource Energy announced in a news release on Friday that the energy provider would suspend utility disconnections for nonpayment. The decision comes after a statewide moratorium on utility disconnections expired Oct. 1, and the Public Utilities Regulatory chose not to extend it, despite pleas from both Eversource and United Illuminating. Marissa Gillett, chair of the state’s utilitary regulator PURA, had pressed the companies to “voluntarily extend the moratorium.” Eversource spokesman Mitch Gross said the company made the decision to suspend disconnections because it was the right thing to do for both its customers and employees with COVID-19 cases rising in

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Solar Farm Approved for 75-acre Parcel in Waterford

The Connecticut Siting Council — the state agency tasked with balancing the costs and benefits of locating new infrastructure in Connecticut — voted 3 -1 to approve a scaled back version of a proposal to build a 75-acre solar farm in Waterford previously rejected by the council in 2018. The council will still need to approve a detailed development and management plan before construction can begin. The state regulator found that the project by developer Greenskies Renewable Energy to install 45,976 panels capable of generating 15.3 megawatts of electricity would not cause a “substantial adverse environmental effect.” That conclusion was

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