Lawmakers and Chief Regulator Skeptical as Eversource Settlement Yields New Leadership Role

On Wednesday, Eversource named Steve Sullivan, a long-time employee of the company, president of Connecticut operations. The move was part of an agreement with state regulators intended to improve the company’s storm response after Tropical Storm Isaias. But while the company described the move as a commitment  to rebuilding customer confidence, state lawmakers and the state’s chief regulator questioned the need for the new executive position and the wisdom of the settlement that created it. Sullivan, a resident of Connecticut’s northeast corner who has worked for Eversource for more than 30 years, will take on the new role and oversee

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North Stonington Selectmen Vote to End Fight With Solar Farm Developer

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NORTH STONINGTON – After its proposal to clear-cut 44 acres of woodland for a 9.9 megawatt solar farm was rejected by state officials in a surprise tie vote in September, Nashville-based Silicon Ranch offered the town’s board of selectmen a deal. The company would scale back the project to 8.35 megawatt, constraining it entirely south of the Norwich-New London Turnpike, if the town agreed to drop its opposition to the proposal at the Connecticut Siting Council. If the town didn’t agree, the company said it would go ahead with re-submitting its full 9.9 MW proposal with enough revisions to satisfy

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Eversource Warns of Credit Card Fees — But Can’t Charge Them

As part of a 2018 settlement, Eversource residential customers cannot be charged a fee for paying a bill by credit card — but you wouldn’t know it, based on misleading warnings on the company’s website. When an Eversource electric customer checks their bill online, they’re met with a prompt letting them know that Eversource provides options to pay: adding their bank account information to the online portal, or setting up autopay or pay-by-text. The site also warns customers they can pay by credit card, but that a “fee applies.” In fact, Eversource agreed to stop charging residential electric customers a

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Reopened Connecticut Water Case Draws Warning From Top State Regulator

PURA Chair Marissa Gillett warned that the authority’s decision to allow Connecticut Water to raise rates again because of a mistake the company made in a rate case earlier this year would continue to push the burden of proof onto the regulator, making it more difficult to protect customers from unnecessary rate increases. After having their rate increase approved in July, Connecticut Water went back to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority and asked the regulator to allow the company another $2 million in revenue because the company had made an accounting mistake on one specific tax matter in the complex

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PURA Chair Credits New Office For Stepped Up Energy Oversight

In a move that Public Utility Regulatory Authority Chair Marissa Gillett said shows the benefits of her restructuring of the state’s utility regulator, the third-party electric supplier Clearview will pay a $500,000 penalty and leave Connecticut’s energy supplier market for six years to settle claims that the company repeatedly violated marketing laws and in several cases, charging customers higher rates than they should have. The Clearview settlement marks the third time the Public Utility Regulatory Authority’s Office of Education, Outreach and Enforcement has settled claims that third-party suppliers violated marketing regulations since PURA Chair Marissa Gillett started the office in

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TCI a Needed Source of Matching Dollars for Infrastructure, Says Environmental Watchdog

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Heading into next year’s state legislative session, Lori Brown, executive director of Connecticut’s League of Conservation Voters, told CT Examiner that far from eclipsing the Transportation Climate Initiative, the billions of dollars of announced federal infrastructure spending for Connecticut means that the proposed fee on fuel wholesalers is more important than ever. “Connecticut will have to apply for competitive funds from Build Back Better, and we tend to do well applying for competitive funds, but a lot of that will be money our state has to match,” Brown explained. “For anyone who says, we’re getting all of this money now,

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Eversource Warns Of Higher Winter Energy Bills

Eversource is warning customers that high natural gas prices will lead to significantly higher bills for both gas and electric customers this winter – about $30 a month for typical residential gas customers and $20 to $25 a month for residential electric customers. On the company’s third-quarter earnings call Wednesday morning, Eversource CFO Phil Lembo said the company expects the supply portion of its customers’ natural gas bills to be about 20 percent higher than last year – when Lembo said prices were “extremely low.” Overall, Lembo said Eversource expects its customers’ natural gas heating bills will increase about 14

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In a Split Vote, PURA Approves Reduced Penalty for Eversource Response to Isaias

In a settlement with Eversource that was narrowly approved by the Public Utility Regulatory Authority on Wednesday, the company will give its Connecticut electric customers about $35 each in bill credits in exchange for a reduced penalty for its response to Tropical Storm Isaias.  But the state’s chief utility regulator, PURA Chair Marissa Gillette, warned the deal could result in higher costs for customers and make it more difficult for PURA to achieve the goals lawmakers have set for utility regulation in the long run.  The settlement, brokered by Gov. Ned Lamont and Attorney General William Tong, finally resolves the

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Jury Selection Begins for Federal Corruption Case of Former Energy Executives

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Were the ratepayers in six Connecticut towns “victims” in a federal criminal case against a group of former utility executives accused of stealing public funds to pay for lavish annual trips to the Kentucky Derby and golf outings at a West Virginia resort?  That is a key question that will be argued at the upcoming trial of five former officials of a Norwich-based public utility cooperative indicted on charges of theft and conspiracy in the case, recently-filed documents in U.S. District Court in New Haven show.  The defendants were on the board of the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative (CMEEC),

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State Pier Wind Project Seeks Second Deadline Extension

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NEW LONDON — On Friday, the Connecticut Port Authority missed its extended contractual deadline to have federal permits in hand for the redevelopment of State Pier in New London. A clause in the agreement between the port authority and the offshore wind  partnership of Eversource and Ørsted allows the companies to pull back a portion of their $75 million contribution to the $235 million redevelopment project, if permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are delayed. Justin May, spokesman for the partnership, said there are no ongoing negotiations between Ørsted – Eversource and the state that would be affected

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Port Authority Chair Throws Cold Water on Speculation Regarding Quick Departure

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Connecticut Port Authority Board Chair David Kooris told CT Examiner he is not resigning from the board any time soon, despite comments he made at a recent meeting that drove speculation he was setting the table for his departure. “On the one hand, yeah I’ve been planning since I took the position as a volunteer two years ago that at some point I would leave, sure,” Kooris told CT Examiner by phone on Wednesday. “But the more important point is, I’m not resigning. There’s nothing imminent. I haven’t announced or selected a date. This is all a bizarre extrapolation from

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Few Objections to 11-Acre Solar Project Planned for Durham Farmland

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DURHAM — An 11-acre proposed solar project under consideration by the state’s Siting Council has not so far drawn significant objections from its neighbors — or from state agencies, which have primarily criticized the project’s use of about eight acres of farmland and its proximity to wetlands. Proposed by Suffield-based solar developer Louth Callan Renewables, the solar project slated for Haddam Quarter Road in Durham is among the smallest that the siting council will review. With a capacity of 2.8 megawatts, it is just above the 2 MW threshold where the siting council has authority over solar projects. The proposed

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Turmoil at Groton Utilities as Leadership Goes Missing

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GROTON – The head of city-owned Groton Utilities, which serves thousands of customers in southeastern Connecticut, has been placed on indefinite administrative leave pending an investigation, according to sources at the utility with direct knowledge of the matter. Ronald Gaudet, an Old Lyme resident and former Navy officer, Pfizer engineer and director of facilities at UConn, has not been seen for more than a week at the utility he has led since 2015, these sources say, but the nature of the investigation was unclear Friday. Attempts to reach Gaudet at his office today were directed to the office of Groton

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State Regulators Set to Cut Eversource Profits, Trim Customer Rates

In a draft decision this week, state regulators signaled that they would require Eversource to drop its electrical rates starting in November, but also limited the time frame during which the utility would be penalized for what the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority found was an inadequate response in 2020 to Tropical Storm Isaias. Those penalties reportedly played a part in Moody’s downgrading the company’s credit rating outlook to “negative” in June.  After Isaias, state lawmakers asked that PURA consider temporarily trimming Eversource rates by cutting the company’s allowed return on equity. While not going as far as an earlier proposal,

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As Residents Pile Up $280 Million in Utility Bills, Aid Organizations Scramble to Help

Connecticut’s moratorium preventing utility shut offs officially ended on Wednesday, and customers with unpaid balances could soon be receiving notices in the mail that their electricity could be shut off. The state’s largest electric utilities, Eversource and United Illuminating, have reported a total of nearly 900,000 customers with some unpaid electric bills, though a large proportion of those are overdue by less than a month. Data from the utilities for customers already enrolled in payment plans show that the average overdue bill is over $1,000 – as some customers had bills pile up during the moratorium that prevented utility disconnections for

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Tie Vote Deals Surprise Setback to North Stonington Solar Project

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A proposed solar project in North Stonington that has been through months of adjustments to accommodate wetlands on its site was rejected by the Connecticut Siting Council by a 3-3 vote on Thursday. Nashville-based solar developer Silicon Ranch’s proposal to clear-cut 44 acres of woodland to build a 9.9 megawatt solar farm in North Stonington faced opposition from the town and neighbors of the project, who questioned the wisdom of clearing so many trees to build a project on land pock-marked by wetlands, with construction coming within inches of neighboring properties. In a non-binding straw poll taken at the council’s

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Faced with $700,000 Roof Replacement, Middletown Debates Microgrid Offer

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MIDDLETOWN — Faced with the need to replace the roof on the city’s future recreation center sooner than expected, Middletown sought out a creative solution that would not only replace the roof, but create a micro-grid complete with solar generation and battery storage that would allow the city to use the center as a warming/cooling and emergency shelter. As Middletown officials surveyed what remains of the former Woodrow Wilson Middle School – set to become a town recreation center – they realized the roof needed to be replaced sooner than they expected when they sold “phase one” of the building’s

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Connecticut Lawmakers Float Reviving TCI Carbon Cap Program in Special Session

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Increased transportation emissions, despite significant progress in reducing greenhouse gases produced by power plants, leave Connecticut still far behind on its goals to reduce the state’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The findings, part of an annual report by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection concerning the state’s greenhouse emissions, have spurred renewed calls for lawmakers to approve the Transportation and Climate Initiative – a cap-and-trade program that proponents say would generate $1 billion to fund projects that could reduce emissions from transportation, but that opponents say amounts to an unaffordable and regressive gas tax. Carbon

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Despite Pushback from Eversource, PURA Considers Cut to Company’s Rate of Return

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PURA’s Office of Education, Outreach and Enforcement is proposing a significant cut to Eversource’s allowed rate of return on equity, saying the cut would save residential Eversource customers about $93 million a year.  Based on the testimony of Aaron Rothschild, a Ridgefield-based financial consultant who has testified on utility rates of return since 2002, the proposal to cut Eversource’s rate of return from 8.95 percent to about 7.17 percent has drawn support from Attorney General William Tong, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Connecticut Industrial Energy Consumers.  But Eversource says what customers save now, they’ll lose in

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Officials Downplay Missed Permit Deadline for Redeveloping State Pier

NEW LONDON — Representatives of the Connecticut Port Authority and the wind energy partnership between Eversource and Ørsted downplayed the significance of a delay in the permitting process with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to redevelop State Pier.  A dredging permit was expected before the end of August, but that timeline appears unlikely – raising the possibility that the project could exceed a budget that is already being tightly scrutinized by state lawmakers. Port Authority Executive Director John Henshaw said officials “remain hopeful” the permit will be approved shortly — if so, Henshaw said authority officials “remain confident that

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North Stonington Solar Project Wins Provisional Approval

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NORTH STONINGTON — Despite concerns from some council members and town officials about the environmental impact, Connecticut Siting Council members indicated they would narrowly approve a proposed solar project in North Stonington. In an informal straw poll taken during their Thursday meeting, three council members indicated support for a proposal by Nashville-based Silicon Ranch to clear cut about 44 acres around an abandoned gravel quarry in North Stonington to develop the site into a 9.9 megawatt solar farm.  Two council members said they would not support the project given the close proximity of property boundaries, and its potential to disrupt

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After a Near Miss by Henri, State and Local Officials Assess Eversource’s Response

As Connecticut residents avoided the worst of the predicted storm damage from Henri, state and local officials generally praised preparations by Eversource, though the added cost to customers for the additional out-of-state crews remains unclear. For State Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex, co-chair of the legislature’s Energy and Technology committee, Tropical Storm Henri looked like a sort of “fire drill” for Eversource to respond to major storms in the future. Despite forecasts late last week predicting that Connecticut would be hit head-on by hurricane-force winds, and that Eversource customers could lose power for as much as 21 days, sending residents to

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A Will But Not a Way for Lamont’s Transportation and Climate Initiative

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A program that would increase gas prices and raise revenue for projects to reduce pollution from fuel-burning vehicles became one of the most contentious issues in Hartford as the legislative session came to a close last month — and while the legislature is signaling the plan has limited support, it’s not a fight the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont is ready to give up. The Transportation and Climate Initiative, or TCI, would force fuel wholesalers to buy allowances for the amount of pollution generated by their fuel, which proponents say would generate a game-changing $1 billion over 10 years for

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Energy Regulators Shift Costs, Change Formula for Small Businesses in Connecticut

In an effort to help small businesses that have struggled to pay significantly higher electricity rates than other customers, state regulators on Wednesday ordered Eversource to lower fixed costs in two of its commercial rate structures. The changes, which resemble formulas that set consumers rates, will go into effect on Nov. 1. More than 103,500 Eversource commercial customers are currently charged what’s called Rate 30, including small businesses and some schools. These customers pay a fixed rate of $44 per month for the first 2 kW of capacity they need. They pay an additional $14.52 per kW of capacity beyond

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UI Settlement on Overcharges Gets Nod, Performance-based Rates to Move Forward

A settlement agreement for United Illuminating to return money it has overbilled customers is moving forward, say state regulators, after the agreement was amended to address concerns that it could stall the introduction of performance-based rates for Connecticut’s energy providers. Under the settlement, United Illuminating would return the $44.7 million it has overbilled customers since a federal corporate tax cut in 2017. The company also agreed to contribute an additional $5 million which will slightly lower customer rates. Residential customers will see their bills drop by about 5.2 percent starting July 1, in part as a result of the settlement,

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North Stonington Solar Project Attempts Balance of Environmental Priorities

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What started off years ago as a relatively uncontroversial proposal to turn an abandoned gravel quarry located in North Stonington into a 9.9 megawatt solar project, has shifted to a plan to clearcut 44 acres of forestland — North Stonington Solar Park is latest example of friction in Connecticut between two key environmental priorities: renewable energy production and forest preservation.  In 2016, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection set out to meet the legislature’s mandate to contract with developers to build new renewable energy projects to supply the state’s utilities.  The choice of an abandoned quarry was a nod

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Democrats Punt on Carbon Caps as Republicans Claim Victory on Taxes

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As Democratic leaders announced their intention to forgo consideration this year of the multistate Transportation and Climate Initiative — an emissions compact that would also raise gasoline prices — advocates of the policy rallied for them to reconsider, while Republicans claimed victory. Speaker of the House Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, and Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven told reporters on Friday that the Transportation and Climate Initiative pushed by Gov. Ned Lamont and his administration would not come up for a vote this year, according to the Associated Press. The announcement followed weeks of Republicans rallying opposition to initiative, and debates

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‘Prevailing Wage’ for Solar Development Passes, Survives Debates Over Uncertain Cost

Legislators broke largely along party lines in approving a bill that will require developers of large solar projects to pay workers the prevailing wage. The bill faced vocal industry opposition warning that the law will add to the expense of solar energy and slow development of additional solar capacity. On Tuesday night, the House voted to approve the bill by a vote of 89-59 , with one Republican voting “yes” and five Democrats voting “no.” The bill later passed the Senate on Thursday night by a vote of 24-12, with Democrats voting in favor and Republicans opposed.  The debate in

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472-foot Ship ‘Charybdis’ to Install Wind Turbines out of New London

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RICHMOND, VA. — Ørsted and Eversource have agreed to charter the first Jones Act-qualified offshore wind turbine installation vessel in the United States from Dominion Energy for the construction of two offshore wind farms located in the waters off New England.  Dominion Energy, Ørsted and Eversource announced the contract on Monday for the 472-foot ship, named Charybdis, which will operate first from State Pier in New London to install Ørsted-Eversource’s 704-MW Revolution Wind and 924-MW Sunrise Wind farms.  Neither Dominion Energy nor Eversource would disclose the cost of the charter agreement due to “commercially sensitive information.” Ørsted could not be

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Report: 1 in 10 Chance Electricity Needs Outstrip Supply this Summer in New England

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Summer heat always carries the risk of power shortages as electric customers use more power to keep themselves cool, but a new industry report says predictions based on extreme and less likely weather scenarios could result in power shortages in New England this summer. Those scenarios are based on above average levels of heat and humidity that have a one-in-ten chance of happening. A report the North American Electric Reliability Council released on Wednesday identifies New England as one of five regional electric grids where demand for electricity is likely to exceed available supply if temperatures are higher than normal.

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