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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Non-Residential Customers Face Shutoffs for Unpaid Gas and Electric Bills Starting June 15

Gas and electric utilities will be allowed to disconnect non-residential customers with unpaid bills starting June 15, state regulators announced on Thursday. “While there was never an ideal time for this to occur, this is an important transition as we return to our new normal,” Public Utilities Regulatory Authority Chair Marissa Gillett said in a written statement.  Utilities have been barred from disconnecting customers over unpaid bills since March 12, 2020, an early response to the economic toll of government-ordered pandemic protections. PURA is still evaluating whether customer notices are sufficient for most utilities to start shutting off residential customers

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Connecticut Residential Customers Should See Lower Rates Starting in July

Residential customers of either of the state’s two major electric utilities will see their monthly electric rates decrease this July. Starting July 1, Eversource customers rates will decrease by about 4 percent, and United Illuminating customers’ rates will decrease by about 6 percent. That amounts to about $9.50 for the “typical” residential Eversource customer using 700 kWh of electricity each month, and about $9 for the typical United Illuminating residential customer, according to the Public Utility Regulatory Authority. Because electric customers tend to use more electricity in the hot summer months, however, the actual amount of the bill may still

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Local Startup Aims to Expand Offshore Wind Business into New Jersey, Maryland

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NEW LONDON — Sea Services North America has begun hiring fishermen to provide marine services and safe navigation for offshore wind projects, including the joint ventures of Ørsted and Eversource in the Northeast.  “Our mission is to increase fishermen safety, provide opportunity to the fishermen, while supplying scouts and safety vessels to offshore developers,” said Gordon Videll, chief executive officer and co-founder of Sea Services North America, based in Waterford.  The company’s collaboration with Ørsted and Eversource brings together fishermen from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York to provide monitoring services and support vessels during the construction of offshore

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Regulators Ink Amnesty Deal Returning $9.4 Million to Third-Party Electric Customers

Twenty-two third-party electric suppliers admitting to charging customers higher than expected rates have agreed to return a total of $9.4 million to those customers. State utility regulators at PURA offered amnesty to civil penalties to any supplier that voluntarily admitted that it charged customers higher rates than it told them it would in the “Next Cycle Rate” section on their bills. In each case, the supplier caused the issue by failing to provide utilities with the right information, sometimes for months or years, according to PURA. Twenty-two suppliers agreed to “amnesty agreements” that require them to return the $9.4 million

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For About a Third of Households, Paying the Electric Bill is a Struggle

When Mercia Ordine lost her job last March, she quickly fell behind on the $200-a-month electric bills in her 600-square-foot, two-bedroom Fairfield apartment. Ordine is far from alone.  Electricity was expensive in Connecticut before the pandemic, and the poorest residents have always struggled to pay their bills. But the pandemic has caused a wider range of people to struggle with electric bills, said Brenda Watson, executive director of Operation Fuel. The assistance program was created during the energy crisis of 1977 as a way to help low-income families who fell through the cracks of government assistance programs. It’s funded primarily

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As Vineyard Wind Gets Go Ahead, Long-Term Costs for Consumers Remain Cloudy

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With federal approval of an 84-turbine, 800 megawatt wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts on Tuesday, the path is now clear for a number of outsized wind projects planned off the coast of the northeastern United States. Vineyard Wind, located in the Atlantic Ocean south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, will be the first utility-scale offshore wind project in the U.S., following a much smaller 30 MW Block Island wind project off of Rhode Island and a 12 MW pilot project for Dominion Energy off the coast of Virginia. The $2 billion Vineyard Wind project will provide Massachusetts with

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Eversource Facing $30 Million Fine for Storm Efforts, and UI $2.1 Million

Eversource and United Illuminating were warned today that each could pay millions of dollars in fines for what regulators say are failures to respond appropriately to Tropical Storm Isaias last August. On Thursday, both companies were issued notices of violations for what regulators at PURA say are failures to comply with performance standards and accident reporting requirements set by state law.  Eversource faces fines totaling $30 million and United Illuminating faces fines of $2.1 million. The authorities can request a hearing to dispute PURA’s findings.  The fines can be implemented in multiple ways, including as a customer bill credit, according

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Middletown Council Tables Effort to Withdraw From Power Plant Agreement

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MIDDLETOWN – Despite council members’ objections to plans to build a new natural gas-fired turbine at a Middletown power plant, efforts to end a tax agreement with the plant’s owner have been put temporarily on hold. Mayor Ben Florsheim said during the Common Council meeting Monday night that Princeton, New Jersey-based NRG is open to pursuing a “mutual withdrawal or termination” from a tax stabilization agreement for the company’s power plant on the Connecticut River in south Middletown, which the council approved in 2019. The council voted to table the motion to end the agreement, and to take the measure

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Regulators Condemn Eversource and UI Storm Response, Cut Fixed Rates of Return

In uncharacteristically strong language, state utility regulators condemned Eversource and United Illuminating and ordered changes and financial penalties for their responses to Tropical Storm Isaias last August. The board of PURA — the state’s regulator of utilities — on Wednesday unanimously affirmed the findings of the authority’s investigation into the utilities’ responses to the damaging storm that left hundreds of thousands of people without power, some for over a week, last summer. The authority found that Eversource failed to sufficiently prepare to respond to the storm, in particular failing to secure enough outside help in the early days of the

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Officials Warn UI Settlement Would Delay ‘Take Back Our Grid’ Reforms

Gov. Ned Lamont and Attorney General William Tong announced a settlement agreement six weeks ago that they said would give needed relief to customers of United Illuminating by returning money the company has been over-collecting since the federal corporate tax rate was reduced from 35 to 21 percent in 2017. On Monday, the merits of that settlement were sharply questioned by state regulators, who warned that the deal could lock customers into a higher rate for the next two years than might be necessary without the settlement, and could frustrate performance-based reforms the state legislature ordered last year. In the

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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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