High Energy Costs Hit CT Residents - Gov. Lamont Introduces Energy Action Plan to Help with Energy Affordability

HARTFORD, CT – On January 11, Governor Ned Lamont announced a statewide strategy funded by federal and state dollars to provide energy assistance to Connecticut residents in the short term and to improve affordability and reliability in the long term.

By Emanuela Palmares

According to data from the Energy Information Administration, Connecticut had the second-highest residential electric bills on average in 2021, second only to Hawaii.

United Illuminating and Eversource are considered the two of the most expensive investor-owned utilities in the country, based on a price per kilowatt-hour basis. 

According to reporting by the CT Mirror, back in November of 2022, both Eversource and United Illuminating notified state regulators that the price their customers pay for power generation would jump by roughly 50 percent in January 2023.

United Illuminating, which powers homes and businesses in Bridgeport, New Haven, and 15 surrounding towns, said its average power customer would soon need to pay roughly $79 more per month for electricity.

And Eversource, which supplies electricity to customers in Hartford, Stamford, Danbury, New London, and 145 other towns, said its average customer would likely need to pay an additional $84 per month due to the rising cost of natural gas and the price of power production in the Northeastern United States.

The increase has affected the electric bills for roughly 1.5 million power customers in Connecticut.

“Our mission right now is to ensure that electricity will be reliable and that assistance and relief will be available to residents when they need it this winter. Thanks to our tremendous Congressional delegation, there is support for the folks who need it most, but subsidies don’t last forever. That’s why I’m also grateful to our delegation for supporting the policies, grants, and tax credits we need to reduce the underlying cost of energy in our state and across the region,” said Governor Lamont, adding, “Our long-term strategy further diversifies our energy sources by investing in clean energy and energy efficiency to get us off the fossil fuel rollercoaster.”

The Short Term

In December of 2022, Governor Lamont announced that the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) would allow all participating households that heat with deliverable fuels, such as home heating oil, to receive an additional crisis assistance benefit worth $430 this winter season, above the amount they were already able to receive. Coupled with the existing basic benefit and crisis assistance benefits, the additional benefit means those families can now access up to $2,320 per household to help pay their heating bills.

The additional benefit is funded thanks to an additional $20 million secured for CEAP in a Congressional omnibus spending package passed late last year and an additional $30 million in State American Rescue Plan Act funding allocated to CEAP by Governor Lamont and the state legislature in November of 2022.

That same month, Governor Lamont and Consumer Counsel Claire Coleman, together with Eversource and United Illuminating, announced a customer relief plan that includes a bill credit 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 a program 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.

Households seeking assistance through CEAP should apply online at ct.gov/heatinghelp or contact their local community action agency. Additional assistance is available by calling 2-1-1. Those seeking assistance from Operation Fuel should visit operationfuel.org.

“Everywhere I travel across our state, I hear again and again from people fearful and angry about the crushing cost of home heating bills. This $5 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program will deliver real relief to Connecticut families when they need it most. No one should ever have to choose between putting food on their table, keeping the lights on, or heating their home, and thanks to this funding, fewer people will face those tough choices this winter,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal.

The Long Term

The state’s long-term strategy to improve energy affordability and reliability includes:

Building a cleaner, more affordable, and more reliable energy supply. 

  • Offshore Wind: To date, Connecticut has contracted for 1,108 MW of offshore wind. Along with other New England states, Connecticut is exploring strategic investments in new transmission to bring this power to shore to power homes and buildings.
  • Hydropower: The state is exploring opportunities to build new regional transmission for large-scale hydropower energy from Canada.
  • Nuclear: The state’s contracts with the Millstone and Seabrook nuclear facilities prevented premature retirements that would have jeopardized winter grid reliability, increased New England grid emissions by 20%, and cost ratepayers $1.8 billion to replace.
  • Other Clean Energy Resources: Since 2012, the state has procured approximately 1 GW of solar, land-based wind, and other renewables, of which 433 MW are now operational. Additional procurements of grid-scale storage and renewables (such as solar, small-scale hydropower, and onshore wind) are planned for 2023.

Building energy efficiency and electrification. 

  • Connecticut’s energy efficiency and building retrofit programs have a strong track record of success and have been recognized as some of the best in the nation. In 2021, the Conservation and Load Management (C&LM) programs – also known as EnergizeCT programs – generated more than $62 million in savings for Connecticut residents and businesses. The energy-saving investments funded by the 2022-2024 C&LM plan are projected to provide more than $1.7 billion in cumulative benefits.
  • The state has multiple building programs focused on enabling or completing weatherization upgrades in homes of income-eligible residents, including the Weatherization Assistance Program and the Residential Energy Preparation Services program.
  • Together, these programs deliver $800 in services to the average program participant and help them realize $180 to $250 in annual energy bill savings. These programs increase decarbonization and reliability and advance equity by removing barriers to participation, providing customers with efficient technology, and strengthening workforce development.

Capitalizing on historic federal funding opportunities. 

  • The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is leveraging the historic funding opportunities available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act in pursuit of this strategy. Both laws offer options to fund clean energy resources, including transmission, and potential tax credits for clean energy production. The Inflation Reduction Act also provides tax credits and rebates for energy efficiency and electrification upgrades.

 “Until we further diversify and clean up the grid, we will remain at the mercy of volatile price swings in the energy market. 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,” said Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes.