Republicans unveil plan to lower rising electric bills

Republicans unveiled a plan Tuesday to lower Connecticut electric bills around $210 per year. It shifts a dozen fees that are currently included in electric bills to the state budget – where taxpayers may ultimately foot the cost.
"Government needs to step to the table, stop the short-term political rhetoric, and come up with some viable solutions,” said state Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford), the Connecticut House minority leader.
The proposal, called “A Better Way to Energy Affordability,” also outlines longer-term cost-cutting ideas, including changes to how utilities procure electricity.
"I don't care if you're in a boardroom or a barbershop, this is the conversation,” said state Sen. Kevin Kelly (R-Stratford), the Senate Republican leader.
In the short term, GOP lawmakers want to eliminate a dozen state charges baked into your power bill. They include fees that maintain power infrastructure across the state. Others include a "Systems Benefits Charge,” which helps customers behind on their payments; a "Renewable Energy Investment Charge” to promote green energy development; and a "Conservation Adjustment Mechanism Charge" for energy efficiency programs.
"The only thing that should be on our electric bill is the cost of the electricity,” said Kelly. “There shouldn't be anything else there."
Republican leaders estimate the total yearly savings at $362 million. But you could still end up paying for many of those things; they'd just be shifted into the state budget.
“They are social programs,” said state Sen Ryan Fazio (R-Greenwich). “The cost and benefit needs to be examined and the funding shouldn’t be embedded in the bills out of plain sight when they are.”
As for Democrats, they're vowing to work with their GOP counterparts.
“I’m willing to hear out what my colleagues have to say, as any new proposals should be considered and weighed on their merits,” said state Rep. Norm Needleman (D-Essex), co-chair of the legislature’s Energy & Technology Committee. “Already in this winter, the state bolstered the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program to provide up to thousands of dollars for families in need. Leaders have created a customer relief plan helping carve back some of the recent energy cost increases ratepayers recently saw.”
Both sides agree that Connecticut's big problem is a lack of electric suppliers – the companies that actually generate power. Eversource and United Illuminating bills will go up around 50% this month because of the supply charges both utilities have to pay.
Lawmakers say Connecticut utilities need more bulk power providers to choose from.
"We need to give them reason to come back to Connecticut,” said state Rep. Bill Buckbee (R-New Milford). “These people that have jumped ship and don't want to do business here – that are down in Delaware and Pennsylvania and doing business elsewhere – what are we doing wrong?"
Longer-term, both parties want to look at more nuclear power and more hydropower from Canada. The state is also committed to purchasing a large portion of offshore wind power later this decade.