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Connecticut's two major utilities call for reform to energy markets to combat rising prices

BERLIN, CT - JULY 31, 2020: Brian Bonas 57, of Newington climbs the hill to a rally to protest an electricity rate hike near the Eversource building in Berlin on July 31, 2020 in Berlin, Connecticut.
Joe Amon
/
Connecticut Public
Brian Bonas of Newington climbs the hill to a rally to protest an electricity rate hike near the Eversource building in Berlin, Conn., on July 31, 2020.

Utilities Eversource and United Illuminating spoke Tuesday with legislators on Connecticut’s Energy and Technology Committee to discuss a massive rate hike that hit the bills of residential electric customers starting Jan. 1.

Consumer advocates, state legislators and utility leaders have said the price hikes aren’t the direct fault of the utilities.

The war in Ukraine upended global energy markets and introduced more volatility into the market for a major component of Connecticut’s fuel mix: natural gas. State law lets utilities pass costs for buying power directly to consumers. Eversource and UI said they are making no profit on the price hike, which state regulators approved.

Still, customers are paying more. According to Eversource, Connecticut residential customers are paying at least $50 more than they did last year for their energy bills.

James Daly, vice president of energy supply at Eversource, said there is a lack of natural gas supply in the northeast, which is contributing to high prices the region is experiencing.

“We have to fix this structural deficiency that we have in the marketplace. It’ll persist during this transition, unless we procure more fuel for the region,” Daly said.

Eversource proposed the “Clean Energy Future” plan to transition from natural gas dependencies to alternative sources through a “bridge fuel” that has not yet been determined. However, the company said its goal is to be carbon neutral by the year 2030. This plan aims to lower regional energy market prices.

Frank Reynolds, president and CEO of United Illuminating, told members of the committee that “the increase in energy supply prices, set by out-of-state generation companies and driven by a broken power market in New England, is harming our customers and hardworking families across Connecticut.”

Reynolds said his company worked to mitigate a portion of the $80 price spike that the typical Connecticut family is seeing on its bill this winter, but that “long-term, sustainable solutions” are needed to reduce energy costs in the region.

Meanwhile, he said, out-of-state energy generation companies are raking in billions of dollars in profits.

“It is time for the generation companies, which are profiting from these price hikes at the expense of hardworking Connecticut families, to come to the table, as we have, and provide financial relief to the customers suffering the burden of these costs,“ Reynolds said. “It is simply the right thing to do, and with these energy supply costs hitting customers this month, long overdue.”

Updated: February 9, 2023 at 12:23 PM EST
This story has been updated.
Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.