FAZIO: Addressing our sky-high electricity bills

Submitted by Ryan Fazio, candidate for State Senate 36th district for Greenwich and parts of Stamford and New Canaan

Having not heard much about it from their elected officials, people in Greenwich, Stamford, and New Canaan have been asking me about the massive increase in their July electricity bills from Eversource.
This is especially painful for families, not only because of the economic recession, but also because Connecticut had the highest electricity costs in the continental United States already.

Based on my research and consultation with energy professionals, there are two major causes:

First is a fee set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for transmission system improvements made regionally by the New England electric grid operator. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has input into transmission planning but ultimately these costs are required under federal law.

The second, and bigger culprit, is a large payment for a supply contract with the Millstone nuclear power that provides a large fraction of all the power generated in the state, and an even larger portion of the low-emission power. This payment is a product of the state government’s decisions.

At first glance, the charge is like a bailout for the financially strained plant. The reasons for its financial struggles are more complex. The state has forced Eversource and United Illuminating to enter into subsidized supply contracts with politically preferred providers for years, mostly solar and wind related, which diminished returns for cheaper, zero-carbon providers like Millstone.

Regardless of whether the previous penalization of Millstone or its bailout was the wrong thing, the failure clearly lies with state government. Taxes and red tape are crushing middle class and working class families in our district. Not only have they caused sky-high utility costs, but also the decimation of high-skill manufacturing jobs and industry in our state which used to be a beacon for it.

Having worked for years in the renewable energy space, I am committed to finding economic and environmentally sound solutions for our state. Government must help preserve clean water and clean air and, in the process, not destroy jobs or force our most vulnerable families into poverty. There is a better way.