Christine Stuart photo
Legislative leaders along with the Attorney General and the Office of the Consumer Counsel asked the Department of Public Utility Control to postpone a vote on bids to reduce the impact of Federally Mandated Congestion Charges. The bids are due by 5 p.m. today. What’s at stake if the DPUC acts?“The current DPUC process threatens the ability of this legislative leadership to solve the deregulation problem in the next legislative session,” Joe Rosenthal from the Office of the Consumer Counsel said Wednesday. Why?
Because the legislation allows these proposals to extend out as long as 15 years, which would tie the legislature’s hands if they were approved, state Sen. Steve Fontana, chairman of the Energy and Technology Committee, said. Most of the proposals, according to legislators Wednesday, were based on new capacity, not the generation of electricity. If these bids were approved, it would be like if you bought a cow, but didn’t buy the milk the cow produces, Fontana said.Majority Leader Christopher Donovan, D-Meriden, said he had initially received assurances from the Chairman of the DPUC Donald Downes that the DPUC would hold off on a vote, but that Downes was not “holding to that commitment.” Legislators will gather Dec. 20 before the start of the new session Jan. 3 to come up with a new energy policy for the state. The resulting legislation is expected to pass within the first six weeks of the session. Several years ago when the legislature approved the deregulation of the electricity market legislators were told about all of the upsides of a competitive market and weren’t told any of the downsides, state Rep. Vickie Nardello, D-Prospect, said Wednesday. “No one said anything negative,” she said. Now Connecticut has the second highest electrical rates in the nation, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said. The only state with higher rates is Hawaii. “Now it’s time to fix, what we as a legislature created,” Nardello said. But who should consumers trust when it was the legislators who got them into this mess. Recently it was also legislators who tried to get consumers out of this mess by trying to convince the DPUC not to approve a rate hike for Connecticut Light and Power customers. They were unsuccessful at bending the DPUC’s ear because the state regulators approved a 7.7 percent rate increase Friday, despite pleas from Gov. M. Jodi Rell to delay the increase until the General Assembly takes up the issue next month.For customers who do not use electricity for heat, the average increase will be 6.9 percent, or about $8.75 more per month, regulatory agency spokeswoman Beryl Lyons told the Associated Press Friday. The proposed 38 percent United illuminated rate hike not yet been approved. Where do we go from here?Rosenthal said New Hampshire and Vermont did not fully deregulate and they have “profoundly cheaper electricity rates.” He said the problem is one of market design and market power abuse. “We have the ability to fix the problem, but we can’t have our hands tied by the DPUC.” Click here to read an article written in the Hartford Advocate back in 2001 three years after the approval of deregulation. The author Ed Ericson was able to foresee the problems the state would have in a deregulated market place. Click here to read the New York Times article today about the same issue.