On a catwalk overlooking the barren ground of what will be the AI Tech Center in Hartford, Ned Lamont, one of two Democratic candidates for governor, unveiled his energy plan for Connecticut Wednesday.
“Going green is also about jobs and about putting people back to work,” Lamont declared with his running mate Simsbury First Selectwoman Mary Glassman by his side.
“As the governor’s race heats up and we talk a lot about jobs, we talk a lot about puttin our people back to work, we also have to remember we are leaders,” Lamont said before outlining his strategy to lower the cost of electricity.
“For years the politicians have been saying we’re going to bring down the high price of electricity…and for years we’ve been seeing the price of electricity go up and up and up,” Lamont said. “It takes more than rhetoric; it takes a strategy from a governor who is willing to take the lead to bring down the price of electricity over time.”
As part of Lamont’s strategy to lower electricity cost he proposed allowing the utility companies to purchase electricity over a period of 10 to 15 years, like they were able to before the market was deregulated back in 1998.
“In exchange for that certainty in price you will see a reduction in costs to that homeowner,” Lamont said explaining how the longer term contract would impact the electricity market.
Currently utilities are only allowed to purchase electricity in one-to-three year increments.
He said in state’s like Vermont go and buy electricity on a longer term basis making its rates 20 percent lower than Connecticuts rates, which are some of the highest in the continental United States. He said this isn’t for all of the state’s energy, but for some of it.
Lamont said his plan also looks at fully restoring the Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funds, which help homeowners and businesses lower their costs with energy audits and the installation of green technologies like solar panels.
The General Assembly and Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell passed a budget this year which takes 30 percent of the Energy Efficiency fund, which helps pay off close to $1 billion in economic recovery notes that the state used to help erase the deficit. The money will be paid back over an eight-year period with $30 million annually coming from the Energy Efficiency fund.
Lamont believes the decision to use those funds to plug the deficit was “extraordinarily shortsighted.“
“What I would do is bring that back to full funding,” Lamont said. “I think it represents real jobs of people right here and it helps us get our economy going.”
When former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy, Lamont’s Democratic opponent, unveiled his own energy plan earlier this month he said he would not have taken close to $30 million from those funds to balance the budget had he been governor.
Asked if he would attempt to find an alternative way to balance the budget starting in January 2011, Malloy said “as I understand it a condition of the bonds is that fee, so I don’t think I’d have the power to do it.”
“I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it if I had the power,” he added.
When asked what he thought about Lamont’s energy plan, which also includes the pursuit of using more renewable energy sources, Malloy said there are many things he agrees with in Lamont’s plan.
“Where I think our energy plans differ though is in my fundamental belief that our ability to make progress here will have less to do with contracts and more to do with consumption,” Malloy said. “That’s why I’ve called for a statewide energy efficiency drive with a goal of reducing our energy usage by 15 percent over the next two years, making Connecticut one of the most energy efficient states in the nation. I will personally lead this drive.”
As far as the controversial energy reform legislation Rell vetoed, Lamont said he would have signed the bill.
“I would have signed the legislation. I thought it was a good start,” Lamont said. “Look when I get elected governor I’m going to bring an energy bill back to the table.”