You could actually see the heat rising off the parking lot of the Manchester Senior Center where Gov. Dannel P. Malloy stopped Friday to offer tips for staying cool and promote an energy reform bill he signed on July 1.
On the hottest day so far this year, Malloy had a few tips for Connecticut residents dealing with the heat wave. Drink a lot of water and stay away from caffeine and alcohol, he said. The governor is also a strong advocate of showers, which he said is one of the quickest ways to lower your body temperature.
“If you can’t jump in a pool, you can jump in the shower. It doesn’t have to be a cold shower it just has to be below your body temperature and almost instantly you will receive a level of comfort,” he said.
Malloy said designated cooling centers have been set up around the state. He recommended residents call 211 for their locations. There has already been activity on the 211 system but it hasn’t been overwhelming, he said. People are starting to become familiar with the locations of cooling centers and municipalities have done a good job getting the word out, he said.
If this exceptionally hot day fell on a Tuesday or Wednesday, Malloy said he would be concerned that the power grid would be unable to handle the added strain of increased air conditioner use. But on a Friday before the weekend he said the strain isn’t as bad.
He said he hadn’t received any indication from utility companies that there would be any blackouts.
“Connecticut has done a pretty good job installing peaking facilities. I wouldn’t be shocked to see one or two of them have to kick in but I think there’s enough room in the system to meet demands,” he said. “Having said that, I’m holding my breath.”
He and Sen. Steve Cassano, D-Manchester, also talked about the recently-signed energy reform bill, which they said will lower the cost of electricity in Connecticut. The 280-page bill makes sweeping changes to the state’s energy policy.
Malloy said he believes changes in the reform will lead to about a 7 percent reduction in energy cost over the next 12 months.
The new law changes the way the state buys electricity. Formerly, Connecticut purchased energy in three-year blocks. This helped the state cling to lower rates when natural gas prices were climbing. But prices have been falling recently and because of that long-term buying policy, the Connecticut electricity bills have been slow to reflect the benefits.
The new law changes the process “to a more managed portfolio system,” Malloy said, “which is more in keeping with what the other states in New England are doing.”
The average energy costs in the rest of New England were 18 percent lower than Connecticut, he said.
Other aspects of the bill include the ability to discount energy to low income families and senior citizens. It creates competitive zero emission and low emission programs to support new energy technology, he said.
“We don’t intend to pick winners [among new technologies]. We do intend to be price sensitive,” he said.
Malloy admitted it was a strange day to be talking about heating costs but said the bill allows the state to subsidize the replacement of outdated heating systems.
It also lets towns pass legislation to finance such upgrades and allow the loans to be paid off through property tax bills, he said. The debt would appear like a tax surcharge and would be transferred with the property if it were sold.
“It’s a great way to lower emissions in our state. It’s a great way to impact that relatively quickly,” he said.
The newly-created Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is responsible for implementing the changes, Malloy said.
In addition to the policy changes, the language of the state budget eliminated a 5 percent surcharge tacked on to the electric bills of Connecticut Light and Power customers.
Cassano offered some examples of the impact of that 5 percent reduction. Five percent off last month’s electricity bill for the day care center he runs would have been $61, he said. It would have meant $20 off his home bill last month, he said. It would have been $73,000 off the CL&P bill for the town of Manchester last year, he said.
“Imagine what it’s like for Pratt and Whitney and the small companies across the state because the biggest, the largest and the most hurtful cost of the price of business is the utility cost,” he said.