Electricity rates may have gone down slightly over the past few months, but the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is proposing a rate increase of about $4 to $7 per month for electricity and natural gas customers to help fund energy-efficiency programs.

The proposal is based on a “broader strategy that does not rely simply on ratepayer money, but increasingly looks to leverage private capital through our Green Bank,” DEEP Commissioner Daniel C. Esty said Monday in a conference call with reporters.

It calls for nearly doubling annual spending on energy efficiency from $122 million to $231 million for each of the next three years.

Jessie Stratton, policy director for the DEEP, said energy-efficiency always has been measured in ratepayer dollar investment and under this proposal the agency is “proposing a significant increase in ratepayer investment for efficiency we are . . . trying to marry that with much greater private investment.”

She said that based on how electricity is structured and how rates are calculated “everyone benefits when we reduce energy consumption.”

The legislation that allowed for the hike to occur was passed during the 2013 legislative session. But lawmakers won’t necessarily get the last word. The public still will get a chance to weigh in on the proposal at a public hearing Sept. 10.

After hearing public comment, DEEP’s Bureau of Energy and Technology Policy will finalize its proposal and forward it to the Public Utility Regulatory Authority. PURA regulators will then implement the Conservation Adjustment Mechanism to fund the expanded efficiency programs. A finalized plan is expected to be approved in the fall.

During the conference call Monday, Esty and DEEP officials stressed that fully-funded efficiency programs will:
—create 5,500 new jobs in our state
—improve air quality by reducing pollution emissions 5 to 10 percent, and;
—help make the state a national leader in innovative approaches to achieving cost-effective energy efficiency.

Environmental groups, whose members found themselves at odds with the Malloy administration during the legislative session, praised the proposal.

“Increased funding for energy efficiency is a great way to invest in Connecticut’s economy while improving our air quality,” Roger Reynolds, director of climate programs for the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, said in a statement.

William Dornbos, Connecticut director for Environment Northeast, said the draft decision “is a strong and sensible move toward eliminating costly energy waste in Connecticut.”

That waste acts as a major drag on Connecticut’s economy — currently, the state’s consumers and businesses spend $400 million annually buying power they do not need, Dornbos said.

Esty said the $122 million annual investment the state makes in energy efficiency has leveraged $40 million in private capital. The energy savings are even greater.

“Last year alone, for example, Connecticut’s energy efficiency programs captured lifetime savings of approximately $590 million on behalf of in-state consumers and businesses,” Dornbos said.

Residents and businesses who take advantage of the efficiency programs see “immediate and dramatic savings on their bill — with $3 to $4 in savings typically achieved for every $1 invested in energy efficiency,” Esty said.

The list of programs Esty is talking about are at EnergizeCT.com.

The public hearing on the proposal will be held at 9 a.m. on Sept. 10 at the DEEP’s New Britain offices.