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Amid funding cuts, Enfield manufacturer finds energy-efficiency program a worthy investment

Fewer participants have found their way into EnergizeCT programs this year due to a $117 million raid by state lawmakers on the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, which is staked from a sliver of customers’ monthly light bills.

The controversial raid, which prompted a lawsuit from the energy-efficiency industry, helped plug a hole in the state’s General Fund budget.

However, it also “means Connecticut will do about half the electric efficiency it did in 2017,” according to William Dornbos, advocacy director at Acadia Center, a New England nonprofit promoter of clean, efficient energy use.

Read the full article from Hartford Business here.

Eversource Customers To See Rates Rise Under PURA Decision

PURA’s decision also lowers the fixed fee Eversource customers are charged, regardless of how much electricity they use, from $19.25 to under $9.50 a month.

Katz said that reduction will primarily benefit lower-income Eversource customers and consumers that significantly reduce their electricity use. She said most residential consumers will see their overall Eversource bills rise by that $5.40 per month.

“By enacting this significant reduction, Connecticut brings the state’s residential customer charges down to levels that are comparable with national best practices and recognizes that high fixed charges run counter to consumer interests and a clean energy future,” said Mark LeBel, staff attorney for the activist group Acadia Center.

The 50 percent cut in fixed charges was mandated under legislation passed by the 2015 General Assembly to limit residential customer charges.

Read the full article from the Hartford Courant here.

Budget Plan To Raid Clean Energy Funds Draws Fire

“I do think it would have a devastating effect,” William Dornbos, a spokesman for the energy activist organization Acadia Center, said of early reports that the bipartisan budget proposal would rely in part on taking those energy funds.

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“If the proposed severe cuts in energy efficiency and clean energy ratepayer funds happen, Connecticut’s economy, quality of life, and fight against local air pollution and climate change will suffer a major setback,” Dornbos said.

He warned that, Connecticut will immediately start bleeding good-paying efficiency and solar jobs to other neighboring states that are investing more, not less, in these promising economic sectors,” according to Dornbos.

“This will hurt in multiple ways… These ratepayer-funded programs drive in-state job growth and economic activity that put many millions of dollars in tax revenue into the state treasury,” Dornbos said. “Ratepayer fund raids just make state budget deficits worse.”

Read the full story from the Hartford Courant here.

Why raiding Connecticut’s Energy Efficiency Fund is a bad idea

Op-ed by Bill Dornbos and Taren O’Connor in the CT Mirror.

As we try to address our state budget crisis, one option proposed by the Senate Republicans should be off the table: sweeping $136 million over the next two fiscal years from the utility ratepayer-funded Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund to the state’s General Fund.

The Energy Efficiency Fund generates immense economic value for Connecticut. It brings billions of dollars in electricity and natural gas bill savings to residents and businesses, drives our growing clean energy economy, helps families reduce the difficult burden of high energy costs, and supplies significant state tax revenue by fueling private sector growth. This Fund is a good deal for Connecticut’s consumers.

Fund raid proponents say their proposal is a simple movement of taxpayer funds from a state program to the General Fund, i.e., moving money from one state pocket to another. In reality, this proposal would impose a new energy tax on consumers.

Energy efficiency programs are funded primarily through a small charge on electric and natural gas bills, not by any state taxes. These funds are an investment by utility consumers in energy efficiency programs, a wise investment as these programs save consumers money on electric bills multiple times over the cost of the investment. Redirecting these funds to the General Fund would take money collected from ratepayers for energy efficiency programs and give it to the state — creating an energy tax on ratepayers at the expense of cost-saving, job-boosting programs.

And, if that wasn’t bad enough, the proposed cut is also severe – equal on an annual basis to about one-third of the Fund’s current budget for electric efficiency. A cut of this magnitude would undermine Connecticut’s nationally-acclaimed energy efficiency programs. Since 2010, these programs have generated about 27 billion kilowatt hours in lifetime energy savings—more than the annual generation of the Millstone nuclear power plant. These energy savings equal over $5.5 billion in savings on customers’ energy bills. This is help consumers need.

The Fund raid would rob consumers of energy efficiency’s tangible benefits. The lost bill savings alone would ultimately cost Connecticut’s residents and businesses at least $640 million in lifetime bill savings, and perhaps more, since the proposed sweep would require deep cuts to statewide program services like energy audits for households and businesses, technical assistance to commercial and industrial customers, insulation upgrades, strategic energy management for large energy consumers, and efficient heating and cooling equipment installations.

The impact would fall hardest on the neediest households, which often struggle to manage Connecticut’s high energy costs. Currently, income-eligible residents can qualify for free energy audits and other energy efficiency upgrades. About 12,000 low-income households received program help with weatherizing their homes and reducing their energy costs in 2016. A $136 million cut would put as many as 8,000 low-income households at risk of falling behind on their energy bills, while at the same time imposing a new regressive energy tax that would disproportionately burden this vulnerable population.

A raid of the Energy Efficiency Fund would also cripple Connecticut’s clean energy economy. A 2017 U.S. Department of Energy report found that Connecticut’s efficiency programs created nearly 34,000 jobs. We would see immediate job losses if proposed cuts were enacted. These job losses, combined with lost bill savings, would be felt statewide, as about $930 million in Gross State Product would be lost. That’s new economic growth Connecticut sorely needs.

The proposed raid would also worsen the problem it’s trying to solve, ironically enough. The proposed cuts, and associated job losses, would reduce revenue from state income and sales taxes by about $30 million dollars through FY 2019. And if energy efficiency activity collapses, which is possible due to the cut’s severity, the total tax revenue lost over the next two fiscal years could be significantly more. Turns out, raiding the Energy Efficiency Fund just creates another budget hole.

In the end, a $136 million cut to our energy efficiency programs to help fill an unrelated state deficit will set Connecticut’s clean energy economy back for years and transform a prudent investment with a strong return on investment for ratepayers into a harmful energy tax. We urge the General Assembly to reject this transparent budget gimmick. Connecticut’s consumers deserve better.

Taren O’Connor is an Associate Rate Specialist with the Connecticut Office of Consumer Counsel. Bill Dornbos is the Connecticut Director and Senior Attorney for Acadia Center. Together, they serve as Chair and Vice Chair of the state’s Energy Efficiency Board, but do not represent the Board in this piece.

Forum: We need to reduce energy costs, not tax ratepayers

Op-ed by Bill Dornbos and John Harrity in the New Haven Register.

The Senate Republican proposal to raid ratepayer funds for energy efficiency and renewable energy would decimate successful programs that reduce energy costs for Connecticut businesses and families. But that’s not all. Their proposal would also stifle job growth in the state’s rapidly expanding energy efficiency and solar industries, and it’s about the worst thing Connecticut could do as the harmful impacts of climate change become more apparent every day.

The Senate Republicans’ revised budget would not only divert $68 million annually from Connecticut’s award-winning energy efficiency programs into the General Fund for the next two fiscal years — a major cut that would reduce electric efficiency programs by about one-third — but it would also plunder almost half of the ratepayer funding for Connecticut Green Bank and its renewable energy programs.

In doing so, the Senate Republicans would convert cost-effective investments that save consumers money into a new energy tax on ratepayers to shore up the state’s budget deficit. Every dollar invested in energy efficiency last year produced $3.89 in lifetime savings on utility bills. But this new energy tax would slash that productive investment and then, even worse, cause significant and immediate job losses in Connecticut’s energy efficiency and renewables sectors, crippling these thriving industries at a time when we need to foster local economic growth and job creation to increase state revenues.

These raids also run completely counter to our state’s governing energy strategy, which, wisely, makes efficiency our first fuel source. The benefits of this choice are many and undeniable. Energy efficiency investments made in 2016, for instance, will save consumers an estimated $962 million in lifetime bill savings. Those same investments will also generate approximately 12,000 jobs in Connecticut because energy efficiency replaces fossil fuels imported from out of state with in-state labor. Last year’s investments will also protect public health and the environment by cutting carbon emissions and local air pollution.

The Senate Republican’s proposed budget inflicts even more harm by raiding $26 million annually from the market-based Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Unfortunately, the Democrats’ budget also raids RGGI, which reinvests money from carbon emission auctions in the energy efficiency programs and in the Green Bank. This funding was intended to reduce energy costs and speed the deployment of local clean energy, like rooftop solar — and it has worked.

Plus, the Green Bank has leveraged its RGGI funding to help attract tens of millions of dollars in private investment for in-state projects. Manufacturers and businesses helped by these investments have seen reductions in energy costs. And these reduced energy costs mean more competitive Connecticut companies sustaining more jobs for Connecticut workers.

Beyond these economic arguments is the critical concern about undermining our commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change is the most important issue facing all of us for the rest of our lives. And we are fortunate to live in a state that has provided bipartisan leadership in addressing this issue. Governor Malloy’s recent announcement that Connecticut would remain committed to the standards of the Paris Climate Agreement – despite President Trump’s withdrawal from the pact — is just the latest example of such leadership.

Connecticut’s legislature has mandated ambitious, yet achievable, goals for reducing in-state emissions. Harnessing ratepayer funds to invest in zero-carbon efficiency and renewables is a critical means to achieving those goals. We cannot afford to take a break or divert funds or wait for a good budget year to do this important work. Climate change is real, it is relentless, and it is unfolding more quickly than predicted. And it has a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable residents of our state, including working families.

Our kids, and their kids – and children around the world – expect and deserve to grow up in a world that is habitable. We must not step back from our responsibility to future generations in a short-sighted and misguided effort to balance the budget.

Protecting ratepayer funds that support energy efficiency and clean energy programs is good for consumers, good for homeowners and businesses, good for workers, good for people who breathe our cities’ air, and good for the climate.

John Harrity is president of the Connecticut State Council of Machinists. Bill Dornbos is Connecticut director and senior attorney at Acadia Center. Both serve on the steering committee for the CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs (www.CTClimateandJobs.org).

Connecticut lawmakers target successful energy efficiency program in effort to plug budget hole

“The RGGI cut is terrible but the energy efficiency program cut would be catastrophic,” said Bill Dornbos, Connecticut state director at the Acadia Center, a clean energy advocacy organization.

This is not Connecticut’s first try at raiding the state’s energy efficiency programs program, doing so successfully in 2003 and 2009. “When something like this happens, contractors and vendors leave Connecticut and go to neighboring states that have strong, fully-funded energy efficiency programs, like Massachusetts and Rhode Island,” Dornbos said. “After two years — and there is no certainty that the money will come back then — we will have to rebuild the program structure.”

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“The Senate Republican proposal is a reflection of the new political dynamic,” Dornbos says. “I think [because of] the power sharing agreement in the Senate, proposals from either side should be taken seriously.”

Other states have used RGGI revenue to help plug general budget shortfalls, New York and New Jersey among them, according to Jordan Stutt, a policy analyst with Acadia. “The RGGI [memorandum of understanding] requires all participating states to use at least 25 percent of their auction revenue for consumer benefit or strategic energy purposes, and [Connecticut’s] proposed sweep of RGGI funds would clearly violate that provision,” he explained.

[…]

Energy efficiency also pays for itself. Every $1 invested in energy efficiency will save $3.89 in utility bills, according to the Acadia Center. Dornbos said that, over the next two years, the proposed cuts could leave an estimated 24,000 low-income households “without any good solution for how to handle their energy bills.”

“RGGI helps expand customer access to Connecticut’s high-quality energy efficiency programs,” he said. “If we lose RGGI revenue, the energy efficiency programs will have to serve fewer customers. Connecticut will be turning its back on some of the neediest households.”

Read the full article from ThinkProgress here.

CT’s delayed energy plan could mean trouble for Millstone bill

“The reality of the competition being set up for Millstone is no competition at all,” said Bill Dornbos, who heads the Connecticut office of the environmental advocacy group Acadia Center. “It’s a competition that’s going to have one winner.”

Read the full article from the CT Mirror here.

Proposed Budget Raid Would Cost Connecticut Jobs, Economic Growth and Consumer Trust

HARTFORD, CT — A budget proposal released late yesterday by Senate Republicans would divert $160 million annually from Connecticut’s award-winning energy efficiency programs over the next two fiscal years—a staggering 64% cut in ratepayer funding levels that would devastate energy efficiency services for all residents and businesses. If enacted, a raid of this severity would cause significant and immediate job losses in Connecticut’s energy efficiency sector, deprive many consumers—especially residents with low or fixed incomes—of their best protection against high energy costs, stall Connecticut’s efforts to reduce carbon pollution and other air pollution, and force the state’s struggling economy to bear the increased burden of costly energy waste and higher grid infrastructure costs.

“This shortsighted budget proposal would effectively end Connecticut’s energy efficiency programs for the next two years, and perhaps beyond,” said Bill Dornbos, Connecticut Director and Senior Attorney at Acadia Center. “Cost-effective energy efficiency is at the center of any modern clean energy strategy, and so this troubling cut would be a needless step backwards for Connecticut, almost certainly crippling the emerging clean energy economy that will be so crucial to our future.”

Evaluated annually for cost-effectiveness by state regulators, Connecticut’s energy efficiency programs, also known as its Conservation & Load Management programs, have produced significant economic, public health, and environmental benefits for almost two decades now. Energy efficiency investments made in 2016, for instance, will save consumers approximately $961.8 million in lifetime bill savings, meaning every $1 invested in energy efficiency will save another $3.89 on utility bills. Energy efficiency, which replaces imported fossil fuels with in-state labor, also creates local jobs, and the 2016 investments alone generated approximately 12,000 jobs in Connecticut’s energy efficiency sector. The 2016 investments will also help protect public health and the environment, reducing carbon pollution by 3.3 million tons, SOx pollution by 2,916 tons, and NOx pollution by 1,556 tons.

“Labeling these productive energy efficiency investments as ‘taxes currently paid on energy bills’ does a real disservice to the thousands upon thousands of people and businesses that they help each and every year. This funding is how the state’s utility companies procure the lowest-cost energy resource, efficiency,” said Dornbos. “The irony here is that raiding these electric ratepayer funds for the General Fund deficit actually does create the very electricity tax that some claim as the justification for this harmful proposal.”

For more on the performance of Connecticut’s energy efficiency programs, please see the most recent Annual Legislative Report issued by the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Board. Acadia Center currently serves as the Vice Chair of the Energy Efficiency Board and has been an appointed member since the Board’s creation in 2000.

For more on the jobs and economic growth generated by cost-effective investments in energy efficiency, please see Acadia Center’s report Energy Efficiency: Engine of Economic Growth.


Media Contacts:

Bill Dornbos, Connecticut Director & Senior Attorney
wdornbos@acadiacenter.org, 860-246-7121 x202

Krysia Wazny, Communications Director
kwazny@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054, x107

Analysis Shows Direct Sales of Electric Vehicles Have Not Negatively Impacted Car Dealership Employment Levels

HARTFORD, CT — Acadia Center today released a new analysis that shows there has been no negative impact on car dealership employment levels in states that allow the direct sales of electric vehicles (EVs) to consumers. Over the past several years, Connecticut has debated whether to permit the direct sale of EVs by manufacturers. Connecticut is one of only a few states that prohibit this practice. The Connecticut General Assembly is currently deciding whether to advance H.B. 7097, a bill that would allow direct sales of EVs in the state.

“EV direct sales are a smart move with no downside for Connecticut,” said Bill Dornbos, Connecticut Director and Senior Attorney at Acadia Center. “Not only does it help open the EV market for consumers, but it will also help reduce the state’s increasing greenhouse gas emissions while bringing in more sales tax revenue. We need new policies like direct sales that remove barriers to EV market penetration so we can realize their immense economic and climate benefits.”

Progress on EV direct sales has been stalled over the speculation that direct sales could negatively impact employment at existing Connecticut car dealerships. Today’s empirical analysis shows that this concern has not materialized in other states that have EV direct sales.

“This research puts to rest the main argument against EV direct sales in Connecticut,” said Emily Lewis O’Brien, Policy Analyst at Acadia Center. “We hope the debate can now move forward and EV manufacturers can bring more of these clean vehicles to the state. Direct sales are just another tool to promote EVs and give consumers more clean transportation options.”

With today’s energy mix in the Northeast, EVs emit about 75% less greenhouse gases than conventional vehicles. EVs also cost about half as much to fuel, even with low gas prices, and provide major benefits to public health, energy independence, and the regional economy. Recognizing these benefits, Connecticut committed with other states in the Northeast to put 1.4 million zero-emission vehicles, primarily EVs, on the road by 2025.

Acadia Center analyzed employment data in the auto dealer industry from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2012-2016 and the New York Department of Labor for 2009-2016. The report is available here.


Media Contacts:

Emily Lewis O’Brien, Policy Analyst
elewis@acadiacenter.org, 860-246-7121 x207

Bill Dornbos, Connecticut Director & Senior Attorney
wdornbos@acadiacenter.org, 860-246-7121 x202

Advocates say cutting Connecticut energy efficiency funds a mistake

William Dornbos, Connecticut director and senior attorney at Acadia Center, said Wednesday that the proposal by Senate Republicans to divert $160 million annually from the state’s energy efficiency programs over the next two years “would effectively end Connecticut’s energy efficiency programs for the next two years, and perhaps beyond.”

“Cost-effective energy efficiency is at the center of any modern clean energy strategy, and so this troubling cut would be a needless step backwards for Connecticut, almost certainly crippling the emerging clean energy economy that will be so crucial to our future.” Dornbos said.

The cut being proposed by Republicans represents a two-thirds reduction from current funding levels, he said.

That kind of funding reduction would eliminate incentives available to homeowners to have energy audits done. About 40 companies do the audits around the state, Dornbos said, and “if vendors and contractors have less work, they will begin laying off staff, selling equipment, and losing trained technicians to nearby states with strong, well-funded energy efficiency programs.”

“With previous raids on the energy efficiency programs, we have seen major disruption and job losses in the home performance and efficiency contractor sectors that lingers well past the raids and takes years to overcome,” he said.

Dornbos projected that job reductions attributable to funding cuts in energy efficiency programs could top 12,000 workers in Connecticut. Over time, the cuts might result in the loss of another 28,000 jobs as a result of a reduction in consumers using disposable income created through energy efficiency efforts.

Beyond the jobs that will likely be lost, Connecticut residents of modest means will be more likely to see their energy bills rise if efficiency programs are drastically cut, he said.

“It would deprive many consumers — especially residents with low or fixed incomes — of their best protection against high energy costs,” Dornbos said.

Read the full article from the New Haven Register here.