Connecticut Republicans propose energy plan they say would save residents $362 million per year on bills

Republican lawmakers unveiled a series of policy proposals in Hartford on Tuesday aimed at reducing energy costs, increasing reliability and strengthening oversight of utility companies.

Under their plan, Republican leaders said Connecticut families would save $362 million each year during a time of soaring fuel costs and rate hikes.

“Individuals are facing unbelievable choices in their life because they can’t afford a basic necessity in this state,” Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly said. “We can do better, particularly now when we have the resources to meet that challenge. But we have to look at both short-term and long-term solutions.”

Republicans said their plan would immediately slash charges for all energy customers, diversify the state’s grid in the long term by expanding green energy options, and give rate regulators more independence and flexibility to protect consumers by separating the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

The central pillar of the proposal would remove state-mandated charges that account for roughly 15 public policy line items from customer bills and shift the expense to the state budget — a move that Republicans said would save the average Connecticut family $210 a year, and allow legislators to better vet the cost and benefit of each program.

Specifically, the proposal seeks to nix the federally mandated congestion delivery charge and combined public benefits charge which fund certain state energy contracts, renewable and energy-efficiency programs, as well as electric costs for customers on education or financial hardship programs.

On Connecticut energy bills, these show up as the “FMCC Delivery Charge” and “Comb Public Benefit Charge” for Eversource customers and “Non-Bypassable FMCC per kwh” and “Combined Public Benefits Charge” for United Illuminating customers.

“That’s an added cost to somebody’s basic necessity,” Kelly said. “When people get their bills, they find other costs, other charges, other policy decisions that really rightfully belong in our general fund. For transparency and honesty purposes, those need to be on the budget, [and] off the bill.”

The Republican proposal comes on the heels of Gov. Ned Lamont’s “Energy Action Plan” which looked towards the state’s wind farms and foreign energy sources to gain long-term sustainability capitalizing on federal and state-funded payment relief options to fill the gaps for residents struggling to pay bills this winter.

One Republican-supported item on Lamont’s agenda is the long-term goal of supplying Connecticut with Canadian hydroelectric power via a channel through Vermont.

Republicans, including ranking member of the Energy and Technology Committee Rep. Bill Buckbee, said that a Hydro-Quebec partnership would diversify energy options in the state grid.

On the point of increasing competition, Buckbee said that he also wants to examine the reason behind Connecticut’s lack of utility options and talk to companies about why they no longer do business in Connecticut.

Buckbee said he and his Republican colleagues are not looking to place blame, but to achieve solutions.

“We’re not looking to throw rocks and throw bricks. We want to find solutions and that’s the critical piece we have to do right now because we’re just saying it’s not, this isn’t something that affects one part of the population. This is every single person. We all worry about paying the bills. We want to make sure that light goes on. So the reliability of the grid is huge. The affordability of the grid is huge. And of course, we want to make [it as] green and environmentally friendly as we can,” Buckbee said.

Sen Ryan Fazio, a ranking member of the Energy and Technology Committee, said that eliminating the state’s dual renewable energy classification and bringing all types of green energy, including hydropower, nuclear and trash-to-energy facilities, to the table would further this goal of sustainability and diverse competition.

Fazio and others said they are not seeking to further politicize this issue and that they are prepared to collaborate with Democratic lawmakers to realize their goals.

“Connecticut’s electricity costs have been far too high for far too long,” Fazio said. “This is an earnest attempt to actually reduce people’s costs and make Connecticut more affordable for everybody. It’s not a political statement, it’s a solution, it’s a plan.”

Alison Cross can be reached at across@courant.com.