The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
‘A CLEAR PUBLIC NEED’
Lamont wants more CT options to buy power
Connecticut is considering more alternatives to obtain power independent of the market exchange created during the deregulation of the electric industry a quarter century ago, amid continuing frustration with high rates this winter.
At the request of Gov. Ned Lamont, the Connecticut General Assembly’s Environment Committee will examine the state’s alternatives. With government offices closed on Monday, officials with DEEP and the Connecticut General Assembly were not available to elaborate further on the goals of Lamont’s bill.
Under the bill, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection would be able to “issue multiple solicitations for long-term contracts from providers of resources”, sidestepping the central market for electricity overseen by ISO New England, the region’s independent system operator based in Holyoke, Mass. Both ISO New England and DEEP produce longer-term assessments of whether sufficient sources of power are in place to meet state and regional needs.
The Connecticut bill would allow DEEP to consider a broader range of factor in making any independent purchase of power, to include whether adequate amounts of natural gas are available for the generation of electricity; reducing pollution; and infrastructure costs. The bill specifies “a clear public need, at a just and reasonable price” as a rationale for any alternative purchase. DEEP would be authorized to hire consultants with expertise in “quantitative modeling of electric and gas markets” to help Connecticut get the best options possible.
Katie Dykes, commissioner of DEEP, has been vocal in recent years with criticism for ISO New England, contending the organization has been slow to adapt to Connecticut’s priorities for renewable power resources, among other issues. Dykes gave legislators an update last month on how she sees the reliability of the grid in the context of natural gas supply disruptions in the past year coinciding with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“To my view, the best option is to actually expedite steps toward energy independence to help insulate our state and our region,” Dykes said during a hearing with the Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly carried on CT-N. “We saw on Christmas Eve, not just the New England grid facing some challenges, but actually the Midwest, Texas, Tennessee, the Southeast were experiencing really unusual weather events that were driving challenges in energy availability.”
An ISO New England spokesperson told CT Insider the organization has no immediate plan to weigh in on the Connecticut legislation as it goes through the process of hearings and amendments.
“The states, including Connecticut, have long used power purchase agreements, which typically involve the state directing the utilities to enter into long-term contracts with resources, as tools to achieve environmental or other policy goals,” stated ISO New England spokesperson Matt Kakley, in an email response to a CT Insider query. “Recent examples include offshore wind procurements, other renewable procurements, and the Millstone contract.”
After early criticism over higher rates included in a power purchase agreement with Dominion for electricity produced at the Millstone nuclear plant in Waterford through the end of the decade, Dykes noted to legislators that Connecticut rate payers have come out ahead under that deal, as standard-offer rates have popped this year due to the escalation in natural gas prices.
“Because the energy market prices have been really high, we’ve actually been making a profit on that contract over this past year,” Dykes said last month during the Connecticut General Assembly hearing. “Customers will be seeing an approximately $11-a-month, additional credit on their bills for January through April.”