Connecticut House Scales Back Electric Choice

According to various regional and AP news reports, the Connecticut House of Representatives voted Wednesday to scale back deregulation legislation and return restrictions on electric choice for energy consumers.

The state opened up choice with a 1998 deregulation law, but this restriction would require future residential and small business customers to sign up with one of the two major utilities in the state.

The current reversal of policy passed on a vote of 103-39 and now moves to the Senate for a vote. The bill was introduced by Speaker Chris Donovan and Energy Committee co-chair Rep. Nardello.

At a press conference earlier in the day, Donovan said, “This is a win for small customers who will now get lower electric rates and a win for large customers who will now have additional options open to them. In this current economic climate, the cost of electricity could make a difference in whether a business is able to survive.”

“The passage of this legislation will bring real energy competition to customers in our state.  As we have learned in the past, just because you call it competition doesn’t mean it’s actually competition,” said Nardello.  “The outcome of creating a stable customer base, allowing planning, and eliminating risk will be a reduction in rates.”

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said, “We must combine ratepayers’ purchasing power in a single powerful pool. This measure offers a giant step toward rate relief, stability and sanity in our electric system. It unites residential consumers and businesses in a common purpose and low cost pool.”

He continued, “The end has come for our current retail competition farce–a costly, baffling bust. Consumers deserve low cost options, instead of the highest electricity rates in the continental United States.”

“We anticipate that a combination of factors and actions that the General Assembly has taken, including preserving our investments in energy efficiency, will result in lower utility rates by 2010 or 2011,” remarked House Majority Leader Denise Merrill (D- Mansfield).  “This bill gives the utility companies another tool to use in our efforts to reduce energy costs for consumers.”

Consumer Counsel Mary Healey, the state’s advocate for utility ratepayers, said, “I strongly support this effort to stabilize and reduce electricity bills.  I have long believed that we need to provide more stable pricing options for manufacturers and other large commercial and industrial users.  This bill will allow the utilities to craft more attractive, stable, and lower-priced offerings for these customers, which should in turn help the economy.”

She continued, “I also support the provision of utility standard service to all or substantially all of the residential and small business customers to reduce their power bills and to provide a stable load for planning and procurement.  Retail choice has not delivered on its promises for low-usage customers and this bill would bring about a positive change.”

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