BY: BRIAN DOWLING
The governor plans to make public the final version of his energy plan Tuesday after months of public comment and debate over its hallmark feature: increased availability of natural gas.
From draft to final version, the broad strokes of the “Comprehensive Energy Strategy” remain intact, according to an executive summary of the plan viewed by The Courant on Monday.
Additions to the plan include a $500 tax credit to help residents with the switch to natural gas, a call to expand natural gas pipeline capacity, a further look at “large-scale hydropower,” and a push to develop a cyber security strategy for Connecticut’s electric grid.
“We still have a lot to do to lift the energy burden — both economic and environmental — from our families and businesses,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wrote in an introduction to the energy plan. “We need to deploy a portfolio of energy options for consumers and expand energy efficiency as the surest way to lower energy bills, reduce the budget stress from electricity costs and improve our state’s competitiveness.”
The plan, he said, “will ensure that all parties involved in energy in the state are pulling together in the same direction toward a cheaper, cleaner, more reliable energy future.”
State officials released a draft version of the energy plan in early October. For nearly three months they accepted comments via correspondence and at five public hearings.
The plan’s centerpiece — a call to make natural gas available to 300,000 homes — promises to lower heating costs and to create thousands of jobs for work that includes expanding gas mains and laying pipe to Connecticut homes.
State officials say that the push is nothing revolutionary, just an effort to catch up to neighboring states such as Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where around 48 percent of homes heat with natural gas. In Connecticut, 31 percent do.
Heating oil dealers in the state criticized the plan’s reliance on price predictions that plot future energy prices for decades. Accelerating the already unprecedented clip at which customers are switching fuels would certainly sink some businesses, they said.
This pivot to natural gas, the plan says, follows the relatively recent discovery of gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale just 100 miles away, in Pennsylvania, New York and other states.
One way the energy plan aims to quicken this transformation is a one-time $500 tax credit for residents who switch to natural gas. Energy officials say the credit will point out to gas companies which towns or neighborhoods make the most economic sense to switch first.
For the electric grid, the plan calls for the state to create a cyber security strategy to protect the grid from attacks. The move follows a new concerns from federal officials about the threat of cyber attacks.
Many of the plan’s proposals will be forwarded to either the state legislature or the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority for consideration. Others can be implemented right away without approval, said Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the state’s energy department.
On Tuesday, Malloy and Daniel C. Esty, the state Department of Energy and Environment Protection’s commissioner whose office molded and remolded the plan, will visit two businesses whose stories highlight aspects of the energy plan.
In Manchester, the governor and the commissioner will visit Royal Ice Cream, which makes single-portion desserts for restaurants. In October, the manufacturer switched from heating oil to natural gas, about halving its energy bills.
Later, in Hartford, the two — along with utility officials — will tour La Plaza Del Mercado, a grocery store on Park Street where the owners implemented energy efficiency technologies such as LED lighting and high-efficiency air conditioners.