Blogs > Power to the People

Following energy issues in the state of Connecticut and beyond.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Network for Recharging Electric Vehicles Growing

With the first consumer market electric cars scheduled to arrive at Connecticut dealerships by the end of the year, the network of recharging stations continues to grow.

Recharging stations are being developed, not only in Connecticut, but in neighboring states as well. Providence television station WPRI has this report on Rhode Island's first recharging station.

Turning the Tide for Renewable Energy

When it comes to the public perception of renewable energy sources, solar and wind power get the most attention. But now some in the energy industry are exploring the value of harnessing the power of the ocean's tides.

Maine Public Broadcasting takes a look at one such project in this report. Given the amount of shoreline that the state of Connecticut has, perhaps its time to give tidal power a longer look closer to home.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Competition Promotes Energy Efficient Home Building

Three New Haven area home building projects are among 17 competing in The CT Zero Energy Challenge, a program sponsored by the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund and the state Energy Efficiency Fund.

An Essex house that is being constructed by the Madison-based Celebration Development Group, a project in Madison designed by Guilford-based CK Architects and a Killingworth home being built by Consulting Engineering Services of Middletown are all part of this year's competition. The design and build competition involves both single and multi-family homes built in Connecticut between May 2009 and December 1, 2010.

Completed homes will be ranked based on a performance score determined by the presence of energy-efficient features that curb overall energy use. Winners, who will be announced on Dec. 8th, will be given cash prizes.

The Killingworth house being developed by Consulting Engineering Services is a 3,600 square foot single family home with a detached garage and barn, said George Keithan, who is president of the company.

“In addition to focusing on insulation, only the most energy-efficient appliances and lighting fixtures on the ENERGY STAR® scale were installed, and compact fluorescent lamps or LEDs were the sole types of lighting used throughout the house,” Keithan said.

The CK Architects entry is a 4,300 square foot residence with an additional 330 square feet of conditioned basement space. The Essex home being built by Celebration Development Group has four bedrooms and is just under 3000 square feet.

The state's Energy Efficiency Fund promotes efficient energy use and helps residents and businesses save on their electric and natural gas bills.







Friday, August 13, 2010

Utility Regulators Investigating Positive Energy

The saga of Positive Energy just gets more interesting by the day.

The Middlebury-based electricity aggregator is being investigated by the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control. DPUC Spokesman Phil Dukes confirmed the existence of an investigation to the New Haven Register on Friday afternoon.

News of the investigation was first made public by ctwatchdog.com blogger George Gombossy in this story on Friday morning.

The curious thing about the DPUC's admission that an investigation of Positive Energy is underway is that it didn't come until after Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called for state utility regulators to look into the company on Thursday. Gombossy reported that the DPUC began its investigation last week after being contacted by a tipster that Dukes declined to name.

I can understand the DPUC not saying anything about an investigation at first.

After all, it's difficult to conduct an effective investigation into alleged wrongdoing under the glare of media coverage. But once Gombossy, whose blog appears on the New Haven Register web site, reported on Aug. 8th that the DPUC was not aware of Joseph Ventura being the president of Positive Energy until after regulators approved the company's license, officials of the state agency should have acknowledged that they had begun an investigation.

Because Ventura's name was not on the application that Positive Energy filed with DPUC in Feb. 2009 to become an aggregator of electricity, regulators had no way of knowing that the state Department of Banking had fined him $100,000 for lying on a mortgage application at a time when he was working as loan officer.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Blumenthal Wants DPUC To Investigate Positive Energy

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Thursday he wants state utility regulators to investigate Middlebury-based Positive Energy for allegedly falsifying its state license application.
Blumenthal claims a Department of Public Utility Control investigation should so look into whether Positive Energy delayed and diverted contracts, potentially costing customers hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in lost discounts.

Blumenthal's petition to the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control comes just four days after consumer affairs blogger and veteran journalist George Gombossy reported that DPUC officials were apparently unaware that Positive Energy President Joseph Ventura had recently been fined for making false statements in a mortgage application when they gave the company its license to sell electricity to customers in the spring of 2009. Gombossy's ctwathcdog.com blog appears on the New Haven Register's web site,

Blumenthal said Tuesday his office has also learned of allegations from former Positive Energy employees and company investors that Ventura allegedly delayed processing customer requests to switch electricity suppliers in order divert them to another company. If true, as many as 30,000 to 40,000 consumers could have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in discounts, according to Blumenthal.

“These allegations – falsifying a state license application and delaying contracts – are serious and significant, potentially costing consumers hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in discounts,” Blumenthal said. “I urge the DPUC to investigate and take action - license revocation, restitution to consumers and monetary penalties - if warranted by the facts."

Positive Energy is licensed by the state as an electric power aggregator. That means the company buys power from electric generators and resells it at a discount to consumers.

Positive Energy investors met with Blumenthal’s office earlier this month and alleged that Ventura told customers they were signing with supplier Viridian Energy, Inc, but never actually processed the contracts, the Attorney General said. Instead, Ventura waited months until another supplier, ResCom Energy, LLC, received its state license and then signed them with that company, according to the investors.

Ventura responded to Blumenthal's petition to the DPUC with a written statement that was released via the company's public relations firm, Hartford-based Sullivan & LeShane.

“Positive Energy Electricity Supply Company, LLC is a growing Connecticut business with a base of 40,000 customers, the overwhelming majority of whom have been pleased with the savings and service they have received from Positive Energy arranging their electricity supply," Ventura said in his statement. “Despite published reports stating otherwise, Positive Energy gave full and accurate disclosure of each of its current officers and directors when applying to the DPUC to be an electricity aggregator in Connecticut. Additionally, in applying to DPUC, Positive Energy properly disclosed all relevant and pertinent information on its mission for Connecticut and the people involved in it."

Ventura said the fine issued against him by the Connecticut Banking Department "was concerning my personal mortgage loan, and at no time did it involve Positive Energy, its customers, the DPUC, or the state’s electricity market."

“The Attorney General’s allegations concerning delaying of placing customers with suppliers are based on grossly overstated information provided by a terminated employee and a disgruntled investor," Ventura added in his statement. “While we at Positive Energy are confident we can refute all of the Attorney General’s allegations, we also believe an investigation based on the allegations to date would be an unwarranted waste of the DPUC’s time and money, as well as ours. What’s more, it would threaten a growing business that provides a vital service in the emerging energy market to thousands of customers.”




According to the Sunday post on Gombossy's blog, when Positive Energy filed documents with the state's Department of Public Utility Control in Feb. 2009, Ventura was not listed as the head of the company. But by April 2009, when the company had received regulatory approval to become an aggregator of electricity in the state, Ventura was listed as the president of the company, Gombossy wrote.



The Connecticut Department of Banking in 2008 ordered Ventura to pay a $100,000 fine for lying on his mortgage application at a time when he was a mortgage loan officer, according to Gombossy (shown at left).

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Negative News on Positive Energy

The folks at Positive Energy may want to consider a name change.

The Middlebury-based company is offering power generation alternatives to residential and commercial customers of the United Illuminating Co. and Connecticut Light & Power Co. But there has been little positive news about the company from Connecticut's press corps this summer.


First there was the news in June that the company hired former WTNH and WVIT consumer reporter Mike Boguslawski as vice president of consumer affairs. That decision was one that I criticized in a previous posting on this blog as a questionable attempt to cash in on Boguslawski's former public recognition in the state and give the company some consumer friendly cachet that it might not deserve.

Now, one of the state's top consumer issues reporters, George Gombossy, has uncovered some embarrassing details about the company and its president, Joseph Ventura. Gombossy, whose ctwathcdog.com blog appears on the New Haven Register's web site, reported Sunday that Connecticut utility regulators were apparently unaware that Ventura had recently been fined for making false statements in a mortgage application when they gave the company its license to sell electricity to customers in the spring of 2009.

According to Gombossy, when Positive Energy filed documents with the state's Department of Public Utility Control in Feb. 2009, Ventura was not listed as the head of the company. But by April 2009, when the company had received regulatory approval to become an aggregator of electricity in the state, Ventura was listed as the president of the company, Gombossy writes in his blog.

The Connecticut Department of Banking in 2008 ordered Ventura to pay a $100,000 fine for lying on his mortgage application at a time when he was a mortgage loan officer, according to Gombossy.

Ventura has told Gombossy he is seeking to appeal the agency's fine but has declined further comment on his problems with the Banking Department as well as his not being listed as the head of the Positive Energy in the company's original DPUC filing.

DPUC Spokesman Phil Dukes told Gombossy he did not know if the agency's commissioners might have changed their approval of Positive Energy as an aggregator had they known of Ventura’s involvement with the firm or of his civil conviction. Now that Positive Energy already has a license, Dukes told Gombossy he did not believe that the license would be revoked based on the latest information uncovered about the company.


But the DPUC might want to rethink that decision. Some in the agency have privately told me that ever since he became chairman of the Department of Public Utility Control last year, Kevin DelGobbo (shown at left) has been concerned about how the public views the deregulation of electric power providers in the state.

Deregulation has proven to be controversial ever since it was rolled out in 2000. That's largely because overall electric rates in the state are the second highest in the nation, trailing only Hawaii.

On the other hand, about 468,000 consumers in the service territories of United Illuminating Co. and Connecticut Light & Power now purchase their electricity from alternative suppliers. So some people are saving money, even if those savings are based on some of the highest electric rates in the land.

But DelGobbo was concerned enough about the tactics of alternative power suppliers that in August of last year, he held a special meeting with the companies.

Officially, Dukes characterized DelGobbo's meeting with alternative power providers as a reminder of the importance of maintaining high ethical standards with the state's consumers.

“This is a golden opportunity for the industry to put its best foot forward,” Dukes said at the time. “We don’t want to see a repeat of what happened when choice came to the telecommunications industry and there were problems with slamming.”

But as someone who was a party to the meeting told me, "he (DelGobbo) basically told them there was a new sheriff in town and that they had better toe the line."

In the interest of fairness, Ventura deserves the opportunity to prove that he and Positive Energy didn't try to mislead the DPUC. But based on DelGobbo's past actions, this might be a good time for state utility regulators to take some kind of formal action that would allow them look a little deeper into the events surrounding Positive Energy licensing.

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