Blogs > Power to the People

Following energy issues in the state of Connecticut and beyond.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Solar Energy Industry Setback

New England's effort to become more of a player in the renewable energy marketplace took a hit Tuesday as Evergreen Solar, a company that received $58 million in aid from the state of Massachusetts in 2008, announced that it was closing its plant at the former Fort Devens military base northwest of Boston.

The closing of the manufacturing plant, which will occur by the end of March, will put 800 people out of work, the Boston Globe is reporting in its story.

The forces that the Globe story addresses that led to the closing can't be good news for Connecticut, which has long had designs on attracting renewable energy companies to the state.

One segment of the renewable energy market where Connecticut does have an advantage, though, is the fuel cell business. The state already has a number of well established fuel cell companies located here, like Proton Energy Systems in Wallingford and UTC Fuel Cells in South Windsor.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Inability of Connecticut Residents to Afford Utility Bills is Widespread

The state's high energy costs have a trickle down effect to Connecticut's low income families and senior citizens, according to a report released Monday.

Operation Fuel's report, "Home Energy Affordability Gap" shows that the difference in fiscal 2010 between what the less fortunate in the state can afford to pay for energy and what their utility bills actually amounted to is a statewide problem, said Patricia Wrice, executive director of the Bloomfield-based organization (shown at left).

Nearly 50,000 households sought help from Operation Fuel in during the fiscal year that ended last June 30th, she said. The study found that the gap between household energy costs and what people can afford to pay was about $2,000, Wrice said.

"There's this stereotype, this perception that energy affordability is only limited to urban areas," Wrice said. "But you have some affluent communities that are hurting as well."

The 218-page report - prepared by Roger Colton, a partner with Fisher, Sheehan & Colton Public Finance and General Economics, of Belmont, Mass. - breaks out numbers on the energy affordability gap according to the state's Congressional Districts.

Connecticut's Third Congressional District - which includes such wealthy New Haven suburbs as Guilford and Woodbridge - had the largest gap in terms of energy affordability in fiscal 2010, according to the report. Of the $480.05 million statewide gap between energy costs and residents ability to pay, the Third Congressional District's aggregate share - the sum total of all its towns - is $103.88 million or 22 percent of the entire Connecticut total.

The state's First Congressional District, which includes such upscale Hartford suburbs as West Hartford and Glastonbury, fared only slightly better than the Third Congressional District. The First District's aggregate share of the affordability gap was $103.12 million or 21 percent of the total. according to the report.

The release of the report coincided with hearings on whether the state needs a energy rate aimed at low-income households and the elderly. Richard Soderman, director of legislative policy and strategy for Northeast Utilities, said many factors need to be considered before such a rate is approved by lawmakers.

"Obviously, any program that provides a discount to some consumers can result in higher rates for other consumers," Soderman said. "A larger discount or a greater the number of eligible participants will result in a more significant the impact on others."

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