Blogs > Power to the People

Following energy issues in the state of Connecticut and beyond.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Public Willing To Pay Premium For National Clean Energy Standards

A new study conducted by researchers from Yale and Harvard universities finds that the average American is willing to add $162 to their annual electric bills in return for a national standard that requires 80 percent of energy generated by utilities to be from sources other than fossil fuels by 2035.

The joint Yale-Harvard study found that if the Obama Administration’s proposal for a national standard could pass both the U.S. House and Senate if it increased average electricity rates by no more than 5 percent and the definition of clean energy were expanded to include natural gas. 

The study's co-author, Yale Professor Matthew Kotchen, said its aim  "was to investigate how politically feasible an NCES really is from both an economics and political science perspective.” Kotchen said many believe that a national clean energy standard is the only feasible way to control greenhouse gas emissions.

Over 1,000 people responded to the survey, which was conducted between April 23rd and May 12.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

If It's Wednesday, Tom May Must Be In Connecticut

Five weeks after taking over as the new president and chief executive officer of Northeast Utilities, Thomas May clearly has a steep learning curve.

 Stepping into his new role after the company he headed, Boston-based NStar merged with NU, May (shown at left) has spent much of the past week or so travelling around Connecticut, meeting with the company's employees. On Wednesday, it was May's turn for the first face-to-face meeting with the Connecticut media that until now had only been covering him from afar.

The high-powered chief executive gets bonus points for being a good story teller - he told reporters that "people don't realize I'm a poor kid from the streets of Hartford" - and for showing empathy about how hard workers at NU's Connecticut Light and Power subsidiary worked to restore power during last fall's two crippling storms

. But May wasn't as convincing when it came to selling reporters on the idea that he can keep politicians in Massachusetts and Connecticut happy while maintaining headquarters in Boston and Hartford.

When asked about storm-related legislation that was before Connecticut's General Assembly, May remarked that lawmakers here "are nearing the end of the legislative session." Of course, Connecticut's legislature wrapped up its work for this year on May 9th, passing storm response legislation on the final day.

Anyone can make mistakes and perhaps we should cut May a break for not knowing that lawmakers are done with this year's session.

 But in a business where appearances are almost as important as actual results, May didn't make a good case initially for his ability to serve two masters. After all, in order to keep politicians happy, you've first got to know when they're at work passing legislation that might affect your company.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

UIL Holdings Executives Get Pay Hikes

If you're an investor and you're not looking at a company's filings with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, then you're missing out on a lot.

For example, I'm willing to bet that most of the 30 or so UIL Holdings stockholders who attended the company's annual meeting on Tuesday had no idea that some of its top executives had gotten base pay increases that ranged from 3.5 percent to 9.3 percent. But in 8-K filing that the company made with the SEC back on March 27th, those UIL pay increases were detailed for all to see:

- James Torgerson, president and chief executive officer (shown at left), got a 5.1 percent base pay increase from $675,000 to $710,000.

- Tony Vallillo, executive vice president and chief operating officer (shown at right, saw his base pay increase from $430,000 to $470,000, a 9.3 percent pay hike.

-  Linda Randell, the company's senior vice president, general counsel and chief compliance office, got a $16,000 bump in pay, which represents an increase of nearly 5.1 percent. Randell, shown at left, now makes $330,000 in base pay annually.

- Richard Nicholas, executive vice president and chief financial officer, got a $30,000 increase in pay. The $375,000 he now makes represents a nearly 8.7 percent increase.

- Robert Allessio, the vice president of the utility holding company's natural gas operations, received a $9,000 increase in base pay. Thanks to the 3.5 percent increase, he's now earning $262,000.

The pay increases took effect April 8th and were approved by the Compensation and Executive Development Committee of  UIL Holdings' Board of Directors on March 23rd.

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Battle To Close Bridgeport Power Plant Begins Monday

A group fighting a renewal of the operating permit for Bridgeport Harbor Station will make its case before officials with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection during an informational hearing Monday night.

 The Bridgeport-based Healthy CT Alliance will make its case to DEEP that the plant should be retired rather than have its permit renewed because of health related issues. The regulatory agency's hearing will be held at the Bridgeport City Hall annex, which is located at 999 Broad Street.

 The 44-year-old plant is owned by New Jersey-based Public Service Electric & Gas and is one of the few remaining coal-fired generating plants left in the state.

Officials with the Healthy CT Alliance say that nearly 15 percent if school-aged children in Bridgeport have asthma, higher than the national average. Members of the group say emissions from the plant exacerbate asthma for those afflicted with it.

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