RAY DUNAWAY: The High Cost Of Utilities

John Erlingheuser, who focuses on innovative advocacy solutions for complex issues with AARP, discusses the high cost of utilities in Connecticut… and Dominion’s effort to make them higher.

“Although one way to save on your electric bill is to have the power go out,” jokes Dunaway, “there are little things working their way through legislature.”

Dunaway is referring to Senate Bill 106, which Erlingheuser describes as “a really great sounding bill, but there’s a lot about it they don’t tell you.”

Erlingheuser explains, “Dominion keeps pushing these bill of goods which will allow them to lower electric rates, because it allows them to sell power directly to UI and Eversource.”

However, according the Erlingheuser, Dominion is already allowed to do that. Eight years ago, That’s what Connecticut wanted them to do, on a cost to service basis, where they would get their expenses back in a reasonable rate of return. “But at that time they didn’t want to,” explains Erlingheuser, “becasue they were making obscene amounts of profit,” adding, “now they’re just making giant amounts of profit.”

Dunaway makes the point that if you’re concerned about climate change and carbon emissions, then “nuclear is not a bad way to go at all – and that’s part of the rationale and how they’re selling this.”

Erlingheuser agrees that Dominion has a place in Connecticut, being that they are low-carbon emitting. However, if they want a special deal, that will raise rates, “despite what they say,” they should be obligated to open their books to demonstrate need.

According to Erlingheuser, in other states where Dominion struck a deal, they did demonstrate need. “But here,” explains Erlingheuser, “they’re holding a gun to legislatures saying…give us a deal and it will be great for everyone but we don’t want to demonstrate anything to you.'”

Connecticut pays the highest electric rates in the country. Erlingheuser makes the point that “it’s deals like this that contribute to that. ”

“Would The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) have anything to say about that?” Asks Dunaway.

“They’re reclassifying nuclear power as renewable power,” explains Erlingheuser.

“Renewable power rates are intentionally high. The state requires a certain investment to help eventually bring the cost down by creating a new industry that will eventually mature. Nuclear power doesn’t fit the bill in any of those regards.”

If nuclear power is then reclassified as renewable fuel, which both Dunaway and Erlingheuser remark, “it’s not,” it would raise the cost so high, and yet would still be lower than any other renewable fuel, “dwarfing the competition.”

Renewable fuel (such as solar power) is a tiny fraction of the power generated by Dominion. Erlingheuser makes the analogy, “it’s like putting a lion and mouse up against one another and who’s going to win? Well of course, the lion…Dominion.”

Therefore, compared to wind and solar, regulators would have no choice but to say this is a great deal. “Dominion’s obligation is to shareholders,” explains Erlingheuser.

Erlingheuser anticipates they’ll vote this bill out of the committee in the next few weeks.

More from Ray Dunaway
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