In the midst of our energy and climate crises, Connecticut must take clear action to address the cause of these issues. Both of these crises are a direct result of our reliance on fossil fuels for generating electricity and heating our homes. We can prevent energy emergencies by ending our reliance on fossil fuels and transitioning to highly efficient, healthier buildings and homes that run on 100% renewable energy.
Residents of Connecticut pay the second highest price for electricity in the country. Due to the state’s overdependence on shale gas and underdevelopment of safer, cleaner renewable power, these high prices are increasing even more. The state must follow a smarter, more economical path.
First, Connecticut immediately must ensure hard-working families don’t have to choose between heating their homes and putting food on the table or purchasing medication. Connecticut should continue the moratorium on utility shut offs, forgive residents’ existing utility debt, and extend the eviction moratorium. The legislature’s recent action to add more funds to LIHEAP, the low income heating assistance program, is a welcome step to reducing energy burden. Far more funding for energy efficiency for low income households — to reduce energy bills — should be passed in 2023.
This month, Eversource and United Illuminating are raising residential ratepayers’ utility bills by approximately $80 per month due to the increase in cost and delivery of fracked gas, while at the same time refusing to institute the newly approved low income electricity rate for up to one and a half years due to the alleged inadequacy of their billing systems. In this way, these investor-owned utilities maintain their high profits on the backs of the most vulnerable and keep bills unaffordably high.
Second, Connecticut needs to stop making the problem worse. Fossil fuels are an inherently volatile force in terms of cost, health, climate harm, and national security. Yet, right now the fossil fuel industry is expanding in Connecticut, and it is hell-bent on growing. The industry is lobbying for more pipelines and marketing new fossil fuels like hydrogen, biodiesel, and so-called renewable gas as solutions.
In Wilton, Eversource is in the process of building a new fracked gas pipeline at ratepayers expense. The pipeline will connect more residential customers to grow Eversource’s profit margins. More fossil fuels are the cause of cost increases and create the potential for power outages. Policy-makers must stand up to the fossil fuel industry and reject these false solutions.
Third, we must double down on efforts to increase energy efficiency and weatherization, and expand the use of heat pumps in homes. These solutions reduce energy demand, insulate families from this fossil fuel energy crisis, and accelerate progress toward a future that is free from destabilizing fossil fuels entirely. Congress recognized this and passed the Inflation Reduction Act which, starting this month, provides incentives to help cover the costs of weatherization upgrades and electric heat pumps, both of which can help reduce household energy bills and step off of the rollercoaster of volatile oil and gas heating prices.
Finally, to address the energy and climate crisis in the long term, Connecticut must do what leading states have done. New construction of buildings should be required to be fossil free, and the state should develop a plan to transition all existing buildings from fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy.
Each of these steps is crucial to achieving the progress required to hold off climate change’s most dangerous consequences and ensure affordable, efficient energy Connecticut-wide. Now is the time to say no to false fossil fuel solutions and instead begin the transition off damaging fossil fuels with the resolve and determination the climate and energy crises demand.
Rem Bigosinski, Patrice Gillespie, and Shawn Gregory, all of Wilton; and Diane Keefe and Martha Klein, both of Norwalk.