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Fate of Connecticut’s Energy Bill on Governor’s Desk

A new energy bill passed by lawmakers in the state of Connecticut that promises to lower electricity costs, promote green energy and reorganize the Department of Public Utilities Control (DPUC) to focus on energy issues is waiting for the signature Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who may veto the bill, reports The News-Times.

Christopher Phelps, director of Environment Connecticut, Jim Leahy, a lobbyist for the solar energy industry in the state and Jason Ross of Ross Solar Group told The News-Times that the veto of the bill would keep Connecticut energy prices high, and discourage the growth of the alternative energy industry.

They also said that the legislation calls for a15 percent rate reduction by the state’s utilities by July 1, 2012, which would bring the state’s electrical rates in line with other states in the Northeast.

Connecticut ranks second in the United States, behind Hawaii, for the highest cost of electricity, according to The News-Times.

Rell’s spokesman Adam Liegeot told the newspaper that Rell has not received the bill. Once she gets the bill, Rell has 15 days to sign it, veto it, or refuse to sign it and let it become law without her approval.

Liegeot also said that Rell’s budget chief and DPUC’s chairman jointly have expressed their concerns about the bill, which they said could add to ratepayer costs and limit their ability to choose alternative suppliers of electricity. They also questioned the bill’s plans to reorganize the DPUC.

Ross said in the article that the state’s “uncertain support of the industry has made many companies skittish about staying in Connecticut.”

But the bill would create a market-based incentive program for solar energy in the state, based on models in New Jersey, California and Colorado.

About five years ago Connecticut had one of the most generous solar incentive programs in the country, which fueled the growth of dozens of solar companies, but state subsidies have run out of funds, forcing companies to move personnel and equipment to other states including New Jersey for income, reports CTMirror.com.

A group of Connecticut Clean Energy Fund programs operating since 2005 was providing large rebates to residential and commercial solar electricity projects. Clean Energy Fund president Lise Dondy told CTMirror that the fund provided nearly $74 million to 176 commercial solar projects and nearly $36 million to more than 1,440 residential projects.

One of those projects included the installation of a 168-kilowatt DC solar photovoltaic system at GE’s headquarters in Fairfield.

The commercial program for installations at businesses, schools and government buildings ran out of money in early 2009, which completely halted new commercial solar projects, according to the article.

Solar programs are taking a hit in other states as well. Earlier in May, it was reported that New Jersey ran out of solar rebates in one day because Gov. Chris Christie shifted $158 million from the Clean Energy Fund to help close an $11 billion state budget gap, and the Florida state legislature failed to approve funds to pay for the Florida Solar Rebate Program, and received 10,000 applications since it ran out of money last June.

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