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House coalition wants reversal of energy funds raid

BY Matt Pilon

2/13/2018
Contributed photo
Contributed photo
Rep. Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport) is among those pushing to restore energy efficiency funds this session.
Seven Democrats and a Republican said Tuesday that they plan to push for at least a partial restoration of a $175 million raid from the state's energy efficiency programs passed in the late October budget.

Rep. Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport), said lawmakers voting in favor of the budget may have inflicted unintended damage on the state's energy efficiency industry, which employs approximately 34,000, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

"I'll be the first to admit I did something last year I wasn't proud of," Steinberg said at a press conference Tuesday. "I understand why our leadership felt compelled to find some way to close the budget gap, but this was not the way to do it."

The money, generated by a charge on ratepayer utility bills as well as auctions run by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), has backed the Connecticut Green Bank, which provides loans and guarantees for efficiency and renewable energy projects, and the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, which pays for energy-saving projects at homes and businesses.

The raids have forced the Green Bank to reassess its business model.

Steinberg, a member of the Energy and Technology Committee, was joined by its co-chair, Rep. Lonnie Reed (D-Branford) and ranking member Rep. Timothy Ackert (R-Coventry).

"We need to tell a better story of what these energy efficiency funds are doing and what the Green Bank is doing and what RGGI is doing," Reed said.

Ackert called the ratepayer funding sweeps "an injustice."

Several efficiency contractors spoke at the press conference, saying the sweeps have forced contractions.

Other representatives who spoke in favor of the push for restoring the funds included Derek Slap, Joe Gresko, Geraldo Reyes Jr., Cristin McCarthy Vahey and Mike Demicco -- all Democrats.

The coalition announced itself following Gov. Dannel Malloy's release of his proposed budget adjustments last week.

Malloy's proposal contains an elimination of some of the energy sweeps in fiscal year 2019, including $10 million from RGGI and $14 million from the Green Bank.

Rep. John Hampton (D-Simsbury) filed a bill this week seeking to restore the energy funding.