Addressing Energy Burden in Connecticut

Samantha Dynowski

June 2022

The Connecticut Public Utility Regulatory Authority, PURA, is in the process of establishing a low-income discount rate for electricity through Docket No. 17-12-03RE11. This is an incredibly important development to tackle the issue of energy burden in Connecticut. 

 

Connecticut has one of the highest electricity rates in the nation. The impact of high rates is inequitable. The statewide average energy burden (household energy expenditures like electric, gas, heating fuel divided by annual household income) is 3%, while most of our cities experience rates of 6% or higher. Household energy burden that's higher than 6% is considered high and anything above 10% is considered severe. Low-income households, renters and homes with older appliances are more likely to experience higher energy burden. This can mean choosing between food and electricity bills. 

(What is your energy burden? Use Sierra Club’s Energy Burden Calculator to find out.)

unnamed (58).jpg

Photo: Electric meter

Two studies in the last year have illustrated the impacts of high energy burden in Connecticut. The Trinity College Action Lab reported on energy burden in Hartford’s Upper Albany neighborhood where the average energy burden is 7.6% but can be as high as 27%. The "Energy Insecurity in Connecticut" Virtual Town Hall with Operation Fuel, Vermont Law School and Yale University also highlighted the impacts of energy burden.

 

In addition to energy burden, the health and climate costs associated with burning fuels inside buildings is also disproportionately felt by low-income households due to causes including inadequate investment by landlords and the state in health protective building remediation and weatherization. 

 

Join us in supporting an equitable low-income discount rate, along with other steps to make electricity cleaner and more affordable for low-income residents. Or you can send your comments to PURA by emailing Pura.ExecutiveSecretary@ct.gov; be sure to include the docket number.

 

Here’s some of our top recommendations for PURA:

 

Establish an equitable, low-income discount rate

Connecticut should join other states in establishing a low-income discount rate. We urge PURA to establish a target that enables residential customers to spend no more than three percent of their household income on building energy costs to create equity across the state.

 

Other energy assistance programs should not be reduced

The establishment of a low-income discount rate should be in addition to existing energy assistance programs, not a replacement for any of those programs.

 

Energy efficiency upgrades for discount rate recipients 

In addition to a low-income discount rate, energy efficiency upgrades must be required of the utilities to further assist recipients, and to lessen the impact on other ratepayers. The utilities should be required to meet measurable outcomes to reduce energy use in addition to reducing rates. 

End reconnection fees

Reconnection fees are unnecessary penalties on people already struggling to pay their bills. We urge PURA to end the practice of reconnection fees in addition to establishing the low-income discount rate.

 

Take Action: Make Electricity Cleaner And More Affordable For Low-Income Connecticut Residents

 

Samantha Dynowski is State Director of Sierra Club Connecticut.