In one of the nation’s most contested gubernatorial races, one issue receives little press but much weight in the eyes of Connecticut voters: energy.
Connecticut remains the fourth costliest supplier of energy in the United States, a reality highlighted by Gov. Dannel Malloy’s Republican challenger, Tom Foley, as the state nears election day Nov. 4. However, the Malloy campaign insists that the state has made great strides despite Foley’s criticisms.
Appointing Yale Law School professor Daniel C. Esty LAW ’86 as the department’s commissioner, Malloy’s administration merged two existing departments to create the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in July 2011. Faced with dried out renewable energy funds, Malloy also oversaw establishment of the nation’s first continuously growing “Green Bank,” which currently leverages an estimated $27 million from electric ratepayer fees to help fund residential solar projects.
Still, the Foley campaign tells a different story.
Four years after Malloy ran on a campaign of “cleaner, cheaper, more reliable energy,” data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration places Connecticut 43rd nationally in gross renewable energy production. Compared to a national average of 11.7% and a New York rate of 20.5%, Connecticut only generates 2.6% of its electricity from hydroelectric or other renewable sources in 2014.
On the price side, Connecticut is also behind many other states. State electricity delivery costs increased during Malloy’s term. Energy supplied through Connecticut Light & Power increased from 9.75 to 11.21 cents per kilowatt hour, and energy from United Illuminating increased from 8.21 to 8.66 cents per kilowatt hour, according to figures released in July 2014. In a recent interview with the Connecticut Mirror, Foley said he blames the increase on a hike of the renewable energy Conservation and Loan Management fee, among other laws. If he were elected governor, Foley pledged to repeal the aforementioned fee once in office.
Asked recently how his “cleaner, cheaper, more reliable” energy campaign promise panned out, Malloy responded saying that he believes the state has reached its goal in becoming more a reliable energy deliverer.
Nonetheless, Malloy plans a tenfold expansion of the residential solar program by 2020, with added funding to the Green Bank — Connecticut’s Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority. In recent interviews with the press, Foley has openly admitted that he does not know exactly what the solar program is.
Foley still emphasizes a free-market approach to energy in the state, by which he would remove fees and allow private enterprise to choose available sources, like coal, over expansion of Connecticut’s maxed-out natural gas infrastructure.
Democrats interviewed embraced Malloy’s direction, even if his energy policies to date have not reaped significant benefits. Yale Democrats president Rebecca Ellison ’15 added that Foley’s failure to formulate a concrete energy plan displays a “total disregard” for the issue.
Republicans, too, showed a similar distaste for Foley’s ambiguity.
“I do laud Malloy for having a detailed plan, and I would like to see Foley be less vague on this issue, but I do think that Foley’s claims have merit,” president of the Yale College Republicans Andrea Barragan ’15 said.
However, Barragan added that “relying more on the free market and less on government mandates will reduce the financial burden of energy costs on citizens.”
In a state that consistently votes democratic, students wondered whether the new renewable energy programs would have been passed regardless of the governor.
Nuclear energy and natural gas account for 94.1% of Connecticut’s net electricity generation, compared to a 48.3% national average.