by Lonnie Reed, Chair of Connecticut Green Bank Board of Directors and former Connecticut State Representative for District 102 and former Co-Chair of the Energy and Technology Committee, & Brenda Watson, Member of Connecticut Green Bank Board of Directors and Executive Director of Operation Fuel
Energy is not cheap in Connecticut, a painful truth addressed in the recent article, “Study: Connecticut ranked fourth in the nation for most expensive energy costs overall.” Since Connecticut households spend more on electricity and natural gas than they would in nearly any other state, there is a significant burden on our families. Home heating oil and transportation fuel also consume a significant amount of what Connecticut families spend on energy. And fluctuating energy prices have made it even more challenging for families to budget and plan for these expenses.
While rising energy costs have been difficult for everyone to handle, these costs disproportionately impact low-income and moderate-income families in Connecticut, whose energy costs make up a significant portion of their monthly expenses. That’s why providing tools and resources to families feeling the strain of rising energy costs is so important.
One innovative step the State of Connecticut took to address this need was establishing the nation’s first state-level green bank in 2011. Green banks can make energy-saving technology more accessible and affordable for families by offering innovative financing and generating new markets. These innovations can make a real difference.
Through the Solar for All program, a partnership between the Connecticut Green Bank and PosiGen Solar, more than 4,500 low-income families were able to access energy efficiency upgrades and go solar, saving more than $2.8 million in electricity costs – on average more than $600 per family. This includes nearly 840 projects in Bridgeport for a cost avoidance of $500,000. This average savings becomes even more significant when macroeconomic factors, such as the War in Ukraine, drive up electricity rates. The first half of 2023 saw electricity rates increase by roughly $0.12/kWh, and the average Solar For All household is now seeing savings on their bills for that period of about $800. Generally, going solar and improving the energy efficiency of one’s home can help reduce the cost burden and ease inflationary pressures.
Along with Solar for All, there are several other ways that the Connecticut Green Bank is working with the state to help families shoulder this burden. They include:
- Determining how the state’s Residential Renewable Energy Solutions program can be leveraged to support families living in affordable housing. Helping these low-income tenants realize the economic benefits of clean energy makes the impact of solar across our state more equitable.
- Managing Energy Storage Solutions, which enables homes and businesses to install battery backup systems, to also include special incentives for families in vulnerable communities.
- Supporting the state in its goals to expand electric vehicle infrastructure, which will help to alleviate the burden of transportation costs on families. The Green Bank finances electric vehicle charging equipment costs for businesses through the C-PACE program and homeowners through the Smart-E program.
The Green Bank’s programs also support businesses and complement other state initiatives, resources, and organizations. Those include Operation Fuel, which provides energy assistance to families struggling to pay for their home heating fuel, and Energize Connecticut, which provides information on all the incentive and financing programs managed by the state’s utilities and the Green Bank.
Additionally, the recently passed federal Inflation Reduction Act incentivizes the adoption of heat pumps and other efficient technologies that reduce energy usage. Reduced energy usage will help families reduce energy costs as prices increase.
The cost of energy in Connecticut may be lamentably high, but the state has been confronting this issue in proactive and creative ways that also protect our families, businesses, and communities.
To learn more about Connecticut’s energy burden and residential solar financing, check out the Green Bank’s most recent StoryMap. You can also visit the free-of-charge first annual Connecticut Energy Expo in October at the Connecticut Convention Center, where renewable energy and energy efficiency strategies for residents and businesses will be on display.