Published July 22. 2013 4:00AM
After years of moving in the wrong direction, Connecticut is receiving some good news about its electric prices. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Connecticut was the only New England state to see a drop in electricity prices through the first quarter of 2013.
Through April, the state's average power rate was 15.64 cents per kilowatt hour, down from 15.67 cents compared to the first quarter of 2012. At the same time the regional average rose to 14.25 from 14.19.
Recognizing the need to make the state more competitive on energy pricing, the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has made it a priority to reduce power costs, including raising the profile of energy policy by combining it in a new Department of Environmental and Energy Protection. Efforts pre-dating the Malloy administration to boost the use of natural gas of electric generation and address congestion points in the power grid also appear to be paying off.
Closing the electric cost gap with other states in the region should help in the competition for business and manufacturing. But the positive news has to be placed in perspective. Even with this slight improvement, Connecticut electric costs remain the highest in the continental United States and are still very costly when compared with the national average of 9.70 cents per kilowatt hour.
The Malloy administration's new energy plan, recently adopted by the General Assembly, should continue the movement in the right direction. Despite facing criticism from some environmentalists, the new policy will allow greater use of economical hydropower from Canada to meet renewable energy goals, which should apply price pressures on other forms of renewable electricity generation. The administration's push to expand natural gas lines in Connecticut should help another high cost for homeowners and businesses - heating.
At the same time, however, a recent tax increase on top of the state's already high gasoline tax structure is making the cost of transportation and doing business much higher for many industries. Introduction of tolls, combined with a significant cut in gas taxes, is the better way to pay for the state's transportation needs.