The state House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation late Tuesday intended to overhaul Connecticut’s energy policy following years of complaints from businesses and consumers about the high cost of electricity.
Lawmakers voted 139-8 to send the measure to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who has pledged to sign it into law.
The measure, which passed the Senate unanimously Monday, merges the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Public Utility Control to centralize state energy policy, focus on energy efficiency and reduce rates.
It calls for a new procurement officer to participate with utilities in the purchasing of power and requires the new agency, not electric companies, to assess future electric demand and how best to meet it. The legislation also establishes an agency to finance zero-emission projects such as solar and wind power.
“This is a long bill because it should have been done years ago,” said Rep. Vickie Nardello, House chairwoman of the Energy and Technology Committee.
She said the new procurement officer will help buy power “more strategically” with the intent of reducing costs to electricity users.
Malloy called the legislation “an important step toward protecting consumers from volatile oil market price swings” and said it will create clean energy jobs.
Consumers and businesses have long said the high cost of energy in Connecticut proves that deregulation in 1998 was a failure. An electricity overhaul was vetoed last year by then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican.
GOP lawmakers have been more supportive of the recent legislation because a provision calls for competitive bidding for state funding for zero-emission technology such as wind or solar power. Republicans last year complained that a provision singled out solar power for state funding.
“We’re not picking winners and losers,” said Rep. Sean J. Williams, R-Watertown.
House Republicans were not entirely satisfied with the legislation. Several tried unsuccessfully to win an amendment dropping a study of electric market rules that Democratic leaders in the legislature say have led to higher electric rates.
Rep. Leonard C. Greene Jr., R-Seymour, said Maine has commissioned a similar study and found that nothing compels the state to leave ISO-New England, the region’s grid operator.
“It’s my belief we’d find a similar situation in Connecticut,” he said. “I see this as a potential waste of $1 million in ratepayers’ money.”
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