By Luther Turmelle, CT Insider, 7/7/23

(Photo: Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media)

Connecticut residents have the fourth most expensive overall energy bills in the country, with total energy costs of $593 per month, according to a new study.

Connecticut’s ranking was driven by an average monthly electric bill of $171 per month and an average monthly natural gas bill of $132, according the study, which was produced by the Miami-based personal finance site WalletHub. Only residents of Alabama paid more for their electric bills than individuals living in Connecticut, while Hawaiians and Alaskans have more costly monthly natural gas costs than consumers in the Nutmeg State. The $593 total includes electricity, natural gas, heating oil and motor vehicle fuel costs.

The study also found that Connecticut has the fourth highest level of natural gas consumption per consumer in the country.

State Sen. Norman Needleman, D-Deep River, said what Connecticut consumers pay for natural gas is a function of the availability of the fuel, with state being located at the tail end of the transmission pipeline that transports the fuel from the Gulf of Mexico. Needleman is co-chairman of the General Assembly’s Energy and Technology Committee.

Another factor in how much consumers pay for energy costs, he said, is Connecticut’s climate change goals.

“The state has some pretty aggressive goals; solar and wind power are more expensive than electricity produced by natural gas,” Needleman said.  “It’s my job to balance those goal with what consumers pay for electricity.”

The survey comes on the heels of a winter in which Connecticut and the rest of the country saw dramatic increases in energy prices due to pandemic driven inflation and supply chain issues. Energy costs have moderated somewhat in Connecticut this summer, but one fourth of U.S. households currently spend more than 6 percent of their income on utility bills, according to WalletHub officials.

Because Americans are spending more on energy, they are finding it more difficult to make ends meet. About 27 percent of households nationwide have difficulty meeting their energy needs.

Zack Miller, professor and associate chairman of the economics department at the University of Missouri, said he doesn’t believe energy prices will increase dramatically over the remainder of this year, unless there is a major unexpected event around the world.

“Oil prices typically rise in the spring/summer, but they have not done so,” Miller said in a statement. “Natural gas prices remain low after decreasing from the highs of last year following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

Joel Gordes, a West Hartford energy consultant, said that high energy prices make it critical that Connecticut and its residents continue to invest in energy efficiency measures.

Paul Copleman, a spokesman for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said the agency has worked with federal officials, members of the state legislature and with governments in neighboring states “to deliver energy affordability and reliability to Connecticut residents in the near term and long term.”

“We also have a longer-term plan to get our state off the fossil fuel roller coaster and the volatile price impacts that are beyond our control,” Copleman said in a statement. But the statement didn’t provide any specifics on those future efforts to provide energy price relief to consumers or a timeline for when those measures might take effect.