How Connecticut Homeowners Can Qualify for Low-Interest Energy-Efficiency Loans

Tuesday May 29, 2012
Posted at 08:55

Residents of Connecticut, if you’re thinking about investing in home improvements to cut your energy use and save money off electricity bills, you may be able to get attractive financing for your improvements through the Connecticut Housing Investment Fund, or CHIF. CHIF’s Residential Energy Efficiency Financing Program offers low-interest loans for a wide variety of energy efficiency improvements, from insulation to ENERGY STAR–certified heating and cooling systems. Here’s how it works:

Basic CHIF Eligibility Requirements

To take part in CHIF’s Residential Energy Efficiency Financing Program, your residential electricity must be delivered bythe Connecticut Light & Power Company (CL&P) or the United Illuminating Company (UI).

Before you can apply for a low-interest CHIF loan, you’ll need to schedule a professional Home Energy Solutions (HES) Energy Assessment from an approved HES contractor to test your home’s efficiency and recommend energy-efficient improvements. An HES Energy Assessment can be scheduled by calling 877.947.3873.

After you have your assessment, you’ll need to getan estimate from an approved CHIF contractor and apply for your CHIF loan online at www.CHIF.org or by phone at 800.992.3665.

Amount of Loans

All energy efficiency loans that homeowners apply for under CHIF’s Residential Energy Efficiency Financing Program must be between $2,500 and $20,000.

Program Categories, Interest Rates and Terms

Program Categories and Interest Rates

CHIF’s Residential Energy Efficiency Financing Program offers two main categories of programs, which qualify for one of two interest rates, either 2.99 percent or 4.99 percent. When you bundle qualifying improvements or equipment upgrades from both categories, the entire package qualifies for the lower 2.99 percent interest rate.

A third category specifically for residential electricity customers of CL&P offers market-rate loans to help cover the cost of installing geothermal heat pump systems.

Loan Terms

CHIF offers unsecured, fixed-rate loans with repayment terms up to 10 years. There are no fees or prepayment penalties. The homeowner assumes the loan and CHIF pays the contractor directly. Repayment begins 30 days after the work is complete. UI customers make monthly payments directly via their utility bills. CL&P customers can choose to make monthly payments to CHIF or directly via their utility bills.

Improvements that qualify for 2.99 percent financing include insulation, ductless heat pumps, heat pump water heaters and tankless natural gas water heaters:

 -High efficiency insulation must meet current HES rebate requirements

 -Ductless heat pumps must meet the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund’s ductless heat pump criteria for the $1,000 incentive level; ductless heat pumps must be installed in a zone that has electric resistance heat as the primary source of heat

 -Electric heat pump water heaters must have an Energy Factor (EF) of 2.0 or greater

 -Tankless natural gas hot water heaters must have an EF of 0.082 or greater

Improvements that qualify for 4.99 percent financing include central air and heat pump systems, air to air heat pumps, natural gas furnaces and boilers, and replacement windows:

 -Central air and heat pump systems must meet equipment early retirement criteria and utilize heating and cooling system rebates and the QIV rebate program; they must also have minimum ratings of 14.5 SEER, 12 EER, 8.2 HSPF

 -Air to air heat pumps must be used to replace electric resistance heat; they must have minimum ratings of 14.5 SEER, 12 EER, 8.2 HSPF

 -Natural gas furnaces must be CEE TierII–certified with a 92 percent AFUE rating and have an air handler performance level of 2 percent or lower

 -Natural gas boilers must have a 90 percent AFUE rating and feature temperature reset or purge control

 -Replacement windows must meet HES program eligibility and replacement criteria and must be used to replace single-paned windows

 -Geothermal heat pump systems may be eligible for financing under the CHIF Residential Energy Efficiency Financing Program at standard market interest rates. To qualify, homeowners must be residential electricity delivery customers of CL&P and homes must meet current geothermal program guidelines.

ENERGY STAR–Certification Requirement

All new or upgraded equipment, including replacement windows, must be ENERGY STAR–certified to qualify for a low-interest loan under CHIF’s Residential Energy Efficiency Financing Program.

For More Information

For more information about the CHIF Residential Energy Efficiency Financing Program and qualifying improvements, download the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund’s Residential Energy Efficiency Financing brochure or call the Connecticut Housing Investment Fund at 800.992.3665.

Sources

Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund brochure, “Residential Financing.”

Connecticut Housing Investment Fund, “Residential Energy Efficiency Financing Program.”

DSIRE, “Connecticut: Energy Efficiency Fund (Electric and Gas) — Residential Energy Efficiency Financing.”


40 Percent of CL&P Customers Have Switched to a Retail Electricity Supplier

CLP Customers are Switching Electricity ProvidersMore and more electricity customers in Connecticut are discovering the benefits of switching to a retail electricity supplier.

Over 40 percent of residential customers that have their electricity delivered by Connecticut Lighting & Power (CL&P) now buy their electricity from a retail electricity supplier, according to the most recent data released by the utility. That’s 446,000 Connecticut homes that have already switched.

“Increasingly, electricity customers are switching their electricity supply from their utilities to retail suppliers as more people begin to understand the advantages of switching, which can include the ability to lock in lower electricity prices for extended periods,” said Jim Head, Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Spark Energy. “More people are also aware of how electricity deregulation works in Connecticut— even though the utility will still deliver electricity to their homes, people can shop around and buy electricity from any retail electricity supplier they choose that services their area.”

Head said that now may be a good time for electricity customers to lock in electricity prices. “It’s always smart to shop around for a good deal, and smart shoppers across Connecticut are choosing Spark Energy,” said Head. “With summer prices coming soon, families everywhere could benefit from locking in a low fixed electricity price with a retail electricity supplier like Spark Energy.”

Sources

Connecticut Light & Power, “Summary Data: Electric Supplier MWh Load and Customer Count,” March 19, 2012.

CL&P Begins Tree Trimming Campaign to Help Prevent Outages in Greenwich

Friday May 4, 2012
Posted at 07:00

CL&P Tree Trimming Campaign

Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) has kicked off a campaign to trim trees in Greenwich, Conn. to help prevent power outages in the city from storm-related damage.

The electricity utility’s $600,000 tree trimming project began in March and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The focus of the effort will be on trimming trees back to help prevent damage to power lines and other electrical equipment from falling tree limbs – the number one cause of power outages. The project will involve about a quarter of CL&P’s power lines in Greenwich. Trimming will take place primarily south of Route 1; in the Lake Avenue area between Round Hill Road and the Merritt Parkway; and in the Valley Road, Cat Rock Road and Cognewaugh Road neighborhoods.

Additional, or “enhanced,” tree trimming will also be conducted in areas that have experienced tree-related power outages in the past. The actual trimming will be performed by crews from Lewis Tree Service Inc.

For a list of affected streets, CL&P electricity customers can visit www.clpbringspower.com and click on the “Vegetation Management” link.

For more information or to ask questions, customers can call CL&P’s Doug Pistawka at 860.665.6146 or Lewis Tree Service’s Brian Fuegen at 860.818.3818.

Sources

CL&P Trims Trees in Greenwich to Avert Outages,” The Daily Greenwich, March 27, 2012.

More Connecticut Electricity Customers Switching to Alternative Suppliers

choice-in-electricity.jpg

An increasing number of electric customers in Connecticut get their electricity from competitive retail suppliers and not from the state’s two public utilities, according to a new report on competitive supply.

The 5th Annual Baseline Assessment of Choice in Canada and the United States (ABACCUS), by Distributed Energy Financial Group LLC, found that more than 65 percent of electricity sold in Connecticut is purchased from alternative retail suppliers that entered the state’s electricity market when it was opened up to competition in 1998.

Competition broke up the state’s two electric utility monopolies, Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating, and made electricity supply separate from distribution. While the utilities, which were turned into electricity distribution companies, could still sell electricity at state-regulated rates, alternative retail suppliers were allowed to enter the market and compete with the utilities and each other for customers.

The competitive retail electricity supply market was slow to catch on due to small rate savings between the utilities and retail suppliers initially. However, over the past four years, the number of electric customers who switched from their utility to an alternative electricity supplier increased sharply.

In 2008, 6.6 percent of residential electric customers had switched to a retail supplier. By 2011, that number increased to 40.6 percent. Commercial electric customers have switched in even greater numbers. By 2011, 80 percent of small businesses and 90 percent of large businesses had switched to a retail supplier.

Sources

Retailers Sell Two-Thirds of CT Electricity,” Hartford Business Journal, Nov. 30, 2011.

How Utility Deregulation Benefits Connecticut Electricity Customers

Wednesday January 25, 2012
Posted at 11:50

If you live in Connecticut, then you probably live in a deregulated electricity area. According to the New England Energy Alliance (NEAA), that’s a good thing, both for electricity customers and the environment.

What is electric deregulation?

A national movement to deregulate public utilities, commonly referred to as electric restructuring, began in the early 1990s. Prior to then, most electric utilities were monopolies, regulated by state utility commissions. The utilities handled everything. They generated and/or bought electricity, sold it to customers and delivered it to customers’ homes.

The movement behind deregulation suggested that the utilities should be broken up. Under deregulation, other companies would be allowed to generate electricity and still other companies would be allowed to buy electricity from the generators and sell it directly to customers. The role of utilities would change. In deregulated markets, the utilities would simply take electricity from the generators, transmit it to the grid and deliver it to customers’ homes. The utilities would only charge for the distribution of electricity, although they could still sell electricity — at a price set by state regulators — if customers didn’t want to switch to a competing electricity supplier.

Deregulation was meant to encourage competition among multiple electricity suppliers, which would ultimately drive down energy prices and help customers save money on monthly electric bills.

Connecticut began to deregulate in 1998 when the state legislature passed a law to restructure the utilities. On Jan. 1, 2000, the law went in to effect and utilities such as Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) and The United Illuminating Company (UI) were broken up and competing suppliers were allowed to enter the market.

Now, over ten years later, Connecticut electricity customers have more choices and greater access to cleaner energy than ever before, according to the NEAA.

The Five Main Benefits of Electric Deregulation in Connecticut

According to an NEAA report released last year, it is “clear that the competitive marketplace is working to the benefit of both customers and the environment.” The report cited five main achievements since deregulation began, including more power, more choice, higher efficiency, cleaner air and the development of new clean energy resources.

More Power

As of last April, more than 4,000 megawatts of new electricity generation facilities were in the works in Connecticut, thanks to deregulation. The NEAA noted that when all of that power comes online, it will increase the state’s electricity output by 50 percent and will further boost competition, reduce prices and create jobs.

More Choice

From 2005 to 2010, the percentage of Connecticut electricity customers who bought their electricity from competitive suppliers grew by triple digits. By the time the report was issued, 35 alternative electricity suppliers — investing substantial capital and employing hundreds of residents — served 20 percent of all state customers and supplied half of all electricity sold in the state.

Higher Efficiency

Deregulation has paved the way for consumer-funded efficiency programs provided by utilities that have conserved more than 400 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. That’s enough to power over 47,000 homes annually.

Cleaner Air

Deregulation has also spurred the construction of highly efficient natural gas power plants for generating electricity, as well as a switch to cleaner fuels in existing power plants. As a result, fewer greenhouse gasses have been emitted. Between 2005 and 2010, carbon dioxide emissions from power plants decreased 20 percent. Additionally, nitrogen oxide fell by 62 percent and sulfur dioxide by 77 percent.

New Clean Energy Resources

Because of deregulation, many new types of “greener” electricity generation technologies are being developed. Hydropower, wind energy and biomass are all contributing to the state’s goal of generating 27 percent of Connecticut’s entire energy production by the year 2020.

Sources

NEEA: CT Benefits From Electric Deregulation,” Hartford Business Journal, Apr. 28, 2010.

Connecticut Light & Power, “CL&P History.”

Energy-Efficiency Rebates and Services in Connecticut

If you’re a Connecticut electric customer and have your electricity delivered by Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P), you can take advantage of several energy-efficiency rebates and energy-efficiency services that are designed to help you save money off monthly electric bills.

All residential and commercial electric customers in the utility’s service territory are eligible for the energy-saving programs, even if they buy their electricity from an alternative supplier such as Spark Energy.

All programs are supported by the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund and administered by CL&P unless otherwise noted.

Home Energy Solutions program

Under the Home Energy Solutions (HES) program, a specialist will perform an energy assessment of your home, whether you rent or own, and provide information on ways you can lower your energy bills. HES specialists often look at how your home is sealed against air leaks, how your appliances use energy and how efficient your lighting is. There are three HES programs, including a basic and advanced energy assessment, and an assessment for low-income households.

Quality Installation and Verification program

Not every air conditioner, heat pump or furnace has been installed correctly. In fact, ENERGY STAR estimates that more than half of all HVAC systems suffer from poor performance due to installation issues. The Quality Installation and Verification (QIV) program ensures that your HVAC equipment is installed for the best performance and reliability, which can lead to lower energy bills, increased reliability, longer equipment life, improved indoor air quality and improved comfort.

ENERGY STAR–qualified retail products

Electric customers are eligible for rebates on ENERGY STAR–qualified lighting products and appliances through the utility’s ENERGY STAR Retail Products programs. The programs provide retail incentives and markdowns, which are offered on “marked” products in stores that have already been discounted. Products include lighting fixtures, CFL and LED light bulbs, clothes washers, dehumidifiers, dishwashers, refrigerators/freezers and air conditioners.

Residential new home construction rebates

When building a new home, utility customers can take advantage of the Residential New Home Construction Program. The utility will provide a program manager to help you through the application process and ensure that you receive all your eligible program benefits. Eligibility requirements for the programs mandate that a new construction incentive application must be submitted before a home is insulated.

Multi-family properties

The multi-family program helps owners of new constructions or existing buildings that house multiple tenants participate in various energy-efficiency rebate and services programs offered by utilities. Buildings are considered multi-family if they have more than three connected units, mixed use within the same building, or if they fall under the control of a property manager, association or housing authority. Examples of eligible buildings include apartment complexes, dorms and assisted living facilities.

High efficiency HVAC system rebate

CL&P offers a $250 cash rebate for qualifying energy-efficient central air conditioning systems or heat pump systems. Qualifying systems must be installed by March 1, 2012 and may garner additional incentives by participating in the QIV program.

Heat pump water heater rebate

You may be eligible for a $400 cash rebate if you replace your old, inefficient electric water heater with an efficient heat pump water heater. Qualifying systems must be ENERGY STAR-qualified with an Energy Factor of 2.0 or greater and must be installed before December 31, 2011.

Ductless heat pumps and geothermal systems

Utility customers who are heating their homes with electric baseboards or wall heaters, or who are building new homes and want a better way to control the temperature, can benefit from noticeable energy savings by installing energy-efficient ductless heat pump systems or geothermal systems. Systems are eligible for substantial rebates from CL&P in additional to significant federal tax credits.

Solar photovoltaic systems

Residential, nonprofit and governmental utility customers interested in installing solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in their homes or buildings are eligible for rebates from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund (now part of the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority) that cover a percentage of installation and equipment costs. Rebates are offered through designated participating solar PV installers.

Midnight turn-off option for street lights

If you have streetlights on your property, owned either by you or CL&P, you may receive a rebate from the utility if you agree to install a programmable photocell that will ensure the street lights operate only between dusk and midnight.

For more information about energy-efficiency rebates and service programs for CL&P customers, visit the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund at www.CTEnergyInfo.com, the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund at www.ctcleanenergy.com or call 877-WISE-USE (877-947-3873).

Sources

Connecticut Light & Power, “Home Services and Rebates.”

Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund

Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority

Connecticut Electric Vehicle Owners Get New Charging Stations in Stamford

Monday November 21, 2011
Posted at 13:25

electric-vehicle-charging-station.jpg

Connecticut electric vehicle owners will get three new charging stations in Stamford this December under a Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) pilot program.

The new 240-volt charging stations, which will cost about $3,000 each to install, will be located at the Government Center and in both the Summer Street and Bell Street garages.

The Stamford charging stations are part of a statewide program by CL&P to promote the use of electric vehicles and to study how Connecticut electric vehicle owners use the stations. Overall, CL&P will install about 30 charging stations across the state. Other towns participating in the program include Westport, Torrington, West Hartford and Mansfield.

The stations initially will be free but eventually will be switched to a fee system that might use a smartphone application to make payments. The utility estimates that the rates will average about $3 for every two hours of charging.

As fully electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and hybrid electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt enter the market in Connecticut, CL&P, the state’s largest public utility, says its pilot program will help prepare for the arrival of the vehicles and help address concerns among current and prospective electric vehicle owners that they aren’t enough charging stations in Connecticut.

Connecticut electric vehicle owners may obtain a full list of charging stations at www.plugmyride.org.

Has an electric vehicle charging station gone up near where you work or live? Tell us how it’s working for you.

Sources

Stamford Getting Three New Vehicle Charging Stations,” Stamford Patch, Oct. 19, 2011.

750,000 Electric Customers in Northeast Still Without Power After Deadly Storm

Friday November 4, 2011
Posted at 16:35

Three-quarters of a million people across the Northeast still have no power as the result of an unprecedented October storm that dumped record amounts of snow and caused massive outages from Pennsylvania to New Hampshire.

More than 2.3 million electric customers had no electricity on Oct. 30. Nine deaths were attributed to the storm in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut. Massachusetts and Connecticut were among the hardest-hit states. Plainfield, Mass., recorded 27 inches of snow while Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., recorded more than 12 inches of snow. According to the state’s weather service, the previous record in Connecticut was a tenth of an inch, in 2000.

CL&P posted a dire update on its Twitter feed after the storm hit: “Unprecedented damage from this storm. Please prepare for worst case scenario — a week or more without power.”

“It’s a pretty difficult situation in Connecticut right now; we have more power outages than at any time in our history,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in an interview with The New York Times on Sunday following a briefing on the storm’s damage. “A large percentage of the trees had extensive foliage; that’s what brought these trees down. A snowfall of anywhere from 2 to 18 inches in the middle of the winter would not produce the kind of damage that this storm is producing.”

The situation had improved by Thursday, when the number of residents in the Northeast without power fell to 750,000, including 144,000 in Massachusetts, 74,000 in New Jersey, 65,000 in Pennsylvania, 36,000 in New Hampshire and 17,000 in New York.

About 427,000 electric customers in Connecticut, about 34 percent of the state, remained without power Thursday as electric utilities struggled to repair massive damage. Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P), one of the state’s largest utilities, estimated that restoration to its customers would be complete by Sunday night, more than a week after the storm shut down power to nearly a million residents.

In Massachusetts, state Attorney General Martha Coakley said her office had received “a variety of complaints” over the power restoration process. Coakley said she intends to launch an investigation into public utilities’ response to the storm. A previous investigation by Coakley into a December 2010 storm led to a $2 million settlement with National Grid and a probe into how utilities prepared and responded to Tropical Storm Irene.

Sources

Power Outages Plague Northeast Residents,” Reuters, Nov. 3, 2011.

Storm Leaves More Than 2 Million Without Power,” The New York Times, Oct. 30, 2011.

Low-Interest On-Bill Home Energy Efficiency Financing Comes to Connecticut

Thursday October 6, 2011
Posted at 09:20

A new program by the United Illuminating Company (UI), an electric utility in Connecticut, is helping customers in the state afford energy efficiency improvements by allowing them to pay for those improvements on their monthly utility bills.

UI is the latest electric company to offer “on-bill” financing, a nationwide trend among public utilities to encourage energy improvements by allowing customers to make monthly payments toward energy efficiency improvements on their utility bills over an extended repayment period, usually about 10 years.  A similar program was launched in New York earlier this year.

Like a typical on-bill financing program, UI’s Residential Energy Efficiency Financing program adds monthly charges to customers’ bills estimated to match the amount of money the improvement is expected to save them that month. In this way, improvements are designed to be paid off by the savings they create.

UI has partnered with the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund to offer the low-interest energy efficiency improvement loans, which range from 2.99 percent to 4.99 percent. The utility announced this week that it completed its first energy efficiency improvements through the program to a home in Hamden, where contractors installed an ENERGY STAR-qualified central air system and two programmable thermostats.

To be eligible for the program, customers must complete a home energy audit through the Home Energy Solutions program, which is operated by the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund.

For more information about on-bill financing through UI’s Residential Energy Efficiency Financing program, residents can call 877WISE-USE or visit www.CTEnergyInfo.com.

Planning on taking advantage of on-bill financing for home energy efficiency improvements in Connecticut? Share your thoughts. Already a program participant? Let us know how the program is working for you.

Sources

UI Helping Customers to Finance Energy Conservation Purchases,” Connecticut Watchdog, Sept. 20, 2011.