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The strategy of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his energy commissioner, Daniel C. Esty, to increase the availability of natural gas for both residential and commercial customers took a positive step forward last week when the state's three natural gas companies filed a joint expansion plan with regulators.
The plan submitted by Yankee Gas, Connecticut Natural Gas and Southern Connecticut Gas would provide access to natural gas for about 280,000 additional customers. Natural gas expansion is among the key elements of the state's Comprehensive Energy Strategy.
"Natural gas expansion offers the promise of lowering heating bills for residents and helping to rebuild our economy and create jobs by lowering operating costs for businesses here. At the same time, natural gas burns much cleaner than heating oil," said Mr. Esty, Commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in announcing the expansion plan submission.
He is right on all counts
The high cost of energy in Connecticut has long stood as one of the greatest impediments to economic growth. Large increases in the availability of domestic natural gas supplies, due largely to the accessing of shale gas, provide the opportunity for Connecticut to drive down energy costs.
Natural gas is now far cheaper than oil and all indications are that the gap will only widen in the coming decades. It now costs about half as much to heat a home with natural gas as it does with oil.
Heating oil distributors complain that Gov. Malloy's push for natural gas expansion is tipping the scales. In fact all the current policy does is encourage expansion so that the different energy providers can compete in the marketplace. The legislature stripped from the plan proposals to provide state aid to defray the cost of natural gas conversion.
"There is no one who is required to convert," noted Gov. Malloy at a news conference last week. "Very little money is being spent in this effort, really nothing. And so we're really not doing that. They (oil distributors) did, to some extent, win that particular argument."
But by providing choice, consumers will win.