Idea for more municipal utilities studied

WALLINGFORD, Conn. (WTNH) -- Connecticut Utility Regulators are now studying the idea of allowing the state's municipally owned electric companies to expand. It could allow your city or town to take the place of United Illuminating or Connecticut Light & Power.

One of the big 'pros' is that the municipally owned utilities all seem to have lower rates than UI and CL&P, and local line crews get to the downed lines faster.

"Not unlike what we experienced with Irene and last year's snow storm, we had, in this case about 3,200 customers out at the peak of the storm," said George Adair of Wallingford Public Utilities, "and then had all customers on, basically, I think the last dozen or so, late Thursday." In other words, about three days.

The Town of Wallingford's Electric Division is a municipally owned power distribution company that serves about 25,000 customers. It's one of seven municipally owned power companies in Connecticut, and the legislature has found that their record for getting the lights back on after storms is better than the state's two major utilities.

So now state regulators are studying the feasibility of allowing more towns to create their own power companies.

"In a community like Wallingford, that already has and existing municipal power authority, some of the options may be to look at whether those companies would want to or be able to expand into other communities," said Rep. Vincent Candelora, (R) North Branford.

But there are major road blocks to the idea. A city or town would have to purchase the existing infrastructure -- the poles and wires -- in an entire town. It could cost billions. Gov. Dannel Malloy said Monday that the state could not offer any help in such an effort.

"Our emphasis has been on micro-grids, to get micro-grids up and running, particularly in downtowns, small and large downtown areas," he said. "We think that that's a better way to harden the system more rapidly."

Without some kind of help from the state most towns would have a hard time borrowing enough money to purchase the existing poles and powerlines to do this.

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Connecticut (change)

Connecticut has 169 cities and towns, which serve as the fundamental local political subdivision of the state. Connecticut is the 5th of the original thirteen United States.
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Governor: Dan Malloy
Lieutenant Governor: Nancy Wyman
Attorney General: George Jepsen
State Treasurer: Denise L. Nappier

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