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New Englanders Are Concerned About Climate Change, But Unwilling To Pay Rate Increases

by | Aug 2, 2016 11:00am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Business, The Economy, Energy Sector, Energy

Most New Englanders are concerned about climate change, but they also worry about energy costs and wouldn’t voluntarily pay more for electricity to limit climate change’s effects, a survey found.

Seventy-five percent of respondents said they were at least somewhat concerned about the effects of climate change, with 50 percent of total respondents saying they are “very concerned,” according to a survey by the New England Energy Alliance.

The group polled 500 registered voters throughout the six New England states by phone April 13-24. The alliance is a nonprofit coalition of various stakeholders, including energy companies, that advocates for the availability and affordability of energy.

Despite their worries, 41 percent of survey respondents said they wouldn’t be willing to pay more on their electric bills to limit the impact of climate change.

A majority of respondents, 83 percent, said they worry about the affordability of energy in the region. Forty-two percent said they were “very concerned,” according to the survey.

“Conducting this annual survey enables the identification of consumer insight on many of the energy policies currently being debated in New England,” alliance Executive Director Paul Afonso said in a statement.  “This year, while we saw substantial concern for the environment, New England consumers continue to view regional energy issues from a largely economic perspective.”

Electricity prices in this region are higher than almost everywhere else in the country. In April, the average retail cost for electricity in New England was 19.68 cents per kilowatt-hour and Connecticut had the highest average cost in the region at 21.15 cents per kilowatt-hour, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The national average retail price for electricity in April was 12.43 cents per kilowatt-hour. Prices across the country ranged from a low of 9.17 cents in Louisiana to a high of 26.93 cents in Hawaii, according to the EIA.

Most of the retail price consumers pay for electricity, 65 percent, is attributed to generating the power. Another 25 percent of the cost goes toward distribution and the remaining cost is for transmission, according to the EIA.

More than half of New England’s electricity is generated by natural gas, which results in higher costs due to pipeline constraints in the winter when natural gas is used for both electricity generation and space heating, according to the New England Energy Alliance.

When asked about infrastructure options to alleviate those constraints, survey respondents were most receptive to increasing the use of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. Some also supported building new natural gas pipelines and increasing energy efficiency, the survey found.

Just 25 percent were “completely opposed” to building new natural gas pipelines, but 62 percent either strongly or somewhat opposed “fracking,” a practice where pressurized water is used to extract natural gas from rock formations, according to the survey.

The survey also found that 51 percent think nuclear power plants should be considered “clean energy” sources, since they don’t emit carbons, and 68 percent oppose closing the region’s three remaining nuclear plants.

About 40 percent of New Englanders said their governor is doing an “excellent” or “good job” on energy policy, while 30 percent rated their governor’s energy work as “fair” and 14 percent rated their governor as “poor.”

Some consumers in the region, 40 percent, have participated in at least one energy efficiency program sponsored by their utility company. Of those, 64 percent said they have lowered their bills, 66 percent reduced energy usage, and 82 percent said participating in the program was easy.

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