June 6, 2012 | last updated June 11, 2012 5:48 pm

Esty supports CT natural gas expansion

Dan Esty commissioner state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection

Connecticut's top energy official on Wednesday threw his support behind expanded use of natural gas in Connecticut heating, in front of a crowd of state business decision makers.

At the Connecticut Business & Industry Association's Environmental & Energy Conference in Waterbury, Dan Esty – the commissioner of the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection – said he favored using more natural gas to heat Connecticut homes and businesses. Currently, 29 percent of state homes use natural gas for heat while the majority, 52 percent, use heating oil.

DEEP is in the middle of developing the state's first comprehensive energy strategy to determine – among other things – the proper fuel mixes for home heating, electricity generation and transportation. A draft of the strategy is due July 2.

Esty said he favored natural gas over heating oil because it emits 49 percent less greenhouse gas and costs about half as much to heat a home over the course of a winter.

The state's natural gas utilities – Yankee Gas, Connecticut Natural Gas and Southern Connecticut Gas – are pushing a $2.5 billion build-out of the natural gas home heating infrastructure. They are looking for some state assistance in helping with the build-out costs and switching customers to natural gas. Support from Esty and DEEP's comprehensive energy strategy will help that goal when the options are presented to the state's General Assembly.

Esty said for power generation, he favors using natural gas as a bridge to reach a goal that focuses on using renewable sources of power that cost less than fossil fuels.

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