RENEW Northeast submitted testimony to the Connecticut legislature’s environmental committee in favor of amending a law passed last year that is having a chilling effect on developers seeking new sites for utility-scale solar projects in Connecticut. Under the law, the Department of Agriculture is able to force a utility-scale solar energy project into the more expensive and lengthy Siting Council permit process designed for the evaluation of large (over 65 megawatts) fossil-fueled plants. To achieve Connecticut’s environmental, renewable and economic development goals, a solar energy project should not face a riskier and costlier permitting process compared to smaller projects (65 megawatts or less) to be fueled by natural gas or oil, or a permanent housing or commercial development.
Connecticut has some of the highest electricity rates in the nation, and in January they will increase even further.
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) will soon release the final version of its three-year Comprehensive Energy Strategy, which aims to create a cheaper, cleaner, more reliable energy future for our state’s residents and businesses.
The Connecticut General Assembly has enacted Senate Bill No. 943, “An Act Concerning the Installation of Certain Solar Facilities on Productive Farmlands” that singles out the least-cost form of solar development by imposing a permitting process established for large-scale fossil fueled power plants. As RENEW explained in a recent op-ed, this bill penalizing solar development placed on farmland will jeopardize past and future energy solicitations intended to bring clean energy, low electricity prices, economic development and sound environmental policy to the state.
At the June 12th meeting of the Connecticut Power & Energy Society, several RENEW members participated in a panel discussion on the role of wind power in Connecticut’s energy future. The panelists discussed recent legislation in Connecticut and Massachusetts promoting renewable resource development, the environmental benefits of wind power, siting wind plants in Connecticut, and the future of wind development in New England’s Atlantic waters. Eric Johnson, Director, External Affairs at ISO New England, was the moderator.
Renewable Energy New England, Inc., (RENEW) applauds Governor Dannel Malloy for supporting new statutory provisions that will expand the benefits of affordable renewable energy for Connecticut electricity customers. Those provisions, included in larger energy legislation Senate Bill 1138 and House Bill 6360, both of which recently achieved final passage in the legislature, will help encourage the development of new, affordable renewable energy in Connecticut and New England.
RENEW praises Senate President Donald Williams and House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, Energy & Technology Committee Co-Chairs Sen. Bob Duff and Rep. Lonnie Reed, Committee Ranking Members Sen. Clark Chapin and Rep. Laura Hoydick, the full membership of the House and Senate, and Department of Energy and Environment Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Daniel Esty for their leadership in expanding Connecticut’s nationally leading energy policies.
“A section of Senate Bill 1138 authorizes DEEP to enter into long-term contracts with renewable energy developers. Long-term contracting opportunities will enable the industry to make long-term investments and reduce the cost of RPS compliance for consumers. Across the country, renewable energy long-term contracts result in lower costs for consumers with the added benefit of drawing economic investments into states where the projects are located. The resulting projects stand to give the administration’s ‘cleaner, cheaper’ energy agenda a major advance.” said RENEW Executive Director Francis Pullaro.
The bill also gives the state the opportunity to coordinate its procurement of renewable energy with the other New England states following a resolution adopted at the 2012 meeting of the New England Governors’ Conference. The benefits from regional coordination will arise by capturing some of the economies of scale from larger renewable energy projects and, in the years ahead, potentially facilitating additional intra-regional transmission capacity to deliver the energy from those resources.
Utility-scale wind projects in particular have been highlighted in recent analyses for the New England States as the leading solution to meet New England’s collective renewable energy goals. Large scale wind resources are clean, cost-effective and enhance the reliability of our region’s bulk power system.
To help ensure Connecticut receives the economic development benefits of having those projects sited in the state, House Bill 6360 contains a provision to facilitate the adoption of wind siting regulations that have been drafted by the Connecticut Siting Council. Adoption of the regulations will allow wind project developers to submit new applications to build projects in the state.
RENEW and the Conservation Law Foundation jointly filed comments with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) on its draft 2012 Integrated Resource Plan. In our comments we urge DEEP in its final draft to better protect ratepayer interests and the environment by recognizing that obsolescence and the market are rendering much of the region’s coal and oil fleet uneconomic and to plan for the inevitable retirement of many of these units with replacement of their capacity through new renewable resources, energy efficiency and demand response. As the lack of adequate amounts of long term contracting for large scale renewable resources keeps needed projects on the drawing board, we recommend in our comments DEEP exercise its long term contracting authority under Section 94 of Public Act 11-80 to take control of Connecticut’s renewable energy future.