CT House Passes Renewable Energy Bill, State to See Energy from Canada
After months of debate between lawmakers, Connecticut’s House passed a bill that would redefine how the state counts and categorizes clean energy on Tuesday. The Senate passed the bill earlier in May, which changed how energy sources qualify as “clean” in the state. This is significant for consumers and energy producers since the status of “clean” determines eligibility for state-backed subsidies.
The greatest debate in the state’s renewable energy policies surrounded large-scale hydropower, which is not considered a “class one” renewable energy source like solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, and small hydropower dams. The initial bill approved by the Senate allowed the state to acquire up to 1 percent of power in 2014 from Canada and up to 5 percent by 2020.
After modifications of the bill by the House, large-scale hydropower will not be considered “class one”. However, hydropower – which will be imported from Canada – will be considered if the state’s energy market cannot purchase enough clean energy from more traditional sources such as wind and solar. Specifically, it requires that the state’s energy department first examine setting up long-term contracts with other “class one” sources that could fill shortfalls in requirements prior to considering hydropower.
Environmentalists, critics, and solar and wind industry players claim that the bill is designed to shift the state’s concentration of renewables to cheaper hydropower from Canada, which reduces the push for in-state solar and wind and could cost more in the long run. Critics claim that reducing commitment to renewable energy in the state will increase dependence on foreign fuels, reduce the number of jobs created by the renewable industry, and weaken the state’s overall renewable industry as subsidies could potentially be taken away from smaller-scale renewable projects in favor of large-scale hydropower.
Lawmakers that supported the bill claim that it will help drive down electric rates, add competition to the renewable market, and aid to stabilize electricity rates in the long run.
The state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Communications Director, Dennis Schain, stated Tuesday, “Today’s vote in the House sets Connecticut on a path toward cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable electricity future where renewable power plays a larger role, but at a lower cost to ratepayers.
The bill also keeps the state’s renewable energy requirement goal at 20 percent by 2020.