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Connecticut renewable energy standards up for review

Proposed changes to what some lawmakers say is Connecticut’s costly and unscientific renewable portfolio standards will be made in June, giving state leaders time to review the 13-year-old policy.

The Connecticut Energy Advisory Board is reviewing the state’s 13-year-old renewable portfolio standards (RPS) that by 2020 calls for 20 percent of the Connecticut’s electricity to come Class I renewables such as wind and solar.

At a Monday hearing at the Department of Environmental Protection headquarters in Hartford, the board met with legislators and industry stakeholders to review the impact of the standards’ implementation over the next nine years.

State Rep. Vickie Nardello, D-Prospect, co-chair of the General Assembly’s Energy & Technology Committee, said the 20 percent by 2020 goal was more designed as a catchy slogan than anything based on data or planned in regard for cost and long-term impact.

The Connecticut Energy Advisory Board (CEAB) is reviewing the RPS with regard to whether or not the goal is attainable, what the immediate and long-term costs will be, and what sources of electricity generation should count as renewable.

The CEAB plans to issue its recommendations in early June to the General Assembly and other key government officials, said Jeff Gaudiosi, CEAB chair.

No scientific study has been completed to assess the financial impact of the RPS, but estimates from the Department of Public Utility Control say the costs could be $500 million annually or more. That cost would be borne by the ratepayers.

At the hearing, State Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, co-chair of the legislature’s Energy & Technology Committee, said one of the hardest aspects of the RPS is reconciling the high costs of implementing the goals with calls to reduce the state’s electricity prices, which are the second highest in the nation.

One of the overarching themes from commenters at the hearing was the need for Connecticut to become more stable and predictable in its energy policies and regulations, removing uncertainty to developers undertaking the costly task of building renewable energy plants.

Other topics touched on include whether energy efficiency efforts should be given a bigger role in the RPS, if Connecticut should enter into a regional RPS in New England, and how Connecticut can use its RPS to spur research and development, jobs and technology in the state’s borders.