A coalition of environmental and consumer groups as well as labor unions is criticizing efforts the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is undertaking to get the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards changed.
The groups rallied at the Legislative Office Building Thursday to explain their opposition to some of the changes proposed by DEEP Commissioner Dan Esty, which include allowing energy produced by large scale hydropower plants to be included as part of the portfolio. The current standards for the portfolio, which are 15 years old, don’t allow power from large scale hydro-electric projects to count toward Connecticut’s renewable energy goals.
The groups that rallied say the inclusion of big hydropower projects represents a rollback that will displace the existing requirement that 20 percent of the state’s electricity come from new renewable sources by 2020. The changes are being proposed as part of a piece of energy legislation now before the General Assembly.
“Connecticut should go big on renewable energy, not back,” said Chris Phelps, state director of Environment Connecticut, in a statement. “Connecticut can cut pollution and build a clean energy economy by steadily increasing our renewable electricity requirement to require utilities to get 25 percent of our electricity from new renewables like wind and solar by 2025.”
Connecticut was one of the first states in the nation to require utilities to use more renewable energy sources, Phelps said. Since Connecticut adopted those requirements, 28 other states have followed suit, he said.
John Olsen, president of the Connecticut’s AFL-CIO, said allowing big hydro projects to be considered as part of the portfolio will “shift investment and jobs across the border to Canada while providing substantial economic benefits to the corporations involved in the hydropower projects.”
“Connecticut’s renewable energy law is already driving major investment across the region and supporting new clean energy jobs,” Olsen said in a statement.
DEEP Spokesman Dennis Schain said Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards as they now exist “are not working well.”
“The restructuring would maintain a strong commitment to clean energy, raising the renewable requirement from the current maximum of 20 percent of our energy by 2020 to 25 percent in 2025,” Schain said. “This is hardly a rollback, as some are incorrectly calling it. The restructuring that has been proposed allows large-scale hydro to compete for an unsubsidized slice of our energy mix with other renewables.”
Schain said opponents overlook the fact large-scale hydropower providers would compete for energy contracts awarded.
Any energy contracts awarded to large scale water power producers like Hydro Quebec would require those companies to be the lowest bidder, thus driving down the costs ratepayers shoulder as the amount of renewable energy usage grows.
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