The state’s energy department released a final version of its study recommending changes to how Connecticut supports clean energy Friday after weeks of public debate on the plan that initially blazed a wide path for large-scale hydropower to be included in the state’s portfolio of renewables.
In the final version of the study – and pending legislation that mirrors it – big hydropower, like Hydro-Quebec, is relegated to being a contingency source of power rather than a primary one.
The state could count the large, cost-competitive source of energy toward its clean energy goals if developers of renewable energy fail to build enough wind, solar and other projects to keep up with Connecticut’s goals.
“This study proposes a strategic and thoughtful approach that allows us to reap many benefits from increasing the availability of renewable power,” energy commissioner Daniel C. Esty said in a written statement.
Many expressed deep concerns about how state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection seemed to rush passage of a bill that was based on the draft study, trying to pass it before a month-long comment period finished. In response, legislators slowed the process, and the department’s commissioner said the legislation would not be voted on before the study is completed.
The energy department received more than 75 comments on the study, which “led to some key changes from the draft to the final version,” Esty said.
“These refinements help guarantee the integrity of our commitment to clean energy under the RPS and would set us on a path toward meeting Connecticut’s clean energy goals in the most effective and cost efficient manner,” he said.
The initial concerns about process were echoed, though, on Friday as the final study practically mirrored points outlined in an amended clean energy bill that legislators released earlier this week. Dan Dolan, president of the New England Power Generators Association, said the timeline makes him wonder exactly how the energy department processed public input on the study.
“It leads me to question what type of study and review was given to this,” he said.
Dolan said the approach to large hydropower – his association’s main problem with the study and legislation – hadn’t changed enough. “It doesn’t solve the issue we had with [the bill]. It just dressed it up a little bit.”
The final study and pending bill also change tack on landfill gas and biomass as a source of clean energy. Instead of ratcheting down emissions standards, the plan calls for a phase out in subsidies for those energy sources
The last major change to the study relates to the initial study’s extension of goals – from 20 percent of the state’s energy from certain clean sources by 2020 – to 25 percent by 2025. The final study removes this recommendation.
Other key recommendations in the study: include anaerobic digesters, biologically-derived methane and small hydropower projects to Class I renewables; allow state enter into long-term clean energy contracts; end subsidies to utility-run conservation projects that are already ratepayer funded; and refund payments to ratepayers that energy companies pay when they fall short on energy goals.
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