The state Senate sent a bill amending the state’s approach to clean energy Tuesday to the governor after affirming an amendment made by the House last week.
On the second to last day of the legislature’s regular session, the Senate approved the measure 26-6.
Environmentalists rallied against the bill’s inclusion of large-scale hydropower in the state’s self-required portfolio of clean energy, saying it “waters down” the state’s progressive goal of having 20 percent of its energy come from clean sources by the end of the decade.
The sources of electricity for that requirement, classified as “class one” renewables, include solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal systems, biogas from landfills or other sources, wood-burning biomass plants, and smaller hydropower dams.
Along the way, the role of large-scale hydropower in the bill was scaled back, from being a front-line resource that took up whole percentage points of the state’s requirement to, in the final version, a contingency option that could fill in one percentage point per year, but only when there’s a shortage from other sources.
Any such increase on large-scale hydropower, like Canada’s Hydro-Quebec, should benefit local electric utility Northeast Utilities, the parent company of Connecticut Light & Power and Yankee Gas, which is in the middle of planning a large transmission line known as the “Northern Pass” through New Hampshire to deliver the power to southern New England.
Tom May, the utility’s chief executive, has said the transmission project isn’t contingent on the state’s clean energy program.
The bill also gives the state the ability to enter into long-term contracts with clean energy projects, like solar arrays or wind farms, in an effort to reduce risk for developers and bring down the price of clean energy.
It increases what output from hydroelectric dams count as a class-one source of energy, and it sets out a path to reduce how much energy the state gets from burning landfill gas and wood biomass plants by reducing the value of renewable energy credits given to those power plants.
“By moving from dirtier, out-of-state bio-mass to cleaner hydropower, we will both improve air quality throughout New England and lower cost for consumers,” Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a written statement. “Those lower costs will mean family budgets can stretch a little farther, and businesses can grow jobs where we need them – right here in Connecticut.”
A measure in the bill also returns to ratepayers the fees paid when electric companies can’t acquire enough power from clean sources under a certain price. Before, those funds were folded into development of more class-one energy sources through the state’s Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority.
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