The New Green: Local political debate on renewable sources
Published: Friday, May 3, 2013
Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08
It might seem unlikely that power plant companies and environmentalists would ever join forces over a political issue, but that is exactly what happened in the Connecticut legislature this week. The Connecticut Senate passed a bill yesterday that would reform the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio. The Portfolio currently requires electric companies to derive a greater and greater portion of their electricity from renewable energy sources each year and the new bill would add hydroelectric power to the list of acceptable renewable sources.
Many environmentalists are opposed to this addition because they believe that the bill was really drafted in the interest of the Northeast Utility electric company, which wants to construct a new transmission line to bring in hydroelectric power from Quebec. They worry that outsourcing electricity to hydroelectric companies will detract from local renewable energies like solar and wind power.
Power companies, on the other hand, are upset because they believe the requirements of the Renewable Energy Portfolio are too stringent and give the state too much power over their businesses.
Both sides are rankled that the Senate jumped the gun on the bill before the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) had a chance to publish a report on the Renewable Energy Portfolio, which was supposed to form the basis of the new legislation. Furthermore, the Commissioner of DEEP himself, Daniel C. Esty, is under severe scrutiny for communications that he has had with energy companies “behind closed doors” without the involvement of environmental or other interest groups. Many claim that his conduct was unlawful, and last week, four Connecticut activist groups filed a Freedom of Information request demanding that the communications between Esty and the energy companies be made public. Last week, the FOI request caused the Senate to postpone their vote on the new bill. Yesterday, however, they voted to pass it on, although the issue remains unresolved. The bill will now come before the House of Representatives for a vote.
We should all be interested in policy that concerns the state’s electricity market - Connecticut is widely considered to have the highest electric rates out of the lower 48 states. How we generate it and where it comes from are extremely important factors that may heavily influence the quality of our lives. Be sure to stay tuned to the electricity debate as it unfolds this week in Hartford.