State lags in renewable energy goals
Published 6:05 am, Monday, April 2, 2012
If Connecticut does not develop more renewable resources, ratepayers could face noncompliance fees of more than $250 million annually by 2022, according to a draft version of the state's future energy plan.
Of all the New England states, Connecticut has the highest target for renewable generation: 20 percent by 2020, but it has few in-state resources to get that power, except some projects that depend on state-sponsored contracts.
The current projected amount of available renewable energy is not enough to meet mandated demands for all of New England that will emerge in 2018, according to a draft version of the state's Integrated Resource Plan prepared by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
The report, released by DEEP, recommends expanding what counts as renewable energy, specifically new energy efficiency initiatives. It also recommends allowing resources such as large hydropower dams in Canada to qualify as clean energy.
DEEP was supposed to issue a final version of the plan Friday, but after receiving multiple comments on the initial draft, the agency needs more time to do further analysis, DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain said. The final version is scheduled to be submitted to the Connecticut General Assembly on April 23.
A submitted comment, signed by about 500 residents, says the state should not weaken or water down its renewable energy standards based on a six-year projection. Rather, the state should increase its renewables requirements to hasten the retirement of the Bridgeport Harbor coal plant, it said.
Lowering the requirement could also jeopardize Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's recommendation to build more micro grids in the state to ensure energy reliability during major storms, according to a comment submitted by the United Technologies Co.
The New England Power Generators Association is opposed to allowing hydropower to qualify, according to comments it submitted to DEEP. The renewable class is meant to apply to fledgling industries that could not survive without special designation and incentives, NEPGA said. Also, there needs to be a degree of regulatory certainty that rules and definitions won't constantly change, it said, otherwise investors in new energy technology may stay away from Connecticut.
Also, "in the case of some Canadian hydropower, the generation backing the transactions is not always identifiable and might come from nonrenewable sources," NEPGA said.
Connecticut has very limited in-state renewable energy resources, according to the report, although it has the potential to build some small-scale wind, solar, fuel cell, hydro and biomass projects.
A lot of energy could come from wind farms in Maine, especially from wind power in northern New England, the plan said, but how to transmit that wind power remains uncertain. Also, renewable energy projects have had difficulty securing funding over the last three years, and federal tax credits set to expire in 2012 may not be renewed.
NRG Energy said the state should put out a request for proposals immediately for a new combined cycle natural gas turbine so that one can be built in time to prevent the shortfalls predicted in 2020. The local energy source would cut down on growing transmission costs, NRG said in its comments.
The good news for Connecticut residents is they can expect electricity rates to continue their downward trend over the next five years. That's because expanding shale gas supplies should keep the wholesale price of natural gas stable.
However, electricity rates will increase from 2017 to 2022, partly because of the state's requirements to get more energy from renewable sources.