Lamont pitches green jobs, solar energy and windmills

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont borrowed from an energy bill vetoed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell to lay out a broad approach Wednesday to lowering energy costs and creating jobs.

On a walkway overseeing the Connecticut Science Center in downtown Hartford, Lamont said he would install solar panels on state offices and consider windmills in Long Island Sound.

To lower electric rates, Lamont said he would encourage Northeast Utilities and United Illuminating to purchase electricity through long-term contracts.

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Ned Lamont and Mary Glassman discuss energy policy in Hartford (Mark Pazniokas)

Lamont’s energy-and-jobs plan was a four-page overview of an approach to energy, job creation, the preservation of open space and protection of the environment.

It lacked detail on how to implement those ideas, many of which Rell recently rejected by vetoing a sweeping energy bill passed by the General Assembly last month on the last day of the 2010 session.

“It takes more than rhetoric, it takes a strategy from a governor willing to take the lead to bring down the price of electricity over time,” Lamont said.

But Lamont did not say, in his plan or in his remarks, what legislative or regulatory changes he would seek to force a deregulated electric industry into longer-term contracts.

Both Lamont and his rival for the Democratic nomination, Dan Malloy, who will meet next week in their first one-on-one televised debate, have said they would have signed the vetoed energy bill.

The bill would have subsidized solar power, encouraged energy efficiency and exerted influence over a deregulated electric industry that has given Connecticut the nation’s second-highest electric rates.

The bill also would have reorganized and renamed the Public Utilities Control Authority as the Connecticut Energy and Technology Authority, which would have the added responsibility of promoting new technologies and renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and hydro-power.

“For years, we’ve seen the price of electricity go up and up and up,” Lamont said, accompanied by his running mate, Mary Glassman. “The price of electricity in this state, as you probably know is double the national average.”

Lamont’s campaign chose a walkway with a view of the new science center and the site of a proposed energy-efficient office building whose construction is stalled until the developer, Abul Islam, can sign up tenants. Also attending were apprentices from the Sheet Metal Workers Local 40, whose members install heating-and-cooling systems. The union has endorsed Lamont.

Malloy held a press conference two weeks ago outside the DPUC in New Britain to cover much the same ground.

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Lamont outlines energy plan. (Mark Pazniokas)

“Clearly this is an issue that Ned and I both think is important – there are many things in his plan I agree with,” Malloy said Wednesday. “Where I think our energy plans differ though is in my fundamental belief that our ability to make progress here will have less to do with contracts and more to do with consumption.”

Malloy has proposed cutting overall consumption by 15 percent.

“I will personally lead this drive,” he said. “By attacking the root cause of energy problems – consumption — we’ll be able to permanently lower costs and make Connecticut more business-friendly — saving consumers money, creating desperately needed jobs, and reducing pollution.”

Malloy’s running mate, Comptroller Nancy S. Wyman, sent an email to supporters Wednesday saying she is close to qualifying for public financing, becoming just the second statewide candidate to qualify. Malloy is the other.

Wyman needs to raise $75,000 in contributions of no more than $100 to qualify for a public grant of $375,000 in her primary against Glassman, who also is seeking public financing.

Malloy and Lamont will debate at 7 p.m. June 22 on NBC 30, which broadcast a debate earlier this year when there were a half-dozen Democrats either running for governor or exploring a run.

The Democratic primary for governor is Aug. 10.