CT alone in renewables rollback

Connecticut has landed all alone in something of an environmental hall of shame for legislation enacted last session that could result in the state’s use of less classic renewable energy.

If you missed that particular battle, the legislation allowed for more Canadian hydropower in the state’s electricity mix at the potential expense of wind, solar and the other usual renewable suspects. The state’s environmental community went ballistic – but lost.

Now comes a story by the Huffington Post based on a report by ProgressNow on all the state legislative efforts to roll back renewable energy use – known as the renewable portfolio standard, or RPS. There were 37 pieces of legislation in 2013 aimed at rolling back various state RPS’s. All of them lost.

Except Connecticut.

To be fair, many if not most of the losing efforts were the handiwork of conservative groups – primarily ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. It provides legislative models to state lawmakers on a host of issues of concern – one of which is the RPS. ALEC is also associated with the Koch brothers.

But while Connecticut Rep. John Piscopo, R-Burlington, is listed as the current national chairman of ALEC, there is no evidence the Connecticut effort had anything to do with that organization. Piscopo also serves on the Energy and Technology Committee, which is where the Connecticut legislation originated and was supported by its Democratic co-chairs.

State officials, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Dan Esty repeatedly said the additional hydro was to make sure the state hit its RPS goals and avoided costly fines. And they said it was to get rid of some older, dirtier, biomass facilities.

DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain called the ProgressNow report “flawed” since it doesn’t take into account the legislation’s limits on purchasing large-scale hydro or its other provisions. One of those provisions resulted in an announcement in September that the state would procure 270 megawatts of yet to be built solar and wind energy.

“That represents more than a 10 times increase on the entire installed base of grid-scale solar and wind power produced through the first 15 years of the RPS,” Schain said.  “Hardly a ‘rollback.’”

It’s unknown, however, what the net gain would be if some of the older renewable facilities went off line.