As a volunteer physician in Haiti, one of the first Creole sentences I learned was “Pa gen currant.” “There is no power.” Haiti’s power supply was unreliable and outages were common, which is why the wealthy had their own generators. Plutocrats, environmentalists and feckless politicians are now replicating Haiti’s problems here in Connecticut.
This was highlighted by the tropical storm Isaias in which hundreds of thousands lost power for over a week. But even before this event, consumers were complaining of outrageous electrical bills and in my Fairfield neighborhood, we had lost power four times during the two-week period before the storm for inexplicable reasons. After Eversource finally deigned to reconnect our power a week after Isaias, we lost power again.
Much of the anger has been focused on the executives at Eversource, who are raking in multimillion-dollar salaries in spite of their legendary incompetence. But who enabled these grifters in the first place? It was our political class who are now feigning outrage over the system they created.
Delivering energy is done by a partnership between private industry and the government. In Connecticut, the large utility companies United Illuminated and Eversource work with two government agencies, the Department of Energy and Environment (DEEP) and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA). Together along with regional (e.g. ISO New England) and national groups, they determine what sources of energy can be used while trying to keep prices reasonable, especially for our poorer citizens.
As long as both groups have the public interest in mind, the flow of energy can be maintained. It is when environmentalists, incompetent bureaucrats, avaricious executives and ambitious politicians see the middle class as a piggy bank for their activist schemes that the system breaks down. This is what happened.
In the early 2000s environmental activists convinced our political class to pass legislation that forced the utilities to use increasing amounts of renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind. This was to displace fossil fuels such as coal and oil, both of which theoretically cause the emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change but which have a small to no role in power generation in Connecticut. Connecticut law (PA 18-18) requires that carbon dioxide emissions must be 45% below 2001 statewide levels by 2030, and down 80% by 2050. At present, 21% of Connecticut energy must come from wind or solar and by 2030, it must be even higher if the state is to meet its economy-wide target.
This isn’t possible without some seismic technological advance. This fact allowed Dominion, the corporation that owns the nuclear plant at Millstone, to threaten to shut down (Millstone provides over 50% of Connecticut’s energy) if the utilities did not subsidize them. The utilities refused knowing that they would be blamed for the ensuing higher rates. But the environmentalist bureaucrats from our political class forced the utilities to take the deal because without the nuclear power from Millstone, it would be impossible to meet the targets for renewable energy.
“There’s no ifs ands or buts that the legislation requiring contracting with Millstone is a subsidy,” said Charles Rothenberger, climate and energy attorney at Save the Sound. “Many of us said it would raise costs.” Bingo.
But a system requiring increasing amounts of renewable energy is not sustainable without occasional brown outs – rolling power outages. The sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow and fuel cell technology is not to the point where energy from these modalities can be efficiently stored. Thus, power from other sources must be found quickly and this is both expensive and inefficient.
The result, people in Connecticut do the same thing as the wealthy Haitians – buy generators. And there are few sources of energy that increase carbon emissions like generators as they are powered by gasoline and oil. Furthermore, they are dangerous to keep indoors. Nine-hundred people died between 2005 and 2017 from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by generators.
What is annoying about this is that the same people who are lecturing the hoi polloi about the existential threat of climate change have little interest in practicing what they preach. A climate change conference at the Verdura Resort in Sicily featured 114 private planes and dozens of yachts. A trip on a private jet causes the same amount of carbon emissions as an American generates in three months!
The legislation must be changed so that our utilities are not forced to buy inefficient renewables such as solar and wind power. If our legislature is unwilling to do this, then carbon-emitting generators should be banned too.
It is unfair to have our urban poor sweltering in the summer and freezing during the winter because of brown outs and unaffordable utility bills. Especially since the virtue-signaling uber-wealthy impose the climate change agenda on them while flying around in private jets and firing up generators during brown outs so their martinis can be properly chilled.
If the poor have to live in the Third World to supposedly save the planet, so should everyone else. But if nothing changes, at least the wonderful Haitians who move to Connecticut to find work will have a reminder of their native country when they get homesick.
Joe Bentivegna is an ophthalmologist in Rocky Hill.