Connecticut’s $1 Billion Renewable Energy Play

A landmark clean energy law in Connecticut will require an incredible $1 billion investment in renewable energy by 2020. To get there, utilities are required to purchase a specified amount of low or zero emissions energy each year, to meet the state’s ambitious standard of 27 percent renewable energy by 2020 .

About three-quarters of the investment, $720 million, must be from zero emissions energy generation, like solar, wind or micro-hydro. The other $300 million is for low emissions sources such as capturing landfill gas or combustion of biomass waste.

solar-Connecticut-ZRECs

image via Shutterstock

Two utilities, Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating, will enter into contracts for 15 years for renewable energy by holding auctions for $8 million worth of renewable-energy credits for energy projects for up to six years at a time.

The shorter time periods within the 15-year contracts is in case solar prices take another steep dive. If costs go down, more money is freed up to buy more renewable energy. That’s right.

According to the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority [PDF], “the aggregate procurement of ZRECs (zero emissions renewable energy credits) will be $8 million in the first year’s procurement and will increase by an additional $8 million per year in procurement years two through four, inclusive. After year four, the Authority is required to review contracts entered into and if the costs of the technologies included in such contracts have been reduced, the Authority is required to seek an additional $8 million in annual procurement for years five and six.”

In this provision—in an already very progressive energy policy—Democratic-controlled Connecticut takes a very different approach from the Republican approach to climate policy. The goal of renewable energy policy is to switch from dirty power to clean power, because we must retain some semblance of the climate our ecosystem evolved to over hundreds of thousands of years (because that’s essential to preserving the civilization that we built on this ecosystem).

But in now Republican-dominated Arizona, when it proved too easy to achieve the first two years of the modest clean energy target left behind by the previous Democratic legislature and former Gov. Janet Napolitano—to add 1 percent more clean energy each year from 2010 to 2020—the incoming Republican legislature proposed that the target be eliminated altogether! Now, the prime solar state is killing solar. What a shortsighted set of priorities…

Susan Kraemer enjoys writing to publicize the many great solutions for climate change that we can find if we just put our minds to it. She covers renewable policy and clean energy for CleanTechnica and GreenProphet and green building at HomeDesignFind. She recently moved home to Waiheke Island where her writing is now powered by the 80% renewable electricity that powers New Zealand.