This week in Texas we have seen the results of the preserving the status quo of our energy & transportation systems. The loss of life and massive damage from Hurricane Harvey was made all the worse by the climate chaos we have created through years of burning coal, oil and gas. Mitigating these escalating dangers, and it is imperative to do so, means revolutionizing our society to eliminate fossil fuels from daily use. Public policy is the best tool we have to initiate, support and accelerate this revolution. The Comprehensive Energy Strategy draft released by DEEP , while containing some encouraging programs, is not sufficient to achieve the scientifically necessary goals of 100% renewable energy and the transformation of our transportation system. What could have been a bold, aspirational plan laying out the road to a clean energy future, instead relies far too much on the legacy way of thinking about energy production, delivery and use.
This lack of forward vision is shown in several ways:
Planning for an increase in the RPS to 30% by 2030:
The document touts the Renewable Portfolio Standard as a valuable tool in sustaining the demand for new renewable energy development but fails to use this tool effectively. All past increases in the RPS have resulted in expanded renewable energy to meet the requirement so we should be increasing this requirement by 5-6% per year to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. This has an additional benefit of creating local jobs in our state and eliminating the need to import fuels from other states or countries.
Limiting the expansion of shared solar projects:
Legislation was proposed in recent years to allow residents who cannot install solar systems to take advantage of the declining cost of this clean energy. This effort was derailed by large utilities, who fear loss of their profits and power, and limited to a few pilot programs . There is no reason for this limit, as these systems have been successfully deployed in places like California, Nevada and New York. This is an unnecessary block on the democratization of the energy grid.
Limiting the municipal clean energy projects available for Net Metering
This CES document states that we have reached the cap for towns that can be paid back for the energy produced by renewable projects the develop. These projects allow towns to reduce energy costs, become more self reliant and preserve necessary services. By continuing this arbitrary limit, we create an disincentive for towns to develop clean energy systems on buildings, parking lots and brownfields to serve their residents.
Continued support for Millstone Nuclear Power plant
Several misleading statements are included in the section warning against the retirement of the nuclear waste producing power units at Millstone. First, the document equates the amount of energy produced at these units, which supplies the entire New England grid , and the energy demand in CT. This is comparing apples and oranges. Second it assumes that if the plant were retired that energy would be replaced by methane burning plants instead of recommending policies , that have been proven effective elsewhere, that would incentivize the rapid development of renewables to coincide with the retirement schedule. Finally calling nuclear facilities “emission free”, when they require the extraction mining of radioactive substances, release of super heated water to the sound and a myriad of backup generators to ensure safety, is inaccurate at best.
Any modifications to the CES draft based should address these and other limitations. Given the shortcomings of the document, it is more likely a complete rewrite in needed to match Connecticut’s energy strategy to the needs of the established climate science. The people of CT demand a energy policy that serves their needs, instead of maintaining the control that large utilities, energy corporations and car companies currently enjoy.
A people’s energy strategy should do the following:
- Layout the plan for a transition to a 100% clean renewable energy grid
- This transition needs to be undertaken as soon as possible and completed in the next decade
- Bring back democratic control of our energy systems
- Any energy transition will be hampered by the lack of transparency and profit motive of private energy companies.
- Ensure that the communities that have borne the harm from past pollution are the first to benefit from the transition to new technology
- This means not only removing polluting industries but employing people from the same communities to build new renewable infrastructure.
- Prioritize providing green mass transit as the easiest transportation option for the majority
- Although there are good ideas for new transit projects and the expansion of current ones, the strategy does not challenge the higher priority given to car infrastructure.
- We also need to plan for the replacement of fossil fueled transit vehicles with clean electrically powered ones.
The Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Governors’ Council on Climate Change has a responsibility to represent the people of CT when it develops proposed energy policy for the future. Polls show that the majority supports a higher focus on renewable energy and a move away from fossil fuels. Since this Comprehensive Energy Strategy is a recommendation to legislature to enact policy, there is no reason it should not be a bold vision of what our great state can do to be a leader in renewable energy policy and how we can inspire other states or nations to take action. This plan could be a chance to leapfrog past nearby states that have taken climate action , such as Massachusetts accelerating their adoption of clean energy and New York state banning fracking and denying permits to methane gas pipelines that are not needed.
350 CT stands with the people of CT in demanding that our energy strategy provide the policy tools to implement the best solution for a “Cheaper, Cleaner, More Reliable Energy Future” : 100% Clean, Locally Controlled, Renewable Power.