Those looking to install solar power for their homes or businesses in Connecticut, whose traditionally-generated electricity rates are some of the highest in the United States, may soon get a break, as an aggressive energy bill was just approved by both the Connecticut House and Senate last week. It now awaits further action from the Governor.
The Connecticut Business News Journal under the headline "Lawmakers Pass Costly Energy Bill," summarized the effect of the proposed legislation:
[T]he bill orders the implementation of a process to lower state electricity rates by 15 percent by July 1, 2012, . . . creates a new state bureaucracy, the Connecticut Energy & Technology Authority, requires the Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC) to facilitate the generation of 30 megawatts of residential solar electricity by 2021, requires electric companies to contract with owners of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems of up to two megawatts and to contract with power generators to provide 25 megawatts of electric capacity through wind projects, 15 megawatts through hydro-electric and five to ten percent from other renewable resources.
The bill is highly popular with proponents of clean energy and with environmental groups in Connecticut. In an interview with the CT Mirror, an attorney for the Connecticut Fund for the Environment stated, "This bill is an important first step in addressing a broken energy infrastructure, and a way for the state to move towards cleaner energy and a stronger economy." The bill would transform the Public Utilities Control Authority into 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. The CT Mirror article quotes a representative of Environment Connecticut: "It will result in over 300 megawatts of new solar power built over the course of the next decade. That's enough solar to provide electricity to 100,000 homes.
While the bill has support from environmental groups and lobbyists, many of Connecticut's utility companies and Governor M. Jodi Rell have expressed concern.
According to the same CT Mirror article:
[O]pponents warned [the bill] would stifle an emerging competitive retail market with overreaching consumer protections and saddle rate payers with subsidizing expensive solar power. "We didn't like the new mandates for renewable energy resources, which we think will drive up costs for consumers," a United Illuminating Co. spokesperson explains. "We think the better model would be for us to build them ourselves and incorporate them into the rate base, which is the time-honored way of doing it."
Governor Rell has yet to sign the bill and may be waiting for an independent analysis. Connecticut has had a decentralized power system for a long time and has seen the price of power steadily increase. If the obstacles can be overcome, this may prove to be a step in the right direction for Connecticut.