March 20, 2013

Industry attacks CT renewable changes

HBJ File Photo
HBJ File Photo
The CEO of the ReEnergy biomass facility in Sterling voiced his opposition to the changes in Connecticut's renewable definition, which would reduce biomass's role.

Connecticut's clean energy industry came out swinging on Tuesday against Connecticut's proposed changes to its renewable power definition, giving legislators an earful in the proposals first public hearing.

"The bill would incentivize foreign import of Canadian hydro," said Michael Trahan, executive director of the trade association Solar Connecticut.

Of the three dozen people who testified to the General Assembly's Energy & Technology Committee, the vast majority were against Senate Bill 1138 either in part or entirely, said State Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk), co-chair of the energy committee.

Duff – who proposed the bill with his co-chair, State Rep. Lonnie Reed (D-Branford), and the state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection – said the bill did have its supporters on Tuesday as well, along with overarching support from the environmental and business communities.

Duff said after hearing testimony, the committee will make some changes to the proposal to support in-state businesses and give more lead time for the industry to adjust to the changes.

The energy committee will vote on the modified proposal Thursday.

The proposal changes the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard, which calls for 20 percent of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020. The proposal phases out older biomass plants based in Maine and New Hampshire, changes the RPS goal to 25 percent by 2025, and allows 30 percent of the state's renewables to come from Canadian hydropower.

"Put simply, this bill proposes unprecedented changes to Connecticut's renewable portfolio standard and has the potential to obstruct, considerably, the development of renewable energy in the state," said Paul Michaud, executive director of the Hartford-based trade group Renewable Energy & Efficiency Business Association.

Larry Richardson, chief executive officer of Sterling biomass operator ReEnergy Holdings LLC, said the proposed changes, said the proposal will negatively impact his facility, after his company invested millions in upgrades believing it could be eligible for the RPS.

"Not only would this provision hurt the employees and vendors at our eastern Connecticut facility; it would limit new supply and remove important in-state generated (renewable energy credits) from the market," Richardson said.

The key issue for most of the speakers, including environmental and business, was the inclusion of hydropower in the renewable standard.

"The idea that we need to back down our commitment to clean in-region renewable power in order to import hydroelectric power the embrace of a false choice," said Seth Kaplan, vice president of policy and climate advocacy for the Conservative Law Foundation.

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