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June 26, 2023 Other Voices

Here’s a plan to lower Hartford’s energy costs, make city the ‘clean energy capital’

Eric D. Coleman

Many financial challenges face Hartford residents and business owners.

One that clearly outpaces the others is the unstable, unpredictable and unfair rise of energy costs. Faced with some of the highest electric rates in the country, our city leaves residents choosing between paying for basic necessities and their electric bills.

Businesses are left deciding whether or not the city is worth investing in.

If elected mayor, I want to make Hartford a competitive place to work, live and operate a business. I reject the status quo of powerlessness for our city’s businesses and residents.

Here are some ideas to reduce the city’s carbon footprint, create jobs and lower the cost of energy for residents and business owners:

  • Work with the federal and state governments, utility companies and the private sector to form an electric utility run by, and for, the benefit of the city and all its energy consumers.
  • Update and expand Hartford’s energy improvement district plan to prioritize stabilization and the reduction of energy costs across the board.
  • Reduce the cost of energy for businesses and residents by seeking the maximum funding under the multibillion-dollar federal Inflation Reduction Act to weatherize, conserve and install alternative energy.
  • Leverage public money, such as federal and state grants, and tax credits to lure private sector entrepreneurship to increase investment in diversifying the city’s energy sources while creating and retaining hundreds of jobs.
  • Create an inventory of underutilized, blighted and brownfield sites to be revitalized as alternative energy generation facilities like fuel cell parks.

The towns of Bozrah, Groton, Jewett City, Norwich, Wallingford and Norwalk have already proved success by using alternative sources of energy.

A 1-acre site could house a fuel cell power station that produces approximately 6 megawatts of power, enough to power up to 3,000 homes, or 1,500 typical businesses.

And because fuel cells can be located inside or even underground, these facilities can be used to transform blighted and unused space into clean modern structures, or even into a beautiful public green space.

This green energy renaissance would create and retain hundreds of jobs in Hartford and statewide. That includes jobs cleaning up and preparing sites for the installation of clean energy facilities; more jobs weatherizing and installing conservation and green energy equipment; and jobs that would be created by making Hartford a more competitive environment.

A Connecticut-based technology, fuel cells operate 24 hours a day in any kind of weather and produce significantly greater quantities of energy in a very small space. A beneficial fuel cell byproduct is hot water, which can be used to provide heating and cooling in addition to electricity.

Heating and cooling districts are identified as a goal in the energy improvement district plan and would further stabilize costs for end-users while decreasing the city’s carbon footprint.

Effective Jan. 1, 2023, the federal government through the Inflation Reduction Act made billions of dollars available to local, state and regional governments.

These funds are administered by several federal agencies in the form of grants and loans, and they join previously existing tax incentives providing enormous investment potential.

The city must take advantage of the billions in federal cash and incentives to reduce carbon emissions and electricity costs, improve quality of life and put hundreds of local people to work.

If we leverage partnerships with the private sector and put private capital, ideas and innovations to work for us, we will change the status quo.

Hartford needs a strategy that makes the best use of these billions of dollars, and makes our city the clean energy capital.

Eric D. Coleman is a retired Connecticut Superior Court Judge and former state representative and senator. He is a Democratic candidate for mayor of the city of Hartford.

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