Some lawmakers on the Energy and Technology Committee expressed concern Thursday about the inclusion of foreign hydro power in the state’s renewable portfolio.
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection wants to allow hydro power, mostly from Canada, to count toward 4.5 percent of the state’s renewable portfolio by 2020 and up to 7.5 percent in 2025.
“I believe the bill as written puts us in a geopolitical position, not only with the New England states, but with Canada over time,” Rep. Terry Backer, D-Stratford, said.
He said there’s a reason lawmakers left hydro out of the original renewable portfolio standard because it could cut “off the legs” of other renewable energy in Connecticut, such as wind or solar.
Rep. Matthew Lesser, D-Middletown, said he was concerned about pushing the legislation forward since the public comment period is still ongoing. He also cited an industry trade publication that quoted Massachusetts energy officials expressing concerns with Connecticut’s legislation.
In a Platts Energy Weekly article, Steven Clarke, assistant secretary of the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, criticized the inclusion of large-scale hydroelectricity. Clarke was unavailable for comment Thursday afternoon, but he told the trade publication that Massachusetts considers large scale hydro “a mature technology” that doesn’t require support through a renewable energy portfolio.
“He added that Massachusetts is concerned that changes Connecticut makes to its RPS [Renewable Portfolio Standard] could impact the regional market because of the state’s large load,” the Platt article says.
There also were concerns raised by Clarke and another Massachusetts official for the speed at which negotiations regarding regional procurement of energy are moving forward. During a conference call with reporters Monday, DEEP Commissioner Daniel Esty made it sound like Massachusetts, Vermont, and Connecticut were on the verge of going out to purchase energy collectively.
But Massachusetts officials signaled in the Platt article that a three-state solicitation process was a long way off.
Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the DEEP, said Thursday that Esty didn’t mean to imply a purchasing agreement for these renewable energies was a “done deal.” He said he just meant to say the discussions with other states, mainly Massachusetts and Vermont, were ongoing.
Schain said large-scale hydro would not be included in the first round of regional purchasing so there’s no cause for concern. He said the two are separate issues.
Chris Phelps, executive director of Environment Connecticut, said the environmental community is not opposed to the state joining with other states in the region and procuring Class I renewables. But he doesn’t believe the state should be effectively rolling back its commitment to emerging technologies like wind and solar to 15 percent in 2020 because 4.5 percent could be taken up by hydroelectric.
Phelps pointed out that environmental groups and the industry testified against the bill earlier this week.
“This legislation would undercut Connecticut jobs, clean energy, and consumer choice, unfairly mandating how families and businesses pay for their electricity,” Dan Dolan, president of the New England Power Generators Association, said Thursday in a statement. “This is not the way for Connecticut to set public policy.”
Sen. Bob Duff, co-chairman of the Energy and Technology Committee, said he’s worked hard over the past few days to offer lawmakers a greater comfort level with the bill implementing the changes to the renewable portfolio standard. The renewable portfolio standard detailed in the bill defines the technologies that qualify for credits and which ones will be counted toward the state’s renewable energy goals.
Duff said the public comment period on the draft recommendations is still open until May 13, so they made sure to move the effective date of the legislation being codified to July 1. He said that will give them time to make any changes they need to make to the bill.
The committee passed the bill 16-8.