Courtesy of the Acadia Center

HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut’s draft comprehensive energy strategy released this week falls short in the area of solar deployment, according to a clean energy advocacy group.

The Acadia Center said Thursday that while Connecticut’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased over the past five years the reforms proposed as part of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy “appear to raise significant new challenges to distributed solar deployment that put its crucial climate mitigation at real risk.”

Overall, Connecticut’s long overdue draft of its comprehensive energy strategy didn’t go as far as environmentalists would like, even though it does increase the state’s mandate to purchase energy from renewable sources, like solar and wind, to 30 percent by 2030.

The original energy strategy done four years ago targeted the purchase of renewable energy at 20 percent by 2020. Currently, the state is at close to 16 percent.

The draft report says that to achieve the goal of cheaper, cleaner, more reliable energy, Connecticut energy policy must: align with the state’s environmental policies to meet clean air, clean water, land conservation and development and waste reduction goals.

Additionally, the report states the state needs to “focus on grid modernization, strategic electrication, increasing efficiency, and improving reliability and security.”

Groups backing more environmentally friendly energy usage don’t believe the report goes far enough in pushing clean energy and focuses too much on fossil fuels.

Renewable power is of particular concern to those who champion solar power, such as the Acadia Center.

“While nationwide, forward-thinking states are looking towards smart, interconnected homes, often powered by rooftop solar, the draft CES recommendations for customer-sited solar are a major step away from that future,” Kerry Schlichting, policy advocate for the Acadia Center, said.

“The new policy package for rooftop solar outlined in the draft CES will create barriers for Connecticut residents and businesses who want to install solar, limiting their right to produce and consume their own clean energy,” she added.

The Acadia position paper stated that the draft CES recommends a cap of 20 MW (megawatts) a year through 2030 for customer-sited solar installations.

“In 2016 alone, Connecticut installed about 90 MW of customer-sited solar,” according to Schlichting. “The new cap would result in a nearly 80 percent cut in new installations in 2021 compared to 2016.”

The group is also advocating for a way that allows residents to bank unused kilowatt hours from their solar installations in a way that benefits all ratepayers. There’s a dispute over how much value to give the solar kilowatt.

The report estimates the value of a solar kilowatt hour at 15 cents, but doesn’t, according to Schlichting, go into detail about how it arrived at that number.

Utilities argue that all ratepayers are subsidizing homes with solar installations on their roofs because they are making up for the cost to keep the poles, wires, transformers and substations up and running.

“There’s a risk that the draft CES, if enacted, would cut the legs out from under solar PV deployment in our state – effectively preventing consumers from having the choice of rooftop solar. To meet our climate targets and continue to grow the state’s clean energy economy, we need policies that enable even more customer-sited solar, not restrict it.” Schlichting said.

Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the DEEP, said the draft report “presents DEEP’s best thinking about how to meet the goal of deploying the maximum amount of clean energy resources to reduce carbon emissions in the most cost effective manner for ratepayers.”

He said the report is open for comment and that includes comments from the Acadia Center.

In its position paper, Acadia Center said it has four high priority concerns regarding distributed solar, stating each concern must be resolved in the final CES for it to be satisfied.

Those concerns are: continue the expansion of new distributed solar capacity; improve, but do not end, net metering; properly account for all ratepayer benefits from distributed solar; and, seriously commit to a full statewide community solar solar program.

“Connecticut should be heading down a path towards consumer choice and ambitious goals, not new arbitrary limits,” Schlichting said.

DEEP has opened a 60-day comment period on the draft study, which will run through Sept. 25. During the comment period, DEEP will hold two technical meetings and a series of public meetings around the state. A final report will be released after all comments are reviewed and considered.