Connecticut draft plan targets 20% renewables by 2020

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy unveiled a draft comprehensive energy strategy for the state that he said will create jobs, give residents and businesses more choice about the fuels they use for heat and power, lower energy costs and better protect the environment and natural resources.

Key components of the plan, released on Oct. 5, include: making a lower-cost natural gas option available to more than 250,000 residents and 75% of businesses in the next seven years; and expanding efficiency programs to help residents and businesses reduce energy use.

Also, the plan will reexamine the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards – which currently calls for 20% renewable power by 2020 – with an eye toward both raising the standard and increasing the mix of renewable options.

In an Oct. 5 speech outlining the plan, Malloy said, “Our environmental, energy, and economic challenges are all related – and tackling them together offers the best chance to lower the cost of electricity and heat for our families and seniors, the best chance to lower the cost of power and make our businesses and industries more competitive so [they] can create the jobs that our residents need, and the best chance to reduce air emissions and other harmful impacts on our land and water.”

Daniel Esty, Commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), said: “We will achieve dramatic environmental and public health gains through greater reliance on a cleaner fuel such as natural gas and reduced energy demands through efficiency measures. These steps will significantly reduce the level of pollution put into our air and help us all breathe easier.”

Connecticut’s Energy Strategy was developed by DEEP to meet the requirements of landmark energy legislation, Public Act 11-80, which was signed into law by Malloy on July 1, 2011. The plan analyzes total energy needs – electricity, heating, power for manufacturing, and fuels for transportation – for residents and businesses going out to the year 2050.

The strategy unveiled by the governor is a draft that is now being offered for public comment. The DEEP will hold a series of technical meetings on specific elements of the plan, including a Nov. 15 meeting on natural gas and a Nov. 16 session on electricity. Four public hearings are to be held around the state in November.

State plan calls for efforts to shut out-of-state coal plants

Connecticut’s air emissions from in-state power plants are not too bad, but the state has suffered from some of the country’s worst air pollution, in part due to its geographic location downwind of out-of-state coal- and oil-burning power plants, the draft plan said. “A cleaner energy future requires support for electricity generation from low- or no-emission sources, as well as regional coordination and federal regulation to phase out dirty power plants within and beyond the state’s borders,” it added. “As this Draft Strategy demonstrates, Connecticut under Governor Malloy intends to be a leader in the push for cleaner power generation across our entire airshed.”

Currently, Connecticut’s electricity sector uses more than 300 trillion BTUs per year to generate about 30 terawatt-hours of electricity, the draft said. About 47% of that electricity is generated by the Millstone Nuclear Power Station, which has two nuclear reactors operating in Waterford, Conn. About 45% is produced by natural gas-fired power plants, which over the last several years have largely replaced older coal- and oil-fired facilities as gas prices have declined and coal and oil prices have increased. This shift to a relatively clean fuel mix means that emissions of pollutants like NOx and SO2 have dropped to all-time lows in the state. Connecticut’s electricity sector today emits only 18% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, even though it consumes 38% of the primary energy used in the state, the draft report said.

Connecticut’s RPS requires that 20% of generation serving state customers be from renewables by 2020. Meeting the 2020 RPS goal will require the development of 6,196 gigawatt-hours, or nearly 3 gigawatts of low-carbon supply, which is more than 25 times the amount of power generated by Class I resources (i.e., solar power, wind power, and fuel cells) within Connecticut in 2011, the draft said.

This draft strategy proposes to ramp up renewable energy using a new “finance” model designed to draw private capital into promising alternative power projects. It also seeks to harness market forces to lower the costs of renewable energy. The draft said that Connecticut’s first-in-the-nation “green bank,” the Connecticut Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA), lies at the heart of this “finance” approach. This draft strategy proposes that CEFIA expand its portfolio of flexible financing mechanisms to promote further investments in renewable power from a wide range of private sector companies deploying a diverse set of technologies.

DEEP is also preparing a study of the state’s RPS targets and timetable with an eye toward evaluating the impacts of allowing additional clean resources. These additional clean resources may qualify for some portion of the new RPS in a way that reduces overall costs while promoting more extensive in-state development of traditional renewable resources. Options could include qualifying resources such as geothermal, or large-scale hydropower from Canada and elsewhere, increasing efficiency and Combined Heat and Power (CHP), and the potential for cost-effectively developing in-state resources. Consideration will also be given to whether the current percentages for various classes of renewables and the timeframes for compliance still support overall RPS objectives. The RPS study will consider the regional renewables potential, including where resources are located, and their transmission and siting needs.

“The resource potential of Canadian hydropower is enormous,” the draft said. “Hydro Quebec is currently planning development of 4,500 MW of large-scale hydro projects; much more potential remains untouched. Of course, the vast majority of this resource is inaccessible today due to lack of transmission connections. There is currently a proposal for a large direct current transmission line that would bring hydropower from Quebec into New Hampshire. This line has a proposed capacity of 1,200 MW, meaning that the maximum energy import into New England from this project would be 1,200 MW x 8,760 hr/y, or 10,512 GWh/y. Of course, additional transmission projects would increase the portion of Canadian hydropower potential that New England could utilize.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.