Connecticut Will Need a Lot More (Green) Juice to Achieve Clean Energy Goals
The following article first appeared in the Hartford Business Journal. It is reposted here with permission.
Connecticut is one of five New England states (other than New Hampshire) that has agreed to lower its greenhouse gas emissions by over 80% by 2050.
This reduction will affect every aspect of the economy. Building envelope heating, transportation, and electricity generation are all slated for reductions.
We’re seeing this play out now in discussions about the cost of the proposed electric vehicle mandate.
It’s an open question as to whether the region will produce enough electricity to meet anticipated demands, not only from electric vehicles, but for other zero-carbon mandates as well.
ISO-NE, the region’s electric grid operator, recently undertook a high-level transmission study assuming all of the proposed greenhouse gas reduction measures went forward.
It found that New England would likely need to double its electric generation over the next 30 years to account for the electrification of building heat, transportation, and other needs.
Just as importantly, it would need to do so with zero-carbon electricity resources, while replacing existing fossil-fired resources.
Where does that leave Connecticut?
Hydrogen, Wind, Solar
On the transportation side, Connecticut was part of a Northeastern consortium of states that submitted a proposal to host one of the “hydrogen hubs” that the Biden administration was touting as a source for clean vehicle fuel.
Unfortunately, the proposal was not selected. While Connecticut has a leading edge in the development of hydrogen fuel cells for transportation, we cannot rely on this resource, at least not in the short term.
Without hydrogen to help, our region will need to focus more on clean electricity generation and storage. The Connecticut Siting Council approved the first two large-scale energy storage projects in November, and more are on the way.
These energy storage projects are essentially utility-scale batteries that allow electricity to be stored for future use. They provide electricity during periods of peak demand and then recharge overnight when demand is lower.
They are also useful solutions to address the intermittency of solar and wind resources that do not generate electricity on a 24/7 basis.
Those wind and solar resources will still play a significant role. The tax incentives for clean energy in the Inflation Reduction Act will see to that.
The solar industry has been working with state officials to demonstrate that solar development is responsible and does not damage the land upon which it is located.
Wind generation took a significant hit in the wake of COVID-induced supply chain issues; however, wind companies are anticipated to take full advantage of the state’s new request for proposals for wind generation, as well as tax incentives.
None of these steps, however, will get Connecticut far enough. The gulf of needed electricity generation is simply too wide, even if all of these measures are implemented.
Fortunately, there are additional opportunities to explore.
Waste-to-Energy, Modular Nuclear Innovation
With the retirement of Hartford’s Mid-Connecticut waste-to-energy plant, Connecticut can no longer address its waste entirely in-state.
Gov. Lamont, the state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, and legislature have all recognized this issue and tried to develop ways for existing waste-to-energy facilities to remain economical, while encouraging the construction of new state-of-the-art facilities.
We are likely to see new legislation on this issue in the upcoming 2024 session, which hopefully will lead to development of new technology that is far cleaner than what is currently available.
With the U.S. Naval Submarine Base and Electric Boat in our southeastern corner, Connecticut is one of the leaders in understanding and producing small-scale modular nuclear reactors.
The legislature called upon DEEP to evaluate the feasibility of developing small modular reactors and advanced nuclear reactors, among other things, in order to ensure Connecticut’s energy future.
DEEP has begun that process, but for Connecticut to achieve a robust, zero-carbon energy future, the state will need to move quickly and decisively, not only on the development of small-scale nuclear power, but on making all of these technologies a reality.
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