In less than a decade, 20% of Connecticut’s power will have to come from Class I renewable energy sources such as solar power, wind power and fuel cells, according to the state’s self-imposed Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).

What’s more, an additional 3% will have to come from Class I or II sources, which include trash-to-energy, biomass or small scale run-of-the-river hydro. By 2020, another 4% will have to come from Class III sources, including combined heat and power and energy efficiency. 

That’s an ambitious 27% of the state’s energy supply set to come from all those renewable sources—which, from a public policy perspective presents good news and bad.

On the positive side is the potential environmental benefit; increased use of renewable should result in fewer emissions and cleaner air in Connecticut.  Another potential positive is the growth of the renewable energy industry in Connecticut. 

On the flip side, however, is cost. For example, renewable sources such as wind and solar are currently more expensive to generate than other sources. In fact Connecticut’s Department of Public Utility Control estimates the annual costs to achieve the renewable energy goals by 2020 at somewhere between $150 million and $380 million. 

That’s a lot of money to make Connecticut ratepayers—who already pay some of the highest electricity costs in the country—shell out.

The Connecticut Energy Advisory Board understands the dilemma and is conducting a thorough review and study of the RPS. The board will review all aspects of the plan, including which sources should qualify as renewable and whether or not Connecticut’s goals should be altered. 

However, the study won’t be completed until June--just as the legislature is adjourning for 2010. 

Legislative proposals have already been made seeking to expand what should qualify as a renewable source. There will also likely be debate this session as to whether or not the state’s renewable energy goals are too lofty.  They are, in fact, the most aggressive in New England.

As the debate unfolds, it’s important for policymakers to prioritize what they want from Connecticut’s energy policy: reduced rates, reduced overall costs, increased environmental benefits or increased economic development benefits. 

The answer to that question should help guide policy decisions regarding the RPS.

For more information, contact CBIA’s Kevin Hennessy at kevin.hennessy@cbia.com or 860.244.1979.