The state House this week passed a revised version of SB 1138 that will help lower Connecticut’s high energy costs by giving the state greater flexibility to meet its toughest-in-the-nation Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS).

The RPS requires companies delivering electricity to residential and business customers in Connecticut to buy a certain percentage of the energy from renewable power sources.

Most of that renewable power currently comes from out-of-state wood-burning facilities. But there isn’t enough energy generated from those and other renewable sources to meet the state’s current RPS requirements.

What’s more, the RPS standards get more aggressive each year through 2020—and failure to meet them triggers a penalty on top of the high cost of most renewable power sources. All of the higher costs get passed on to Connecticut’s electric ratepayers.

But SB 1138 includes provisions that will make clean, reliable and affordable hydroelectric power eligible for meeting up to 5% of the Class 1 RPS requirements by 2020.

Environmentalists are saying that the vote on SB 1138 signals a retreat from meeting the state’s clean energy goals and that it “practically guarantees that we get locked into large, environmentally damaging HydroQuebec power,” said one environmental lobbyist.

But characterizing large-scale hydropower as “environmental damaging” didn’t fly with legislators.

“Generating power from running water is about as renewable as it gets,” said Eric Brown, director of energy and environmental policy for CBIA. “The state had other options to address the RPS problem. The legislature could have pushed out the compliance dates to give in-state renewable sources more time to develop.  Or, they could have adjusted our RPS to be more consistent with other New England states.

“We would have supported either of those options,” said Brown.  But the environmental lobby would likely have opposed those options even more, so the legislature turned to large-scale hydropower to help solve the problem.

Before approving the bill, the House added conditions and procedures that must be met before large-scale hydropower can be used for RPS compliance. It remains to be seen how cumbersome these preconditions and procedures will be and to what degree they will impair the state’s use of large-scale hydropower for RPS compliance.

The bill now goes back to the Senate which is expected to approve the House version of the bill prior to the end of the legislative session on June 5. 

For more information, contact CBIA’s Eric Brown at 860.244.1926 or eric.brown@cbia.com.