Media coverage of the burgeoning solar market—and subsequent utility backlash—has focused on states with abundant sunshine, where tensions between these forces are most evident.
But the friction is not limited to sunny locales: utilities are battling the growth of solar even here in Connecticut.
Despite the clear benefits of renewable energy, Connecticut utilities are fighting against a full-scale authorization of shared solar, claiming it will impose costs on consumers.
The Connecticut state legislature is now considering Senate Bill 928, which would create a shared solar program. A shared solar program would enable the 70-80 percent of Connecticut residents who cannot put solar panels on their roofs—because they rent or their roofs are unsuitable—to access solar energy. Numerous supporters testified in favor of such a program, and the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering issued a report specifically endorsing development of a full-scale shared solar program like the one Massachusetts created in 2008. New York and other states have also authorized shared solar, and such programs have led to an increase in the adoption of solar energy.
Meanwhile, Connecticut is getting left behind. Utilities have co-opted S.B. 928 and transformed it into a paltry three-year pilot that would only authorize two projects to be built. Such a program would keep shared solar energy out of reach for most Connecticut residents, and would discourage clean energy investors from putting their money into the state. CFE and other clean energy advocates are now fighting to amend the bill and expand the program so more of us can access the power of the sun.
Contrary to utility claims, value of solar studies show that solar typically does not impose costs—it actually confers a wide range of benefits by reducing grid congestion, increasing resiliency, and improving air quality, among other things. States should undertake such analyses to ensure that they adopt solar policies that are based on facts, rather than unsubstantiated utility claims.
Another piece of legislation, Senate Bill 570, would require Connecticut to determine the value that distributed energy resources like solar provide. This is a step in the right direction. The bill would also cap the fixed charge on residential electric bills at $10 per month, which would benefit people living on a fixed or low income, incentivize energy efficiency, and give consumers more control over their electric bills. On Wednesday, May 6, supporters of S.B. 570 gathered at the capitol in Hartford to encourage legislators to pass the bill. We urge Connecticut residents to contact their state legislators and ask them to vote YES on S.B. 570.
Connecticut has been a leader in clean energy policy, and can be again. The legislature should strengthen the valuation provisions of S.B. 570 to ensure that clean energy resources are fully and accurately valued, and amend S.B. 928 to authorize a full-scale shared solar program. We have stood in the shadow of Massachusetts and New York for too long. It’s time to step out into the sun.