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Conn. governor seeks to boost renewable mandate, prepare for higher seas

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Conn. governor seeks to boost renewable mandate, prepare for higher seas

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy is urging state lawmakers to pass legislation that would boost the state's renewable mandate to 40% by 2030, establish an energy efficiency target and procurement process, increase residential rooftop solar accessibility, and replace current net metering compensation rates with those set by a competitive auction.

Rob Klee, a member of Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, joined Malloy on March 19 to urge passage of the governor's two energy and environmental bills that effectively constitute the comprehensive energy strategy DEEP proposed in February.

Malloy's energy bill, Senate Bill 9 or "An Act Concerning Connecticut’s Energy Future," seeks to double the state's renewable portfolio standard to 40% by 2030 from a current level that plateaus at 20% in 2020. Generation resources that would qualify as renewables under the bill include solar, wind, run-of-the-river hydropower, landfill methane gas, biomass, fuel cells and anaerobic digestion.

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In addition to establishing a competitive auction process to replace net metering rates, S.B. 9 would charge the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority with establishing a fixed rate for residential rooftop solar that ensures developers cover their costs and earn a fair rate of return. The proposed bill also seeks to achieve more than $1 billion in additional savings for ratepayers over 20 years through the use of renewables and have the CT Green Bank, the state's clean energy finance vehicle, become a self-sustaining entity by 2025.

Another of the governor's bills, Senate Bill 7 or "An Act Concerning Climate Change and Resiliency," would set an interim target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 45% from 2001 levels by 2030 as the state progresses toward an already agreed-upon 80% reduction in 2001 levels by 2050.

S.B. 7 also includes measures aimed at mitigating the impacts on coastal shorelines of a rise in sea level of nearly two feet by 2050 due to climate change. Klee said Connecticut is already seeing frequent flooding of roads "that once did not flood," the warming of the Long Island Sound, "the slow but steady shift from a New England fishery to a Mid-Atlantic fishery," and changes in autumn foliage season and wildlife habitats.

To reflect those changes, the proposed bill would move coastal boundary maps inland to reflect the expected rise in sea levels. It also would require all future projects located in the coastal boundary either undertaken by a state agency or funded by a state or federal grant or loan to abide by the projections of the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation, or CIRA.

"Tide gauges in Long Island Sound have already measured sea level rise along Connecticut's coast," said James O’Donnell, CIRA executive director and professor of marine sciences at the University of Connecticut. He also cited projections by the International Panel on Climate Change and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that sea levels should be expected to continue to rise in the future. Because of projected changes in the circulation in the Atlantic, O'Donnell said water levels will increase more in Connecticut than most other parts of the world.

O'Donnell said Connecticut is also "sinking slowly relative to the sea level" to the point that the state should prepare for sea levels to rise rapidly. Based on NOAA projections in 2012 and using local data, CIRA recommends communities plan for up to 20 inches of sea level rise by 2050.