HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — New rules for renewable energy use in Connecticut passed their first big test Wednesday when the state Senate approved legislation proposed by the governor to boost hydropower from Canada.
The 26-6 vote was a defeat for environmentalists who fought Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's administration, demanding a greater reliance on smaller-scale wind and solar energy.
"We should be able to get more renewable energy and get it at a cheaper rate," Sen. Bob Duff, co-chairman of the legislature's Energy and Technology Committee, said at the start of the Senate debate.
Connecticut's renewable energy portfolio, established in 1998, was intended to finance new and clean renewable power by guaranteeing markets. The portfolio standards require electric suppliers to use a certain percentage of renewable energy as part of the electricity they sell.
Defining which forms of renewable energy — and how much of each — have been the focus of a fight between environmentalists and the Malloy administration. State Energy Commissioner Daniel Esty has said the renewable energy portfolio fails to support the cleanest possible renewable power. It relies too much on biomass plants in Maine and New Hampshire and landfill gas projects, primarily in New York, he said.
The legislation increases to 30 megawatts from five megawatts a hydropower project's capacity to be eligible for the state's renewable energy portfolio. It also tightens emission standards for power from biomass facilities, which Esty says is among the "least clean" forms of renewable energy.
Environmentalists want the state's renewable energy rules to promote wind and solar generated by small producers rather than large hydropower projects in Canada that are already commercially successful. The purpose of state renewable energy rules "is to get stuff built," said Seth Kaplan, vice president for policy and climate advocacy at the Conservation Law Foundation, an environmental group.
"It's not intended to be just a wealth transfer to Quebec for facilities they have built or will build anyway," he said.