Opinion: Solar is CT’s path to lower energy costs – The Connecticut Mirror

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You might have heard the argument that Connecticut can’t afford more solar. That we already have some of the highest electricity costs in nation, and more solar will further burden ratepayers. It’s time to bust that myth.

What we can’t afford is continuing to burn fossil fuels for our energy. Renewable energy, and solar in particular, is actually the path to lower, more stable electric rates. And while the shift to renewables will require some up-front investment, we face a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take advantage of generous federal funding to make these investments at no extra cost. We can correct a litany of historical environmental injustices in the process. Today, the Connecticut General Assembly has a chance to help make this happen.

Connecticut spends over $15 billion each year on energy, or over $4,300 per person. We get most of this energy from fossil fuels: it’s the gasoline we use to power our cars, the oil, propane and natural gas we use to heat our homes and the natural gas we use to power most of the electric grid. We import these fuels from out of state. Their prices are highly volatile and subject to events beyond our control. And one thing is clear: these costs will continue to increase.

Connecticut is locked today in an upward-sloping energy cost curve. At a modest 2% inflation rate, these costs will climb to over $7,500 per person by 2050 if we continue business as usual.

If, on the other hand, we move aggressively to transition to clean energy, we can get onto a downward-sloping cost curve. (It’s pretty simple. Ask anyone with solar panels on their roof. Once you make the initial investment, you are freed from the annual cycle of volatile, ever-increasing fuel costs.) And we will own the power generation ourselves and keep the jobs and wealth in the state. If we do this, we estimate that Connecticut will actually spend less on energy in 2050 than we spend today, even after inflation.

Making the transition to clean energy will require up-front investments in solar, wind, storage, the electric grid, electric vehicles and heat pumps. Naturally, these investments will cost us more in the early years. However, federal funds are available today that enable us to make these investments at no additional cost. The Inflation Reduction Act represents the most ambitious clean energy investment our nation has ever made, and we need to do all we can to make sure Connecticut gets its fair share of these funds. And because a large share of these funds is targeted to historically underserved communities, we have a chance to correct past environmental injustices in the process.

The sooner we make these investments, the sooner our energy costs will level off and start to go down.

After a year of little climate action, the Connecticut General Assembly is poised to pass legislation that will significantly expand the state’s solar market. Bills currently before the legislature would:

  • Set an immediate target of 500 MW of solar per year (vs. 100-200 MW today), and solar on 250,000 rooftops by 2035 (vs. 70,00 today).
  • Temporarily remove the “caps” holding commercial solar back while federal funding is available.
  • Provide grants to schools to study the feasibility of solar.
  • Make it easier to build solar canopies (e.g., carports), allowing solar to grow without taking up prime farmland and forests.
  • Expand community solar programs in the state, enabling participation by folks who can’t put it on their roof.
  • Unify local property taxation of commercial solar, removing some of the uncertainty developers and municipalities face.

If they pass, these bills will make a real difference. Connecticut will be able to tap into more federal funds to deploy solar. We will create local jobs and wealth. And contrary to what you might hear, we will lower our energy costs.

Mark Scully is President of People’s Action for Clean Energy and a member of the Steering Committee of the Connecticut Coalition for Climate Action.

  1. Is CT’s electric grid ready to handle more power?
  2. CT legislators take another swing at a big climate bill
  3. What CT could learn from other states’ climate change policies

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