Six Steps to a Stronger, Greener Connecticut
By Peter Rothstein and George Sakelleris
As we approach the one-year mark since COVID-19 upended life across the globe, the parallels between the pandemic and the climate crisis are striking: Both present dangers to our lives, threaten to disrupt our economy, and disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color. But the pandemic has also shown that regional, national, and international communities can respond quickly and meaningfully when such a crisis arises and has underscored the urgent need to take aggressive action on climate change action now.
Fortunately, Connecticut and the Northeast, aided by a federal administration that has made climate change a top priority, are on the path to real progress thanks to strong climate and clean energy proposals and investments. By targeting emissions reductions through energy efficiency and sourcing our energy from resources like the sun, wind, and renewable fuel cells, the Northeast can reduce pollution that endangers our health and environment, gain independence from outside sources of fuel, and turn our states into economic engines by creating thousands of local jobs.
At the Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC), our more than two-hundred-member companies are already doing the important work required to accelerate our region’s clean energy transition. Ameresco, with locations in Middletown and Cheshire, is one of those members and is a shining example of what’s possible in the clean energy economy. As a leading clean technology integrator specializing in energy efficiency and renewable energy, in 2019 alone, Ameresco’s renewable energy assets and customer projects delivered a carbon offset equivalent to 11,167,978 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Ameresco published its 2020 Environmental Social and Governance report with a theme of “Doing Well by Doing Good,” a nod to the economic and environmental benefits associated with the business of clean energy.
Leading employers like Ameresco and thoughtful state policymakers have worked hard to lay the groundwork for Connecticut’s clean energy transition, but there’s still work to be done. To build on this momentum, we see six goals that will drive Connecticut’s clean energy economy forward:
First, be ambitious. We can’t afford to limit ourselves on clean energy. Connecticut must aim high when it comes to clean energy investments that could decarbonize close to half of the state’s energy supply this decade.
Second, make equity a priority. For too long, energy, infrastructure, and environmental burdens have been disproportionately borne by low-income communities and communities of color. We have a chance to embed Environmental Justice principles into our future decisions so that all communities benefit from the clean energy transition. But doing so demands intentional, deliberate, and inclusive choices by policymakers and project developers.
Third, design an energy storage roadmap for Connecticut. The legislature has an opportunity to set a bold but achievable pace by establishing a one-gigawatt storage target by 2030. Ameresco and many NECEC members are eager to see Governor Lamont’s Administration complete its effort to adopt a storage program that compensates commercial customer-sited and standalone storage assets for the benefits they deliver to direct customers and the entire electric grid.
Fourth, support clean transportation. Governor Lamont’s commitment to the regional Transportation Climate Initiative must be affirmed by the Legislature. Policymakers should embrace this opportunity to participate in a policy that will lower transportation emissions while spurring economic development and job creation, funding transportation infrastructure, and improving public health.
Fifth, continue investments in energy efficiency. Connecticut has long been a leader in efficiency and a redoubling of its efforts will be crucial to ensuring that we meet our climate commitments in the most cost-effective and efficient manner. Robust support for energy efficiency that includes using new technologies to make our buildings “smarter” will lead to local jobs and deliver cost savings to customers, making efficiency an essential ingredient in our clean energy future.
And sixth, create a secure solar future. Solar energy will be key to successfully reaching our climate commitments, and we must ensure that Connecticut sustains its commitment to a long-term role for solar electricity generation that provides clean energy to businesses, schools and universities, and municipalities.
Back in 2019, Governor Lamont issued an executive order strengthening Connecticut’s commitment to fighting the climate crisis. Now, Connecticut must build on that leadership and embrace energy efficiency and renewable energy as the responsible path forward to reduce electricity costs, invest in resiliency, create jobs, commit to long-term carbon reduction goals, and so much more.
This week, NECEC and our members made this case to policymakers in Hartford during our annual Clean Energy Day. We brought together clean energy business leaders, legislators, and policymakers virtually to discuss the most pressing energy and climate policy issues facing the state, and show how Connecticut can achieve a thriving, equitable clean energy economy. Read more about NECEC's 2021 Connecticut Clean Energy Policy Priorities.
Peter Rothstein is the President of the Northeast Clean Energy Council.
George Sakellaris is the President, Chief Executive Officer, and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Ameresco Inc.