Every Connecticut energy consumer should have the option to choose clean, local power. This choice should not be limited by whether they own or rent. It shouldn’t be limited by whether they live in a house, condo or apartment building. It shouldn’t even matter whether the solar system is on their roof or simply nearby. In fact, it doesn’t need to.
While affordable solar power is delivering significant benefits across the U.S., the majority of Connecticut families, businesses, and municipalities face physical barriers – shaded roofs or rented property – or economic barriers, such as limited financing options, that prevent them from being able to install solar right where they live and work.
In 2015, the Connecticut General Assembly agreed. They passed a shared solar pilot program to determine the feasibility of creating a shared solar (or community solar) program in Connecticut. On its face, things were looking bright for these potential solar customers.
Unfortunately, a funny thing happened on the way to the pilot. Opposition from big power producers like Eversource and UI stalled the pilot. Conditions were put in place to make the program economically unfeasible. Initially slated to launch in October 2015, it is still not up and running. In the most recent round of proposals, only four companies, of the hundreds in the U.S., even submitted bids.
It is time for the Connecticut General Assembly to move forward. There is no longer a need for a pilot, especially one as weak as DEEP’s current model. With successful programs in a dozen states that we can model, it is time to get shared solar up and running.
As lawmakers head to the finish line in this legislative session, we urge them to support a new shared solar program that is bigger in size and stronger in design. Any energy bill should, at its core, prioritize consumer savings, economic growth, energy choices, and building a healthier environment for our families.
A new and improved shared solar program should aim to produce enough clean, local energy to power more than 28,000 homes – the scale we need to create a competitive energy system within Connecticut and among neighboring states, driving down prices for everyone.
Expanding access to clean energy choices is particularly beneficial in urban communities with dense multi-family buildings, renters, and low-income families. In cities like Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport, where residents typically spend a higher proportion of their income on utility bills, participating in a shared solar program can unlock lower and stable utility bills for local families and businesses.
Building a strong, clean energy economy and a working shared solar program benefits everyone.
Investments in solar reduces the need for electric utilities to build expensive power plants and transmission infrastructure, which are costs that inherently get passed on to ratepayers. Clean energy prevents those extra upgrades, keeping costs down for all energy customers.
What’s more, clean energy is inherently local. In Connecticut, a shared solar program will create jobs and draw local investments and economic benefits back to our state.
Just look at our neighbors to the north. Massachusetts has the second highest number of solar jobs in the country, trailing only California’s mega cleantech economy, and we’re surrounded by states ranking in the top ten for solar development – including New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Even Rhode Island recently moved forward with its own shared solar program, promising to deliver clean energy options while creating economic growth.
We’re excited that Connecticut has before it a new opportunity to affirm its commitment to clean energy, and to the people. Now, let’s get started.
Sean Garren is the Northeast Director of Vote Solar.