On the importance of climate-change preparation: ‘It’s the deficit, stupid’

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A shared solar array in Massachusetts.

As important as you, the environmental community, and I feel climate change is, we all need to put up a sign in our offices which says “It’s the deficit, STUPID!”..and then connect the dots.

I have requested that the environmental community look at certain connections of climate change mitigation and deficit reduction, but they are so overly focused they seem to ignore it even when it has actually worked going back to 1990. It was then that I authored a bill to change all lighting in state buildings from incandescent bulbs to the then-new compact fluorescents. Savings were projected at $130 million over ten years (about $230 million in today’s dollars) and it reduced CO2.

The legislature has already stolen  about $145 million of the efficiency funds for a one-shot deficit reduction, so why not devote the rest to state buildings and those that receive state funds to accomplish two positive things.

Then, in the new shared clean energy facilities (SCEF) solar program, we can also use the concept to further buy down the deficit. Massachusetts has already done part of this with shared solar supplying state-owned low-income housing with less expensive electricity. We need to at least triple the amount going to this program which is still a pitiful only 25 megawatts per year now.

While the savings from SCEF operation would not be available for this immediate year’s deficit, in reports from OPM Secretary Ben Barnes, it appears we are in an era of perennial deficits and, if not delayed further, some of these solar-induced savings could conceivably be available within a year.

One similar application of SCEFs has already taken place in Massachusetts, another state serviced by Eversource, which allows low-income housing tenants to save $60 million or more over 20 years by use of SCEFs with the bill credits going to the 16 housing authorities which may reduce state funds for energy.

It is also noteworthy that Massachusetts (ranking  No. 2 nationally) with only twice Connecticut’s population has five times the amount of installed solar capacity to Connecticut’s which placed at No. 16.

The Hartford Courant went on to say that they, “…found Connecticut lagging far behind Massachusetts in the number of state buildings using solar power to generate electricity.” SCEFs provide a way to increase state building use of solar and at a cost savings.

But it is not just state buildings that can play a role in deficit reduction by buying shares in a SCEF. The state provides aid to innumerable organizations including towns, libraries, group homes, half-way houses, museums, schools, railroads …and the list goes on ad infinitum. All of them use electricity and receive some form of state aid. Setting them up with SCEF-provided power could bring about significant savings allowing the state to cut some aid proportionate to those savings without affecting operations.

Joel Gordes of West Hartford is an Energy and Environmental Security Strategist.


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