Connecticut's Energy Fragility Exposed Like Never Before

Samantha Dynowski and Martha Klein

In 2020, the problems with Connecticut's energy policy have been exposed like never before. We face the construction of an unneeded 650 megawatt gas power plant in Killingly, Eversource customers have experienced a massive rate hike, and residents were plagued with a week-long power outage. People and the planet are suffering from energy policy that favors fossil fuels and utility dominance. Now is the time to reprioritize and ensure power in Connecticut is more sustainable, equitable, and reliable.

 

It is a well known fact that we must end our reliance on fossil fuels to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Connecticut’s Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) mandates a 45% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and an 80% reduction by 2050. Yet fossil fuel power plants are still on the table in our state, and our state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection has approved the applications and permits for new fossil fuel burning power plants. Killingly is just the latest. Oxford and Bridgeport came online in the last few years. The addition of all this climate-destroying fracked gas power could have been renewables with more sustainable energy policies. Without real change, this climate destroying travesty will continue.

 

Our utilities are resisting change because they benefit from the status quo. Eversource is proposing building a new gas pipeline to serve the unneeded Killingly power plant. Both Eversource and UI are actively expanding gas pipelines to sell more gas. Again, despite the intention of the GWSA, state policy is allowing this expansion, and your ratepayer funds often pay for it.

 

Fossil fuel expansion comes at a high cost to the people of Connecticut. We suffer from high prices for electricity, respiratory illness from poor air quality, and the cost of climate change. Low-income and Black and brown people in Connecticut are disproportionately impacted by these costs. Warming temperatures along with quarantine recommendations has led to households needing to run air conditioning more often and even without the rate hike, this poses an economic and racial injustice— consider that extreme heat is worse in redlined neighborhoods and that Connecticut households were already struggling to pay energy bills before the pandemic. 

 

Energy companies consistently claim new power plants will lower energy costs for residents, but rates have continued to climb. According to an article in The Day dated August 17, 2019, “Natural gas accounted for about half the state's power in 2018, according to EIA. Nuclear power from Waterford's Millstone Power Station supplied another 43 percent of the state's electricity last year. The lack of other in-state sources, combined with congestion in gas transmission lines, hits residents' electricity bills.” 

 

Now is the time for solutions that best serve the people of Connecticut and the planet. Business as usual is not an option—we need real change. That’s why we are advocating for Connecticut to place a moratorium on fossil fuel infrastructure, and invest in local renewable energy. By maximizing our distributed energy potential, Connecticut can become less reliant on climate destroying fossil gas, distribute clean energy more equitably, create local jobs, and regain some control over the electricity grid.    

What Can You Do to Help?

Opponents of the Killingly fracked gas power plant have another opportunity to urge the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to protect the environment and stop this unneeded dirty energy project. On October 1, DEEP held a public hearing to consider the plant’s wastewater discharge application. Public comments will be accepted by emailing brendan.schain@ct.gov through October 9. Sierra Club has submitted these comments. Please add your voice by submitting your own comments.

 

Sierra Club Connecticut is hosting two webinars on October 26 and November 9 from 6:30 to 8 pm on the issues with our current electricity grid and how distributed energy solutions including energy efficiency, rooftop solar, and battery storage can be deployed. We hope you will join us to learn more and take action to make meaningful change for people and the planet.

 

Martha Klein serves on Sierra Club Connecticut Communications Committee and is a member of the Sierra Club. Samantha Dynowski is State Director of Sierra Club Connecticut. 

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