It's no secret that now is a challenging time to live and do business in Connecticut. Right now, our State is simultaneously planning for its energy future, seeking to improve its business climate, and trying to keep working families from moving out of state, all against the backdrop of an impending $930 million budget crisis. But in times like these, it's important to keep the big picture in mind. If CT is ever going to grow jobs and meet its clean energy and climate change goals, we need an aggressive plan to ramp up utility and community scale renewables and energy efficiency, and we can't afford to wait until our financial problems go away. No point in sugar coating it, CT is beginning to lag behind our neighboring states on expanding its clean energy infrastructure. In response to a growing demand from the public and private sectors, the General Assembly passed legislation in 2015 to establish a shared-solar pilot program. Unfortunately, the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has chosen to delay implementation of the project by asking for changes and clarification. Now DEEP is supporting legislation that would further delay the shared solar pilot, much to the dismay of installers who are increasingly leaving the state to look for a more "renewable friendly" business climate.
To make matters worse, Connecticut's projected budget deficit is having a disastrous effect on our clean energy and energy efficiency programs. The proposed Finance committee budget released last week raids $22 million from Connecticut's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) accounts to help fill holes in the general fund. RGGI revenues help cities and towns finance clean energy solutions, provide low cost energy efficiency assessments and weatherization for low-income families, and support the development of clean utility-scale hydropower, and improve the reliability of our state’s energy grid. Today, more than 6,000 businesses and 55,000 homes in Connecticut benefit from RGGI programs, including more than 20,000 low-income households.
Clearly, these are programs that benefit our state in a number of important ways. RGGI moneys are leveraged with private capital to spur jobs and innovation and to keep energy costs low; two things that are depserately needed in our state. But the uncertainty created every time Connecticut changes or delays its clean energy policy is forcing investors to look elsewhere, and it undercuts our ability to keep our commitments on fighting climate change. Connecticut needs to recognize that clean energy is not a luxury, but a necessity if we are to fully realize the benefits that clean energy carry with them. It's time to stop gambling with our state's energy future, and that starts with maintaining funding for clean energy programs and moving full speed ahead with renewables.