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After Millstone Nuclear Rejection, Where Does Connecticut Really Stand on Renewables?

After Millstone Nuclear Rejection, Where Does Connecticut Really Stand on Renewables?

For a small state, Connecticut has big energy dreams. Following the United States’ exit from the Paris Climate Agreement, Connecticut’s governor announced that the state would be joining a coalition of like-minded states and cities that would continue to uphold the commitments laid out in the agreement, even if the federal government no longer carried the same mandate.

Despite these outspoken goals, however, the Connecticut legislature declined to pass a bill that would have allowed Dominion Energy’s Millstone nuclear power plant to receive benefits for zero-emission nuclear power production. The proposed legislation would have given the Millstone nuclear plant more leverage to compete with natural gas and renewable energy sources — the latter having received up to 114 times more subsidies than nuclear power.[1]

Millstone is the largest producer of zero-emission energy in Connecticut, and the source of 96 percent of the state’s total carbon-free energy. The closing of the Millstone power plant would be disastrous for Connecticut’s energy plan, setting it back years in the process of converting to a fully renewable energy-powered state. The Millstone nuclear facility is already the most profitable nuclear plant in the country and represents a large piece of the Connecticut energy infrastructure, as well as its plans for the future.[2],[3]

Beyond just the Connecticut legislature, communities in Connecticut are pushing back against renewable energy as well. Deepwater Wind, a company that installs renewable energy projects, including the United States’ first offshore wind farm, is facing heavy resistance in its efforts to turn private farmland into a solar power station that would generate enough solar energy to power 5,000 homes, as well as add a key piece to the Connecticut solar power infrastructure.[4]

In this case, however, it is not the Connecticut legislature that is pushing back, but the citizens of Connecticut. Deepwater Wind has made an effort to host local forums in which citizens can ask questions and raise concerns about the project. Already, the company has downsized the area on which the solar farm is going to be built by half, from about 300 acres to around 150 acres, in response to concerns from neighbors of the site. It also plans on building a privacy fence around the perimeter of the facility to alleviate concerns about the project being an eyesore.[5]

While it’s understandable there would be concerns from the project’s neighbors, what is surprising is the degree of pushback being seen from the people of Connecticut. It is already reaching a level that could threaten the project’s completion. What’s more, Deepwater Wind was under no obligation to consult with the people of Connecticut. Rather, it only needed to go through the customary government approval channels to get approval for development of the land.

The fact that it is meeting such firm, continued resistance begs the question: Is Connecticut really invested in becoming a state powered by renewable energy? Or does this resistance to the Millstone nuclear power plant and the Deepwater Wind solar power project signal that the state isn’t ready to act on its leaders’ very public commitments?

[1] http://www.courant.com/opinion/op-ed/hc-op-hansen-millstone-nuclear-power-bill-0628-20170627-story.html 

[2] Ibid. 

[3] http://www.utilitydive.com/news/iso-ne-lays-out-retirement-options-for-dominions-millstone-nuke/445975/ 

[4] http://ripr.org/post/green-farmland-or-green-energy-deepwater-wind-brings-debate-connecticut#stream/0

[5] Ibid.

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