Blogs > Power to the People

Following energy issues in the state of Connecticut and beyond.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Moving Toward a Renewable Future

Former New Haven Register staffer Randy Flaum is now assistant managing editor for visuals at the York (Pa.) Dispatch.

Today, on YouTube, Randy posted this video of a farmer from central Pennsylvania, William Fay, who explains why he decided to install a wind turbine on his property and solar panels on his barn.
I found the video interesting, even though I haven't done any comparative analysis between the renewable energy incentives offered in Pennsylvania versus those offered here in Connecticut.

What struck me about the video that I've linked to above is that when average folks like Mr. Fay start embracing renewable energy -warts and all - it is a hopeful sign that perhaps we will see more people here in the Land of Steady Habits follow suit.

It also should serve as a reminder to our political leaders in Connecticut that the state also has a wide variety of companies doing business in the alternative energy sector.

At a time when the state is losing jobs from legacy industries, lawmakers and our new governor-elect ought to be doing whatever they can to keep moving toward to a field that has a future.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Things That Make You Go Hmmmmmmm.......

Saw this New York Times story over the weekend and for a moment, I actually thought that maybe the folks at the Onion may have hijacked the pages of the Grey Lady for the weekend, figuring that folks were too busy shopping and watching football games to notice

But not having seen any highly publicized request by British Petroleum for a retraction to the Times story, I've reached an inescapable conclusion: Either the company is getting some colossally bad public relations advice or they've taken complete leave of their senses.

Unlike some people, I have no wish to see the company go belly up. Too many jobs are at stake, both here in the United States and around the world.

But instead of devoting financial resources to a project that has no hope of being seen as a balanced look at what happened during this summer's massive oil spill in Gulf of Mexico, how about focusing the company's financial resources on improving safety measures so that something like this never happens again?

Or better yet, maybe BP should increases its investments in a variety of renewable energy projects. If executives at the company really want to change their image, that 's a good place to start.

It won't come cheap and it won't happen overnight. But real contrition and a rehabilitation of a company's image never does.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Environmental Group Calls for More Fuel Efficient Cars

A report released by a state environmental group this week contends that Connecticut drivers would save $2.4 million filling up their gas tanks over the long Thanksgiving holiday if all those driving had more fuel efficient cars.

The findings in the new Environment Connecticut study are based on estimates that roughly 195,000 families will be on the road this Thanksgiving, said Joe Blass, a spokesman for the West Hartford-based environmental group. Using that number, Blass said Wednesday that the study found that motorists could save $2.4 million in fuel costs if the average car on the road got 60 miles per gallon.

As it is, with the average American car getting 26.4 miler per gallon, those same Connecticut motorists will spend $4.34 million for gas over the long holiday weekend. And 803,000 fewer gallons of gas would be used by those drivers.

"This Thanksgiving, Connecticut families should be focused on clearing their plates, not clearing out their wallets at the gas pump," said Blass. "Cleaner cars would keep roughly $12 in each Connecticut family’s wallet this Thanksgiving—enough to bring a few extra pumpkin pies to dinner."

The release of the study comes as the Obama administration is developing new fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2017 through 2025.

Environment Connecticut is part of a large coalition of groups urging the administration to make 60 mile per gallon cars the norm instead of the exception to the rule.
But Blass acknowledged that even with the support of Obama and other political leaders, American automakers over the last generation have been slow to growing sentiment for vehicles with higher fuel mileage.

"We think the 60 gallon per mile average by 2025 is something Americans would enthusiastically support," Blass said, citing a recent national survey in which roughly three-quarters of the people survey would support such a measure. "We will have more electric cars on the road by then, which will help increase the miles per gallon average."

The Nissan Leaf, which is expected to begin arriving at Connecticut dealerships sometime early next year, has received a federal Environmental Protection Agency rating that is the equivalent of 99 miles per gallon, it was announced Wednesday.

The Connecticut Fund for the Environment has joined Environment Connecticut in supporting the 60 mile per gallon average by 2025.

"Not only are the vehicles on our roads the largest single source of global warming pollution in the state, but emissions from passenger vehicles are a significant contributor to these increased health risks facing Connecticut residents," said Charles Rothenberger, a staff attorney with the New Haven-based environmental group. "Because so much of our State’s hazardous air pollution comes from mobile sources, CFE strongly supports increased efficiency standards. Reducing vehicle emissions with cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars is an essential strategy to reducing health threatening toxics and other pollutants in the air and placing us on a path to a sustainable future."

You can read the full report by clicking here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Magazine Weighs In On Electric Cars

In the midst of all of the hype that electric cars have been getting in the media, U.S. News & World offers this thought provoking article on why they may not produce a wide spread shift in consumer tastes the way some people think.

There are some points made in the article that I agree with, especially when it comes to price. The sticker price of these cars needs to come down a great deal over the next five years if this country is ever going to achieve a critical mass of these cars on the road.

But overall, I think electric vehicles are a good idea, provided that we keep their role in perspective.

Electric vehicles are not going to be a silver bullet in ending America's reliance on foreign oil, especially since many power plants that produce the electricity the cars will run on are oil-fired. Electric cars are but one option in what must be a long term campaign to reduce our consumption of oil.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Clean Energy Fund Offering $12.86 Million for Renewable Power Projects

The Connecticut Clean Energy Fund has launched a program that will provide $12.86 million in funding to promote the installation of renewable energy generating equipment at commercial, industrial and institutional buildings around the state.

The On-Site Renewable Distributed Generation Program is a revised version of a previous program that the Clean Energy Fund had in place. The funding is issued in the form of grants that can be used to lower the cost of installing new renewable energy generating equipment at commercial, industrial and institutional facilities.

The types of technology eligible for the grants include: solar photovoltaic, wind, fuel cell, landfill gas, waste heat recovery, low-emission advanced biomass conversion and certain hydropower technologies.

"The new program funding and competitive review process allow us to build on the progress we have made to date supporting the installation of over 200 renewable energy generating systems at commercial sites throughout Connecticut," said Dale Hedman, acting president of the Clean Energy Fund. "Our support is a vital ingredient, helping make on-site renewable energy generation a financially viable option for businesses and institutions.”

The Clean Energy Fund is seeking a request for proposals from companies and institutions that would be interested in being considered for the grants. Eligible applicants include for-profit companies, not-for-profit companies, municipalities, and state and federal government agencies.

Eligible applicants can apply for funding under the “Best of Class” category or the “Public Buildings” category.

To be considered for funding, interested parties must submit their applications by Feb. 28, 2011. Final funding decision will be announced next April.

To find out more information about the application process, interested parties can take part in a Dec. 6th information session at 1 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Clean Energy Fund's office at 865 Brook St. in Rocky Hill.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New Study on Connecticut's Coastal Economy Renews Calls to Reduce Off Shore Oil Exploration Efforts

A West Hartford-based environmental group is using a new report released this week renew its call for the Obama administration to permanently back away from an expansion of oil exploration and drilling off of America's coasts.

The Environment Connecticut study found that coastal tourism and fishing businesses generate $4.63 billion annually and provide nearly 90,000 jobs. And that's just a small portion of the total impact those industries have on the Northeast as a whole: These businesses generate $62.3 billion and employ over 1.15 million people.

Environment Connecticut officials say that if a spill of the same magnitude as BP's Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico were to occur in the North Atlantic, it would cover 650 miles of coastline.

“As we saw this summer with BP’s disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, oil drilling is still a dirty and dangerous business that usually brings some spilling," said Joe Blass, a field associate with Environment Connecticut . "The potential returns from offshore drilling are not worth the risk of destroying our coasts and taking away more of our jobs."

The federal government last month lifted a ban on deep water oil drilling it had put in place after the BP spill. But oil industry have accused government officials of dragging their feet when it comes to issuing the necessary permits to resume the work.

The Environment Connecticut study also claims that the annual value of tourism and fishing along the Northeast coast, including Connecticut, is nearly 12 times higher than the annual value of any oil or gas that might be found there.

“Long Island Sound is the cultural and economic heart of this region,” said Leah Schmalz, Director of Legislative and Legal Affairs for Save the Sound, a Program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment. “As this report highlights, its value not only lies in its critical ability to promote traditional New England industries, like commercial shell fishing, tourism, and trade, but also in its intrinsic value as a home to citizens and wildlife alike.”

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Connecticut Utility Regulators Develop Procedure to Monitor NU Meger

Despite the fact that Northeast Utilities is the parent company of the Connecticut Light & Power, the state's largest electric company, the agency that oversees regulated utilities in Connecticut won't be required to sign off on NU's deal to acquire NSTAR, which was announced last month.

That's because of the way the deal between Hartford-based NU and NSTAR - which was announced Oct. 18th - is structured, according to Phil Dukes, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control. State law only requires the DPUC to rule on a merger when "a change in control of utility occurs and the transaction involves public service companies and assets outside of Connecticut," Dukes said.

"NU isn't considered a utility," he said. "It's a holding company."

That may seem like splitting hairs to average folks like you and I, but according to Dukes, it's the way the law is written.

For those with long memories, the way the law is written would explain why the DPUC was required to act upon the proposed 1999 merger between New York's Consolidated Edison and NU. The terms of that deal would have made ConEd the controlling company, Dukes said, so Connecticut utility regulators had to rule on the merger.

ConEd abandoned the deal in March 2001 after the DPUC imposed requirements on the merger that the New York company found unacceptable.

But although Connecticut officials aren't required to act upon this latest merger - that task falls to Massachusetts utility regulators because that's where NSTAR is headquartered - it doesn't mean the DPUC doesn't care about it, said Kevin DelGobbo, who chairs the DPUC.

"With the merger of NU and NSTAR, NU will become the largest utility company in the Northeast," DelGobbo said. "It is imperative that ratepayer interests in Connecticut are protected and that the viability of The Connecticut Light and Power Company and Yankee Gas Services Company (utility companies that are owned by NU) are preserved."

Under an agreement approved by NU officials, the DPUC will receive regular presentations on the transaction, updating its status before Massachusetts regulators, Dukes said.

"Any materials they file with any agency, they have agreed they will file with us as well," he said.

All materials relating to the transaction filed with the DPUC will be maintained on a section of the the agency's website. Click here to go directly to that portion of the DPUC web site.

If the merger of NU and NSTAR is approved, the combined company will operate six regulated electric and gas utilities in three states and will have nearly 3.5 million electric and gas customers. NU will have nearly 4,500 miles of electric transmission lines, 72,000 miles of electric distribution lines and 6,000 miles of gas distribution lines.