Connecticut may be a small state, but in recent years it has become a big leader in energy efficiency. As one of only seven states with a formal goal of achieving all cost-effective energy efficiency, Connecticut has consistently ranked among the top ten in ACEEE’s annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard.
The Constitution State has made a commitment to maximize energy efficiency as a way to help businesses and residents lower their energy bills, while also creating jobs and improving health, comfort, equity, and business productivity. However, a recent proposal from the state legislature may put these energy efficiency programs at risk.
Connecticut is one of nine states in the northeast that participates in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a voluntary program to reduce emissions in the region. States that participate in RGGI sell emission allowances through auctions, then invest the proceeds in programs to deliver clean energy and energy efficiency to customers. Connecticut has raised about $160 million through the RGGI program to date, funneling the majority of this funding into energy efficiency. These programs generate significant benefits while reducing customers’ energy bills. Energize Connecticut, a statewide program supported in part by RGGI proceeds, calculates that every dollar invested in energy efficiency in 2015 generated $2.80 in benefits. These programs keep dollars in customers’ pockets, and in the local economy by generating jobs in the clean energy industry. According to the state’s deputy commissioner for energy, RGGI funds support more than 10,000 jobs across Connecticut.
But with budget holes to fill, state legislators aren’t thinking about economic benefits. Instead, they’ve proposed to divert $22 million in RGGI funds into the state’s general fund. Not only would such a raid reduce the scale of energy efficiency programs offered to customers in the state, it would also chip away at Connecticut’s innovative financing program, the Connecticut Green Bank. Every dollar invested in the Connecticut Green Bank’s financing programs supports $10 of private-sector investment. These programs help low-income customers make energy-efficient upgrades in their homes and help towns and businesses invest in renewable energy.
Balancing a budget is not an easy task, to be sure, but raiding RGGI funds is not the solution.
Things are moving quickly in Connecticut, but there are glimmers of hope. Governor Dannel Malloy’s recently released budget proposal does not include the RGGI raid. And businesses and clean energy advocates are working to ensure the state legislature understands the value of the programs RGGI funding helps deliver. Connecticut has a long history of leadership when it comes to increasing energy efficiency, but short-sighted efforts to fill state coffers could have serious long-term implications for the businesses, workers, and residents who depend on these programs to keep energy affordable.