The Connecticut Clean Energy Rollercoaster

“What’s the latest cleantech news from Connecticut?”

This past week I asked that question to a lot of smart people on mytrip to Connecticut.  I attended three events in three days: 1) a Solar Connecticut member meeting, 2) a Solar PV certification training, and 3) a Geothermal heat pump certification course.  Here’s what I heard:

  • Last year a comprehensive energy bill passed the state house and senate, only to be vetoed by Governor Jody Rell because her advisers told her it would cost too much.  The bill would have been a huge win for the solar industry, so the group is watching to see whothe new Governor is.  The group resolved to pass something in the coming year.

  • Senator John Fonfara, the biggest supporter of solar in the CT State Senate, said, “contrary to popular belief, not everybody’s supportive of progressive energypolicy.  A lot of people think it will cost too much.  We need to bethinking differently about where we put our resources and how wecommunicate the importance of the bill in the coming session.”
  • Lobbyist Michael Dugan, a key figure in getting a solar energy bill through the House and Senate last year, gave the Solar CT members this advice, “Stay positive in all yourcommunication.  Somebody who doesn’t agree with you now may come to your side down the road, but won’t if you’ve treated them badly.”  Ithought that was good advice for life, too.
  • The Connecticut Clean Energy Fund has only spent 20% of the money they allocated for solar thermalprojects.  Soon they will increase the incentive by 70% to ‘sweeten thepot’ because they’re on the hook to spend the money fast.
  • Northeast Utilities geothermal program is gaining popularity.  “The majority of new homes in Connecticut areputting geothermal in” according to a representative from ConnecticutLight & Power.
  • The growth of the PV industry has slowed a bit, which has causedsome big, national installers to exit the market temporarily.  Localcontractors say projects are still happening, but the market hastightened as rebates have stepped down.

The trend I kept stumbling over was the fact that all the energy anddebate are going into government and politics.  I’m someone who’s always avoided getting involved in policy, but it feels like you really can’tdo that and stay relevant these days.  Any career changers I talk tolately, I’m urging them to look for policy and government positions that will put them in powerful positions as this phase of economic recoveryplays out.

Interesting enough to warrant future trips to Connecticut, or should I try to stay more focused on Boston for GLD?



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