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The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is recommending that the state restructure its renewable portfolio standard (RPS).

Connecticut's RPS requires 27% of utilities' sales to come from renewable energy resources by 2020, with a Class I requirement of 20% by 2020. Under the state's current RPS, Class I resources include energy derived from solar power, wind energy, fuel cells, methane gas from landfills and anaerobic digestion, ocean thermal power, wave or tidal power, low-emission advanced renewable energy conversion technologies, certain newer run-of-the-river hydropower facilities not exceeding 5 MW in capacity, and sustainable biomass facilities.

The DEEP recommends changing the state’s RPS to increase the Class I target from 20% by 2020 to 25% by 2025, and to allow the state to run a competitive bid process to buy a portion - 7.5% by 2025 - of the energy needed to meet this target. According to the DEEP, this change is designed to bring down the overall ratepayer cost of the RPS while preserving support for renewable energy development in Connecticut.

However, the DEEP is also proposing to allow large-scale hydropower projects to qualify as a Class I resource. Under DEEP’s draft proposal, all Class I renewables could compete for power contracts, based on price, in the “contracted tier.”

That means large-scale hydropower could fulfill the requirement currently reserved for renewable energy resources like wind and solar. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy already made it clear that wind power would not play a large role in efforts to meet the state’s RPS.

“In Connecticut, where we have limited in-state wind potential, and the New England region as a whole, high transmission costs are barriers to capturing the full potential of wind resources,” Malloy said when releasing his energy strategy last month.

Another key element of the draft DEEP study would phase out subsidies for older biomass plants and landfill gas that do not provide optimal economic or environmental benefits.

“A gradual phase-in of more stringent standards will ensure that these plants would qualify as Class I or allow their replacement with newer, cleaner resources,” says DEEP Commissioner Daniel C. Esty. “Our analysis shows that a total of 75% of Connecticut ratepayers’ investment in Class I resources is currently going to support biomass plants located primarily in Maine and New Hampshire. These plants are among the least clean Class I resources, and because many were already in operation when the RPS was enacted, they do not necessarily meet the goal of displacing fossil-fuel generation.”

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