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Connecticut considers Canadian hydropower

Connecticut already has renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 20% and may seek to increase it. But to do that may require the inclusion of hydropower from Canada to meet that goal, an energy source not currently qualified as renewable under existing rules.

The Connecticut Comprehensive Energy Strategy was released by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in a speech to the Connecticut Business and Industry Association on Oct. 5. The draft plan will be open for public comment until Dec. 14. The plan is notable in that much of the attention it has gotten is the proposal to convert up to 300,000 households to natural gas by 2020.

But in the clean energy discussion, the plan drafted by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) notes that the drive to clean energy would require a shift to more renewables while conceding a massive shortfall of in-state renewable energy generation. Still, the document suggests the state may increase its current RPS that requires that 20% of generation serving state customers be from renewables by 2020.

Meeting the 2020 RPS goal will require the development of nearly 3 GW of low-carbon supply — more than 25 times the amount of power generated by Class I resources (i.e., solar power, wind power, and fuel cells) within Connecticut in 2011, the plan says.

“DEEP is also preparing a study of the state’s RPS targets and timetable with an eye toward evaluating the impacts of allowing additional clean resources, such as low-cost, clean hydropower from Canada. These additional clean resources may qualify for some portion of the new RPS in a way that reduces overall costs while promoting more extensive in-state development of traditional renewable resources,” according to the report. The plan references the Northern Pass transmission project in New Hampshire. That project would bring 1,200 Mw of hydropower from Quebec into New England. The project was being jointly developed by Boston-based NSTAR and Hartford, Conn.-based Northeast Utilities. Those companies have since merged.

Demand for renewable generation across New England is expected to outpace available supply. Many New England states have renewable generation targets in place. Connecticut generates only a small amount of renewable power in-state from hydroelectric dams, solar installations, and fuel cells. The state’s generators and utilities satisfy most of their renewable requirements by purchasing renewable energy credits generated elsewhere in New England.

Unless regional development of renewable resources and enabling transmission accelerates, Connecticut customers could face Alternative Compliance Payment obligations of more than $250 million (in 2012 dollars) annually by 2022 under the structure of the existing RPS. A rapid expansion of in-state renewable power combined with regional collaboration to procure the most cost-effective out-of-state renewable resources, is being urged.

The report notes that current electrical generation is dominated by two generation sources: nuclear power supplied by the 2,067-MW Millstone Power Station, owned by Dominion (NYSE: D)  and natural gas generation supplying 45% of the state’s demand.

A copy of the report, including a schedule of public hearings, is available at

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