The United States may no longer belong to the Paris Climate Agreement, but Connecticut activists are still pushing for 100 percent clean energy in New Haven.
At a Jan. 3 Environmental Advisory Council meeting, the Connecticut chapter of the Sierra Club, a grassroots environmentalist organization, presented a pitch to the New Haven Environmental Advisory Council, urging New Haven to join the national “Ready for 100” clean-energy campaign, which was created two years ago in collaboration with several other nonprofit companies, including Clean Water Action and Clean Energy Task Force. As per this campaign, the electric sector in New Haven would have 100 percent clean energy by 2035, while the rest of the city would follow suit by 2050. Diane Lentakis, a Sierra Club member who controls the campaign in Connecticut, said “political will” and constraints imposed by the state budget will create the strongest opposition to the campaign. She said politicians do not seem to put environmental issues at the top of their agendas.
“[Connecticut politicians] have already cut things,” Lentakis told the News. “They’ve already raided the green fund, so the environment doesn’t seem to be looked upon as very important.”
Connecticut Sierra Club Chapter Chair Martha Klein noted that the state is “far behind the eight ball” compared to other New England states. At the moment, Connecticut has a commitment to get to 20 percent renewable energy by 2020. A new, still unfinalized Comprehensive Energy Strategy, designed by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, would call for the state reach 30 percent clean energy by 2030, but Klein pointed out that this would be a “slowing down of the rate” of the current clean energy commitment.
Klein said one of the factors causing Connecticut’s poor performance is a lack of community-shared solar energy, which would enable multiple consumers to engage in a single solar project, making the energy source available to residents who may not be able to physically install solar panels. According to Klein, having community-shared solar — which exists in other states, including New York and Massachusetts — solves the “equity issue” and allows people who are not wealthy and not home-owners to access solar power.
“Connecticut doesn’t have community-shared solar, so there are ways in which our state is a little bit regressive in comparison to other places,” Klein said.
Klein said Connecticut has a smaller, less blue, less politically active population compared to Massachusetts. In addition, she noted that, unlike Massachusetts, Connecticut has a “pipeline tax” — a surcharge on ratepayers’ bills that accounts for the costs of new pipelines.
Ward 18 Alder Salvatore DeCola, who is a member of the Environmental Advisory Council and the chairman of the City Services and Environmental Policy committee, told the News that although he also believes Connecticut and New Haven should be “striving for more,” much of what New Haven can do in terms of clean energy regulations is based on state rules. DeCola noted that the environmental council sent a letter encouraging the state government to look into solar sharing.
“The city is getting cleaner on its own buildings,” DeCola said. “We are getting more efficient, more green.”
Following Trump’s announcement that he would leave the Paris climate accord, Mayor Toni Harp joined more than 150 other mayors in an international effort to pursue an agenda focused on climate change. According to mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer, Harp is working on specific initiatives to advance individual provisions of the climate accord.
The Environmental Advisory Council was established in September 2015.
Ashna Gupta | firstname.lastname@example.org