HARTFORD — Efforts to bring renewable energy to a broader group of Connecticut residents have been dealt a setback by the General Assembly’s Energy and Technology committee.
But the so-called community solar bill isn’t completely dead. The legislation, House Bill 5412, was folded into Senate Bill 353, which the Energy and Technology panel moved out of committee last week.
The original bill would have allowed an unlimited number of groups to set up photovoltaic solar panels at a remote location and distribute the electricity that is generated to members who sign up for the service. In its current form, the plan calls for a pilot program that would allow consumers in two communities to test the community solar concept.
Backers of the community solar legislation said they are disappointed in the way pilot program is currently structured and will work toward changing it.
“To have an impact we feel there should be at least twelve (projects),” Paula Panzarella, one of the leaders of the New Haven-based group Fight The Hike, said in an email.
Roger Smith, co-director of Clean Water Action, a Hartford-based environmental group, was even more forceful in calling for continued changes to Senate Bill 353.
“It needs to be strengthened beyond a small pilot program and open up the opportunity for everyone to be part of a clean energy future,” Smith said in a statement.
In an effort to expand the pilot program beyond two communities, supporters of the legislation are looking to meet with representatives of The United Illuminating Co. and Connecticut Light & Power in as effort to get their support for a broader rollout of the community solar concept, Mike Trahan, executive director of Solar Connecticut, a renewable energy industry group, said Tuesday.
“We want to convince them that this could have a lot of benefits,” Trahan said. “By having community solar, you are reducing the level of demand on the grid.”
Trahan said at least some of the discussion with the utilities likely is to revolve around the size of the bill credit the companies would provide to participants in a community solar program for the amount of energy their panels produce.
“That’s a discussion that is going on all over the country,” he said.
Ten other states have passed shared clean energy programs, including Massachusetts and Vermont, according to supporters of the Connecticut legislation.
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