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A powerful bill, both clean and affordable

Published 05/04/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 05/03/2013 03:16 PM

The renewable energy bill approved Wednesday on a 26-6 vote by the state Senate balances the goals of increasing the amount of power coming from renewable energy sources, while bringing down Connecticut's highest in the nation electric prices.

The plan's objective is to have, by 2020, 20 percent of the power distributed in the state coming from renewable energy sources. It is an ambitious target and one environmentalists should embrace. However, a provision that would open Connecticut's market to large-scale hydro-electric power to meet that goal has caused controversy and generated opposition.

Northeast Utilities wants to build a transmission line through New Hampshire to access water-generated power produced by Hydro-Quebec, a move that would increase availability of Canadian hydroelectric power in Connecticut.

Critics of the bill, however, contend that using Canadian power to meet Connecticut's renewable energy goals would discourage development of homegrown wind and solar projects, because they will be unable to compete with the hydro giant.

This argument misses the point that to be credible renewable energy must be priced competitively. Connecticut's economy needs energy that is affordable and clean. The bill's approach creates competitive pressure on wind, solar and other renewable energy sectors to produce power economically.

And hydroelectric is, after all, renewable.

The bill's opponents say the energy plan is a political gift, delivered with a big bow, to NU and its Hydro-Quebec partner. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel C. Esty fed this perception by recently participating in a conference call on energy issues, arranged by UBS Securities and including investors and stock analysts, just as the Senate prepared to vote.

"In retrospect that was a miss," Mr. Esty said later. "I should have been more careful."

Indeed.

But just because NU would benefit, doesn't make it bad legislation. The House should adopt this bill. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, whose administration helped prepare the legislation, should then sign it into law.

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