Connecticut falls behind state’s GHG goals: ‘We told you so,’ says Acadia Center

Connecticut falls behind state’s GHG goals: ‘We told you so,’ says Acadia Center

Dive Brief:

  • Connecticut’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions rose 2.7% from 2017 to 2018, according to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), meaning the state is not on track to meet emissions reduction targets lawmakers set in 2008. Rising transportation emissions are the largest factor, according to the agency.
  • Connecticut’s Global Warming Solutions Act requires the state to reduce economywide GHG emissions 80% below 2001 levels by 2050, with an interim target of 45% below 2001 levels by 2030. The electric sector has made significant progress toward the goal, but overall “there is urgent work to be done,” DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said in a statement.
  • Conservation advocates say there is “plenty” the state can do in all sectors responsible for emissions. “Transportation, buildings and electricity, are the three big ones. There’s opportunities in every one,” said Samantha Dynowski, state director of Sierra Club’s Connecticut chapter.

Dive Insight:

The state legislature is not currently in session, but Dynowski said Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, D, can do much through administrative action. A key move would be to block new gas plant development, which advocates say is at odds with the state’s vision of achieving a zero-carbon energy system by 2040.

Clean-energy advocates have for years opposed development of the 650-MW Killingly Energy Center, a natural-gas-fired electric plant that NTE Energy has proposed. Lamont, in January, said he doesn’t want the plant to move forward and has doubts that it will ever be built due to market forces.

If the plant moves forward, “clearly that would worsen the prospects for meeting our greenhouse gas reduction targets,” said Dynowski. The Connecticut Siting Board will make the final decision on the merchant plant, and the company hopes to begin construction later this year.

Despite the new gas plant proposal, Connecticut’s 2018 GHG inventory shows “encouraging results in electricity sector emissions,” DEEP said.

The report shows electricity-sector emissions have declined 32% since 1990 and 35% since 2001, largely due to increased energy efficiency and a shift away from petroleum and coal to natural gas and renewables to generate power.

DEEP said the electric sector’s emissions in 2018 were down 4.7% from 2017, “even though somewhat warmer weather in 2018 increased electricity demand for air conditioning.”

Dykes said the state cannot wait to act as climate change impacts are “here, now, and increasing. We must rapidly reduce emissions now to mitigate the harm and the costs to future generations.” 

Earlier this year, DEEP issued a draft plan to meet the 2040 decarbonization goal, which calls for demand response and storage incentives to address the intermittency of wind and solar production.

Dynowski said the state could also be doing more in energy efficiency, though. The Connecticut Energy Efficiency Board recently advanced a three-year plan that continues rebates for gas-powered appliances. “They could end subsidies for fossil fuel equipment and instead increase rebates for more efficient equipment,” she said.

The rise in Connecticut’s 2018 GHG inventory did not surprise the nonprofit Acadia Center, which has been sounding the alarm for years.

“We told you so,” Jordan Stutt, Acadia’s carbon programs director, said in an email.  

The group says energy efficiency is the cheapest way to reduce building emissions, but with “low-hanging” upgrades like LED lighting now complete, the state will need to invest in building retrofits with a particular focus on low- and moderate-income residents.

Acadia also wants to see Connecticut lawmakers — who will meet in an upcoming special session to consider extending the governor’s pandemic-related emergency powers — to pass legislation enabling the state’s participation in the regional Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P) to reduce vehicle emissions.

According to DEEP, Connecticut emitted 42.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2018, and the largest portion came from the transportation sector which emitted 15.8 million metric tons. Despite a 16% improvement in per-vehicle mile emissions since 1990, the agency said emissions from the sector have increased across that same time frame.

“Proactive measures to reduce transportation pollution, like TCI-P, will not only help to meet climate targets, but will create jobs, boost the economy, provide better mobility options, and improve public health,” Stutt said in a statement.

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