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Connecticut's renewable energy
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Clean Power

Connecticut’s Renewable Energy Focus Gains Momentum

Connecticut has a lot happening when it comes to energy efficiency and reliability in the face of a rapidly changing climate and global transition to clean energy sources.

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I’ve been spending my summer in Connecticut. It’s a very different place to live than Florida, in ways that extend beyond heat and humidity and into perspectives about equity, fair play, and climate pollution. That’s not to say that Connecticut’s renewable energy focus prevents climate deniers from expressing their ill-conceived thoughts here in the North. In fact, I continue to be constantly baffled when I hear a few but confident neighbors in the rural countryside question fossil fuel’s direct cause of our existential plight. It’s no longer acceptable to play ignorant, to blindly accept rampant disinformation, to gloss over sheer science that comprises an overwhelming body of evidence — the Earth is getting hotter. Among scientists there is virtually no debate on this scary fact of contemporary life.

But Connecticut has a lot of forward momentum going when it comes to energy efficiency and reliability in the face of a rapidly changing climate and global transition to clean energy sources. When writing about the climate crisis, I find it’s all to easy for us who have a voice in the media to engage in false equivalence — to, somehow, feel compelled to balance chronicles of emission mitigation successes with news stories about climate entrepreneurs who disparage climate action.

For this article, I’ve decided to be a saccharine optimist. I’m only going to share tales of Connecticut’s climate triumphs — or at least of people who are making a  difference to contribute to a healthier, cleaner world.

IRA funding makes it to CT: While some states have declined federal climate funding, members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation are delighted that that the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CTDEEP) will receive $3 million from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Climate Pollution Reduction Grants (CPRG) program. The grant program, funded by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), will help to develop and implement plans for reducing GHG emissions and other harmful air pollution and reinforce Connecticut’s renewable energy focus.

Battery-electric buses are back! The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) returned its transit battery-electric buses to service earlier this month after being out of service since July, 2022. The manufacturer recalled the buses after a thermal problem caused by a design defect. The solution? Monitoring software and battery thermal management systems have been installed to correct the defect. CTDOT worked closely with CTtransit; New Flyer, the bus manufacturer; and ABB, a charger manufacturer.

The recall gave CTDOT the chance to thoroughly inspect and road test the electric buses to ensure their system updates and enhancements were up to public transportation network needs. Bus operators and workers in the maintenance and charging units also received enhanced training and procedures during the down time.

“The return of these battery electric buses is part of Connecticut’s comprehensive effort to improve the quality of life in Connecticut by keeping our air clean,” CTDOT Commissioner Garrett Eucalitto said. “These buses operate in areas that are disproportionately burdened by air pollution, and removing diesel emissions is vital to the health and well-being of all our residents. In addition to having no emissions, these buses are quieter, provide a smoother ride and have lower maintenance costs than diesel vehicles.” The buses are classified as zero-emission vehicles.

UConn/ UAlbany grant from the Center for Weather Innovation and Smart Energy and Resilience: A new, state-of-the-art weather and climate facility led by researchers at the University of Connecticut and the University at Albany has at its core the quest to safeguard the energy industry. The Center for Weather Innovation and Smart Energy and Resilience (WISER) aims to leverage the research and expertise at UConn and UAlbany to create advanced
weather- and climate-based solutions for the energy industry, now and in the future. WISER’s research direction will focus on renewable energy (solar, hydro, and wind), power outage management, electrical grid resilience brought on by extreme weather, and ways climate change impacts power producers and power distributors.

“We envision WISER to become a leading energy industry-academia partnership, advancing research and cutting-edge technologies to continually improve power grid efficiency and reliability in the face of a changing climate and transition to clean energy,” says Manos Anagnostou, a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor and Eversource Energy endowed chair in environmental engineering at UConn. WISER also will recruit graduate and undergraduate students from underrepresented groups to increase minority participation in science and engineering and especially interdisciplinary collaborations and exposure to industry-academia partnerships.

The new center will be supported by a $750,000 NSF grant for each institution and a 5-year, $3.7 million industry partnership membership fee. The NSF also awarded WISER with a $20,000 grant in 2022 that was used to host a WISER planning meeting at UAlbany with energy industry executives. UConn has other University Cooperative Research Centers funded by the National Science Foundation: the Center for Novel High Voltage/Temperature Materials and Structures, the Center for Hardware and Embedded System Security and Trust, and the Center for Science of Heterogeneous Additive Printing of 3D Materials.

New building codes will promote energy efficiency: Because reliable electricity access for residents of multifamily affordable housing during grid outages is imperative, the US Department of Energy Building Energy Technology Office has selected the Climate Resilient Energy Code project to receive $1 million in funding support. The goal of the Climate Resilient Energy Code project is to develop and advance the implementation of stretch building codes to include the installations of resilient energy systems, including solar, battery storage, and efficient heating and cooling, to power essential services for affordable housing residents during grid outages.

The development and implementation of these codes in Connecticut will establish best practices and create a template for other states and local governments to enhance climate resilience and reduce energy burdens in environmental justice communities by establishing a roadmap for multifamily affordable properties to adopt energy resilient technologies.

Executive actions to reduce carbon emissions: Connecticut’s Executive Order No. 21-3 calls for 23 actions, supporting 30+ recommendations proposed by the GC3 and directs State executive branch state agencies to take significant actions within their authority to reduce carbon emissions. If you’d like to see the spectrum of plans, click here.

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Written By

Carolyn Fortuna (they, them), Ph.D., is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a Model Y as well as a Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.


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