Connecticut’s proposed RGGI fund raid is no way for a leader to act

Editor's Note: Since publication of this blog, lawmakers agreed on a budget that diverts $3 million of RGGI proceeds into the general fund.  

Earlier this spring, NEEP issued its annual Regional Roundup of Energy Efficiency Policy, which we undertake each year in order to give policymakers, regulators, program administrators and other energy efficiency stakeholders a comparative view of the progress of energy efficiency policies and programs across the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic region.

In it, we rate the 11 states in the region and the District of Columbia as Leading, Advancing, or Trailing, based on our subjective assessment of the state’s leadership, or lack thereof, on several measures of energy efficiency policy. In describing the Leading states, we noted these “… maintain robust programs and stable funding in pursuit of all-cost effective energy efficiency. Their long term plans commit to harvesting energy efficiency as a key resource well into the future, and many are beginning the process of modernizing their electric distribution system for this future.” We included in this year’s group of Leaders the states of New York, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and … Connecticut.

Now, however, only about nine weeks later, Connecticut lawmakers seem intent upon relinquishing the state’s leadership role in clean energy, in the name of short term political gain. Faced with hard fiscal decisions, budget writers in the State Assembly have crafted a plan to divert some $22 million in clean energy funding that was raised through the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), instead directing it to the general state budget.

By participating in RGGI, Connecticut has used proceeds from an innovative, market-based and ground-breaking initiative that charges power generators for the right to emit global-warming-causing carbon dioxide and reinvested those revenues in energy efficiency and other clean energy programs that help Connecticut residents and businesses save money, better manage their energy use, improve their operating margins, increase their disposable income and reduce carbon emissions, all at the same time.


But now, instead of using those proceeds for the purposes the state promised when it signed its Memorandum of Understanding to participate in RGGI – and enacted legislation codifying it – the Assembly instead is planning to siphon off that money to the general state budget, effectively taxing residents and businesses twice, all the while harming the state’s position as a clean energy economy leader.

To date, RGGI has helped raise about $148 million for energy efficiency and other clean energy programs in the state. Those efficiency investments also have a multiplier effect, as they not only help save energy and money, but help create good, well-paying jobs in the new clean energy economy. And for every $1 invested in energy efficiency via that funding, Connecticut businesses and residents benefit to the tune of $2.80 – not a bad return on investment.

That investment is being put at risk, however, by the extremely short-sighted idea to take those committed dollars and use them for other purposes. Moreover, the state is putting itself at a competitive disadvantage to its neighboring states that are doubling down on clean energy investments and luring the companies and contractors that are proliferating in the new ‘green’ economy.

Fortunately, Gov. Dannel Malloy – just this week the recipient of the John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage Award” for his compassionate response to the plight of Syrian refugees – has not included the RGGI raid in his proposed budget. Consistent with his recognition by the Kennedy family, Gov. Malloy has demonstrated that courage means not taking the politically expedient way out of a crisis, but standing up for the long-term interests of those you are charged with governing, understanding the need to keep promises, and embracing the ways of the future.

Connecticut has established itself as an energy efficiency leader precisely by taking such steps. It would be tremendously devastating to see that leadership position vacated, now, more than ever, by abandoning Connecticut’s commitments to a clean energy future. 

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