Gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy got a first-hand look at the possibilities of solar power andgreen energy resources at a visit Tuesday to Old Greenwich-based Sound Solar Systems.
Mr. Malloy and his running mate for lieutenant governor, State Comptroller Nancy Wyman, visited the firm which is working together with Altus Power Management to bring solar power and clean energy to homes and businesses. The Democrats, who have been endorsed by the party at its convention but face an Aug. 10 primary with Greenwich resident Ned Lamont, used the opportunity to discuss their energy plan, which includes a push for investment in new clean energy technologies.
Mr. Malloy received a tour of the rooftop solar panels and heard a brief presentation from Tony Savino, principal for Sound Solar Systems, and Lars Norell and Tom Athan, Old Greenwich residents and managing partners in Altus Power Management. Afterwards, Mr. Malloy said that he and Ms. Wyman would make a new energy plan and renew their focus on the environment priorities of their new administration.
“The only thing impeding Connecticut’s movement in this area is its state government’s lack of commitment,” Mr. Malloy said. “That’s the problem and that will have a very different answer if I’m governor.”
As part of his plan, Mr. Malloy has pledged to expand opportunities to finance and invest in renewable energy and efficiency measures through federal dollars, the state’s bonding authority, incentives for private investment as well as giving the new options to towns that provide financing. Additionally, he said he would fight to increase competition to drive prices down and continue working toward the “20 by 20” goal where by 2020, 20% of the state’s energy would come from renewable sources.
Ms. Wyman said the benefits will go beyond just improving the environment, it will address the need for jobs in the state.
“If these gentlemen had more money to work with they could have hired more people,” Ms. Wyman said of the solar firm and companion company. “We need to talk about how we’re going to educate the next generation to be able to work on these projects and we have to expand our job market. Dan’s plan does that.”
Since Connecticut pays a 76% premium on the electricity it uses, Mr. Malloy said it is vital that conservation be pursued. He pledged that as governor he would champion a 15% reduction in electricity usage, which will save businesses and residents money and boost the state’s economy. He said during his tenure as mayor, Stamford identified what its carbon footprint was in 1998 and then worked to reduce it by 19% by the time he left office last year.
Mr. Malloy criticized Governor M. Jodi Rell’s veto this past May of an energy bill that included incentives for commercial solar projects. He said the bill “wasn’t perfect” but that the governor didn’t do anything to try and change it and make it better before vetoing it.
“The veto made no sense,” Mr. Malloy said, claiming he would have signed the bill. “Go back and fix the things you disagreed with or play a role in having the right legislation passed to begin with.”
Mr. Norell said that the comparison of how much solar power there is in Europe with how little there is in America becomes even more stark when you take into account how Connecticut is on the same latitude as Rome and Barcelona, meaning they have the same global access to the sun that this state does, but they choose to take advantage of it.
“The gap is enormous and we have to start closing it or else bad things will continue to happen forever,” Mr. Norell said.
“You can’t just keep continuing to burn fossil fuels every day and more and more every year while relying on foreign fuels. It’s terrible,” said Mr. Athan.
Mr. Malloy said that these are changes that will come about when more architects and builders embrace these technologies.
“I want to run a state that’s more supportive of this industry and more supportive of getting these systems installed and that’s what I’m going to try and do,” Mr. Malloy said.
Mr. Malloy lamented that $30 million, which had been set aside for conservation projects and could have been used to provide subsidies for technology like this, was instead shifted by the legislature at Ms. Rell’s request to use it to achieve loans from Wall Street to close the budget deficit, a practice he said he would end. Mr. Malloy said this was part of the “bipartisan trainwreck” in Hartford. He said this damages local industries like solar power and causes people to pull back from investing in alternative energies.
“When we move money away from areas like conservation it really is a case of us cutting off our nose to spite our face,” Mr. Malloy said. “If you start cutting subsidies, you’re not going to make the breakthrough that needs to be made.”