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    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    Connecticut must lead on clean energy

    Electricians install solar panels at the 38-acre BNRG/Dirigo solar farm last year in Oxford, Maine. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP Photo)

    We’ve all heard that Connecticut, sandwiched between Boston and New York, is a state suffering from an identity crisis. At The Nature Conservancy, we hear about this in a slightly different way: what can our small state do to take on problems that seem so big? How can we help achieve energy independence, protect our air, and water, or fight global warming?

    Right now, there is an opportunity for our state to be a leader on these issues. Our state legislature is considering a measure (S.B. 10) that would enshrine into law a commitment for Connecticut to have a 100% zero-carbon electricity supply by 2040.

    We must embrace this opportunity.

    The need for clean energy has never been clearer. When Russian tanks rumbled into Ukraine half a world away, energy prices here at home skyrocketed. This is only the latest illustration of the fact that our fossil fuel infrastructure relies on imports from countries around the world that do not have our best interests at heart. Clean energy is generated locally, insulating us from the chaos and unpredictability of world events. A zero-carbon commitment would put Connecticut on a path toward true energy independence: a future where we control our own energy supply.

    This law would also benefit our state’s economy. There are more than 130 solar companies in Connecticut already, including 27 manufacturers. IKEA, Kohl's, and other big retailers in Connecticut have made the switch to clean energy. By setting a new standard for our state’s energy generation, we will be part of a comprehensive, made-in-America effort to build out our nation’s clean energy capacity. This project will create middle class jobs with good benefits that cannot be outsourced.

    In our conversations with Connecticut business leaders, we frequently hear how important certainty is to the private sector. As companies make plans for the years ahead, this law will ensure clarity about the future of Connecticut’s energy policies and commitments.

    Connecticut’s clean energy future will also reduce air pollution and save lives. Fossil fuel power plants are pumping out soot and smog, polluting our air and water with toxic chemicals and leading to increased rates of asthma, especially in communities already harmed by legacies of racism and neglect. Every day we wait is another day that these injustices continue.

    As a coastal state, we need no reminding of the potential impacts of global warming. The changing climate is a reality we live every day, whether we’re experiencing the warming waters of Long Island Sound, increasingly severe heat waves in our urban centers, or the devastating impacts of superstorm winds and flooding. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said we are living in a “code red” moment for humanity. Here is our moment. Connecticut must step up to the challenge and pass our clean energy commitment into law.

    Indeed, the transition away from fossil fuels is inevitable. The choice we face is whether to lead the way into the future or cling to an increasingly expensive past. The trendlines are clear: clean energy is getting cheaper over time; fossil fuels are not. As we turn our state — and our planet — over to the next generation, we have a responsibility to ensure our communities are resilient and prepared. That means laying the foundations now for the clean energy economy of the future. Many neighboring states have already set similar targets; we cannot afford to be left behind.

    The legislative session is short this year. There is no time to waste. Establishing a zero-carbon electricity commitment would build momentum for even bigger change, like reform of the regional electricity system, and encourage more states to act. We can play an outsized role in the coming transformation of the energy grid — but only if we seize this moment.

    Let’s lead. Let’s help build a clean, zero-carbon future for our state, region, and country. That’s an identity for Connecticut that should make everyone proud.

    John Pritchard is chairman of the Board of Trustees for The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut. He lives in Lyme.

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