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Moving toward a renewable energy future

On Dec. 5 months of hard work culminated with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection announced Massachusetts-based Vineyard Wind is entering contract negotiations to provide 804 megawatts of offshore wind. Vineyard Wind wants to use Bridgeport’s harbor as part of the project, and as it advances, it will undoubtedly bring new jobs and investment to the area.

In January, when my colleagues on the Energy and Technology Committee developed legislation that advanced the prospect of renewable energy off the coast of Connecticut, this was exactly the kind of result for which we hoped. As our world changes, we need to respond accordingly, finding new and improved ways to move our state forward.

By developing legislation bringing up to 2,000 megawatts of 100% renewable wind energy to Connecticut’s shores, we met that goal. This project will make 14% of our state’s total electricity supply renewable, and there’s still capacity for another 1,200 megawatts to add to it. That’s something for which to be proud.

It’s thinking like this that I hope to replicate in the coming legislative session in 2020. Connecticut leaders have myriad opportunities to explore new forms of energy production to move toward a greener, healthier future. The ripple effects of our legislative process with a possible $1.6 billion in economic benefits and a possible 12,000 total jobs created just from the Vineyard Wind project — with 70% of those jobs slated for Bridgeport – are clear. This isn’t even the first success this year. In the spring, Gov. Ned Lamont announced a $93 million New London offshore wind deal with Orsted and Eversource to further strengthen the future of energy in our state, bringing along with it many of the same benefits of the Vineyard Wind project.

When the energy committee begins discussions and deliberations, I won’t be thinking solely about the impact that healthy sources of energy have on our state. That’s because the positive connections that projects like these have on our state support local and state economies, benefit workers and families, generate job growth and help revitalize our coastal cities. Connecticut must continue to focus on bringing new, innovative strategies to our coasts and to our communities, while working to lower our energy costs, now highest in the country but for Hawaii and Alaska. In the process, our state can develop ways to meet and match the challenges tomorrow will bring.

With reports from the Offices of Policy and Management and fiscal analysis demonstrating that recent legislative efforts have successfully put controls into place to keep spending to a reasonable level, policymakers need to focus attention on the future. Focusing on policy and procedural enhancements that lead to significant investments for jobs and economic development must be a focal point for legislators. I will work to guide my colleagues in recognizing the need to do so. I am confident our efforts will reflect in future success.

The future is bright in Connecticut, as bright as the light bulbs powered by Vineyard Wind’s future turbines, but now is not the time to stop. In 2020, my foremost goal will be to push our state further in renewable and effective energy development. Our state deserves nothing less.

State Sen. Norm Needleman, a Democrat, represents the 33rd District communities of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook. He chairs the Energy and Technology Committee and is also first selectman of Essex.



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