- Connecticut will target emissions from the building sector and industrial sources and explore policies to make the energy transition more equitable as part of a rewrite of the state’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy (CES).
- The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection announced last week the launch of a scoping process to develop the 2022 CES, a regular document that assesses the state’s future energy needs and examines cost and reliability issues. The 2022 CES will focus in part on decarbonizing new and existing buildings, following an executive order from Gov. Ned Lamont, D.
- In mid-December, Lamont signed Executive Order 21-3, instructing state agencies to rewrite building codes to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and review all public buildings for energy efficiency improvements. The order also instructs officials to consider energy and cost equity, and creates a new Connecticut Equity and Environmental Justice Advisory Council to coordinate an equitable energy transition.
In September 2021, the state reported that it was no longer on track to meet its greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets. Emissions rose 2.7% from 2017 to 2018, the report found based on the latest state data available, off the pace needed to reduce economywide GHG emissions 80% below 2001 levels by 2050.
Although the state’s electricity sector had made strides, the state found that the transportation and building sectors continued to be major sources of climate pollution.
However, the state also abandoned the proposed regional Transportation and Climate Initiative, which was meant to align several states around a transportation emission reduction program. Connecticut's legislature did not approve the initiative over concerns about high gas prices.
The GHG report and the TCI failures should lend some urgency to the new CES and building code process, said Amy McLean, senior policy advocate and Connecticut director for the Acadia Center.
"We are not on track and you can’t get away from it. We have the data," McLean said. "The only way we are going to meet our goals is to be bolder in our policies and our legislation and by addressing the transportation and building sectors."
Lamont’s executive order acknowledges that the state will not meet its 2030 goals unless the legislature "authorizes expanded investment and decarbonization programs," although it adds that the governor will use executive authority "where appropriate and to the extent possible to address climate mitigation and resilience."
The order instructs DEEP to identify strategies for more affordable heating and cooling for buildings that also reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as a rewrite of the state’s building codes that consider GHG reductions. Under the order, state facilities will also adopt GHG reduction strategies, including a goal of obtaining 100% zero carbon electricity by 2030 and retrofitting all fossil fuel-based heating and cooling systems by 2023.
The order also calls for a statewide electric bus fleet by 2035, with the cessation of diesel bus purchases by the end of 2023.
The CES will help put some of those goals into action. Under the scoping process announced last week, DEEP will take public comment through March 3 on topics including decarbonization of buildings, decarbonization of industrial thermal processes, updates to the state’s electric vehicle plan and updates to the state's Integrated Resources Plan. The CES scoping process will also include a focus on equity, in line with Lamont’s goal.
DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said in a statement that the process "affords us an opportunity to engage with the public on new and existing energy policies needed to provide cleaner, more affordable, and reliable energy options for residents and businesses in the state."
McLean said she was encouraged by the "depth" of issues laid out in the proceedings, which reflect comments the group has provided to the state. McLean said the state had plenty of opportunity to enact energy efficiency measures, increase public transportation and electrify government vehicles, which would kickstart the state’s goals.
"This is stuff that’s not hard to do, yet there’s not a will to do it," McLean said. "We have to have the political will on top of good policy in order to make progress."