Connecticut’s high-quality energy efficiency programs help many businesses save money, improve their bottom line, create new jobs that pay well, and compete locally and nationally. Last year alone, over 6,000 in-state businesses benefited from these crucial programs.
Helping businesses cut costly energy waste also helps grow Connecticut’s economy, as each $1 spent by these energy efficiency programs produces $7 in economic growth. That’s an unparalleled return on investment for the Nutmeg State.
Unfortunately, Connecticut took a major step backwards on efficiency near the end of last year. Under extreme fiscal pressure, the General Assembly diverted $127 million in ratepayer funding for efficiency, possibly sacrificing a long-term economic boost of approximately $889 million.
Connecticut now risks falling behind nearly all other states in New England, as most states in the region have achieved more ambitious energy savings targets or are on track to do so by 2019. Connecticut also risks leaving its businesses without good efficiency solutions, making its economic recovery even harder.
The decision to raid energy efficiency funds leaves many businesses in Connecticut concerned.
One such business is Watson Inc, a food manufacturer based in West Haven that employs 300 Connecticut residents. Three years ago, a group of Watson employees volunteered to be on an energy efficiency and sustainability team. With help from the energy efficiency programs, the team developed and executed a plan that led to a 20% reduction in electricity and gas usage.
They also replaced all lighting with LEDs, installed a new properly-sized air compressor, removed many inefficient dust collection systems, and replaced 20 out of 30 air conditioning units with more efficient models. After completing a steam trap survey, they replaced or repaired many components in the high-pressure steam and boiler system. These improvements helped save the company money while reducing its demand on the energy grid.
Another business, Trifecta Ecosystems, Inc., a start-up aquaponic technology and indoor farming company based in Meriden, recently weighed in with the legislature as well. The company described how Connecticut’s efficiency programs helped it immediately capture significant energy savings in a new facility, gain a competitive edge in their new and growing industry, and even hire another full-time employee.
Examples of business support for efficiency abound. Last year, for instance, a number of Connecticut-based companies signed a letter asking the legislature not to divert funds from energy efficiency, as did a national coalition with numerous Connecticut members. More recently Unilever, which has a large facility in Trumbull, shared the following quote to weigh in on the value of investing fully in energy efficiency:
“Unilever believes that energy efficiency is key to keeping businesses like ours thriving. Connecticut will benefit from funding the state’s energy efficiency programs,” said Mark Bescher, Manager of Federal Government Relations and External Affairs at Unilever.
Ball in the legislative court
Legislators and policymakers should consider the repercussions of energy efficiency losses on Connecticut’s business community, as well as its consumers, economy, and environment. These self-inflicted harms include lost jobs, lower economic growth, higher utility bills for ratepayers of all kinds, increased local air pollution, and reduced access to energy efficiency for low-income households.
The good news is that this damage can still be averted if the efficiency fund raid is undone during the current legislative session, which ends on May 9th. Acadia Center will make every effort to restore these vital funds and give our state—and its business community—a chance to achieve a clean and prosperous future.
Amy McLean Salls Salls is Senior Policy Advocate and Connecticut Director at Acadia Center, based in the Hartford office. Amy comes to Acadia Center from UIL Holdings, the parent company of United Illuminated Company, where she developed and managed comprehensive energy efficiency services and programs, including the Business Sustainability Challenge, which offers customers a program to begin sustainability planning.