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Sustainability, Resiliency, Stability

Published: August 10, 2017

Despite national efforts to thwart the forward movement of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Connecticut continues to set goals for reducing carbon emissions and lowering costs to businesses and individuals.

Earlier this month, the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) released a draft of its updated energy strategy, and is seeking comment from Newtown and area residents by e-mail or at an August 16 public hearing, at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport.

The draft focuses on improved methods to decrease carbon emissions; increase supplies of renewable energy; expand energy efficiency initiatives; modernize the electric grid; and accelerate strategic electrification of transportation services.

Newtown has already implemented energy efficient initiatives in recent years. Like the state, our town shrugs off shortsightedness that stymies a leap into a future turning toward renewable energy.

The placement of solar panels on two of our schools (and third to come), at the animal control center, at the Parks & Recreation garage, and on firehouses to come, reduces the amount of electricity used off the grid, coming from carbon sources. Newtown’s Sustainable Energy Commission Chair Cathy Quinn notes that reducing energy use is the best way reduce carbon emissions. When a solar panel project at the town landfill is completed, a 1.3 megawatt project, Ms Quinn estimates that 25 percent of the energy used by town buildings will be coming from a solar source.

That landfill project, explained Public Works head Fred Hurley, should be operational by spring 2018 and will have an AC capacity of 1,000 kilowatts, saving the town more than 1.7 million kilowatt hours a year, and thousands of dollars.

Newtown also embraces virtual net metering for buildings not outfitted for solar energy, allowing solar energy generated elsewhere to be put into the grid and credited to Newtown. Microgrids are another option, storing alternate energy for down times. By introducing fuel cell energy into the mix, Mr Hurley envisions Newtown being 90 percent powered by renewable energy within five years.

Other efforts support efficient energy use: utility energy reduction programs in schools; traditional lighting replaced by LED lighting; and boiler system upgrades mean reduced energy usage — and reduced carbon emissions.

The town plans to purchase its first electric vehicle in this budget cycle, and will install an electric vehicle charger near the Municipal Center.

Newtown is an example for other towns in the state, and our state is an example to the rest of the country. By increasing the number of individuals, towns, and states committed to reducing energy use, we contribute to the health of a world challenged by climate change.

That state officials recognize, as DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee stated, that reducing carbon emissions “is the key to both the health of our planet and sustainable economic success in Connecticut” is heartening.

View the energy strategy draft at ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=4405&q=500752&deepNav_GID=2121. Comments can be e-mailed to DEEP.EnergyBureau@ct.gov, or for those so inclined, the August 16 public hearing is in the Beacon Hall Events Center, Room 214, 900 Lafayette Boulevard, Bridgeport.

It sends a powerful message to residents and others that Connecticut continues to focus on the future and address real climate issues with achievable goals.

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