Energy and Technology Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-337

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING A RENEWABLE PORTFOLIO STANDARD, A PROCUREMENT PROCESS AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A QUALITY STANDARD FOR RENEWABLE NATURAL GAS AND THE PROCUREMENT OF ELECTRICITY GENERATED FROM A BIOMASS FACILITY.

Vote Date:

3/20/2018

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/6/2018

File No.:

Disclaimer: The following Joint Favorable Report is prepared for the benefit of the members of the General Assembly, solely for purposes of information, summarization and explanation and does not represent the intent of the General Assembly or either chamber thereof for any purpose.

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Raised by the Energy and Technology Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

This bill establishes a definition for “renewable natural gas,” lays out a renewable portfolio standard for gas companies, requires the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to establish a quality standard for renewable natural gas, and requires certain electric distribution companies to procure biomass facility-generated electricity. These actions are being taken in order to grow the marketplace for renewable natural gas and biofuels and to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions and help with the state's climate change mitigation goals.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Senator Heather Somers, 18th District: Sen. Somers supports SB-337, specifically Section 4. She states that this bill will allow Plainfield Renewable Energy, LLC (PRE) to grow profits by selling its currently uncontracted Class I renewable electricity to utility providers through long term contracts. PRE is a biomass power generation plant that employs 30 highly skilled workers and provides work for a further 500 people through indirectly related positions. PRE provides tax revenue to surrounding towns and is a vital waste disposal service, while also generating renewable energy. This bill will allow PRE to sell more than the 80% of its output it currently provides to Eversource, which will allow the plant to operate at greater economic efficiency and growth.

Elin Swanson Katz, Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC): The OCC opposes this bill for a number of reasons. They argue that Section 4 of this bill unfairly requires standard service energy customers to shoulder support of a specific biomass facility. They also object to inadequate definition of what “renewable natural gas” actually means. The only definition offered by the bill is that a renewable natural gas must be of pipeline quality and be fully interchangeable with conventional natural gas. They argue that requiring utility companies to purchase an ill-defined product would be unfair and unwise.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Charles Abbott, Greenleaf Power/Plainfield Renewable Energy (PRE): PRE is a 37.5MW biomass power generation plant that converts material from the waste stream into fuel. PRE is in support of SB-337 as it would enable them to sell a further 7.5MW of Class I energy that is currently uncontracted under their Power Purchase Agreement with Eversource, which expires in 10 years. Allowing PRE to sell its remaining 7.5MW of energy would alleviate the strain on the business caused by high capital and operating costs.

Brian Paganini, Quantum Biopower: Quantum Biopower is the developer, owner, and operator of the state's only electricity producing anaerobic digester. The organization supports SB-337 because of the creation of a new Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) for natural gas purchases and a procurement program and quality standard for renewable natural gas. Quantum Biopower points to the high capital and facility costs as reasons that Connecticut does not have many sources of renewable natural gas. They argue that this bill will help deal with the overhead costs of starting and running a biomass power generation plant and therefor allow more of these sites to start up and run sustainably. Quantum Biopower argues that having more of these sites will lessen emissions and eliminate waste, thus assisting Connecticut to achieve its climate change mitigation goals.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Claire Coleman, Connecticut Fund for the Environment: CFE opposed SB-337 as it is currently written. They understand that encouraging the development of biofuels will help with Connecticut's greenhouse gas reduction goals, but creating niches and carve-outs for this type of energy that other renewable thermal technologies cannot compete in is a mistake. They also believe that the definition of “renewable natural gas” given by the bill is not clear enough and will not guarantee that the standard would only include fuels that reduce greenhouse emissions. They argue that the term renewable natural gas is itself a misnomer, and propose that “biogas” be used instead in order to more accurately reflect the stated intent of the bill. “Biogas” would only be used to refer to fuels derived from biological sources produced at landfills, municipal wastewater treatment facility digesters, agricultural digesters, and separated municipal solid waste digesters.

Vincent Pace, Eversource Energy: Eversource offered testimony in opposition to SB-337 because the bill requires the state's two electric distribution companies (EDCs) to enter into a contract with PRE to purchase 7.5MW of biomass generated power. They argue that this is inconsistent with the process that is currently used for purchasing energy as the bill proposes a long-term contract as opposed to short-term contracts that allow standard electric service pricing to reflect current market conditions. Eversource also disapproves of the fact that there is no language in the bill that lays out the method of determining the price of biomass generated renewable natural gas.

Ben Martin: Mr. Martin submitted testimony in opposition to SB-337. He argues that the bill encourages the continued use of fossil fuels by labeling biofuel a renewable natural gas. He believes that renewable natural gas is a misnomer and that no such fuel exists because natural gas is not renewable or non-polluting.

Reported by: Spencer Ward

Date: March 22, 2018