Conn. DEEP proposes biomass, biogas changes to state RPS

By Erin Voegele | March 20, 2013

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is proposing to restructure the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS). According to a notice published by the DEEP, the recommendations of its draft study are consistent with pending RPS legislation, S.B. 1138.

The DEEP notice states that a key recommendation of its study is to amend the current RPS to increase the total Class I renewable target—boosting the current 20 percent 2020 requirement to 25 percent by 2025. The study also recommends allowing the state to run a competitive big process to by a portion—7.5 percent by 2025—of the energy needed to meet this target. The DEEP said the “contracted tier” is designed to reduce ratepayer costs associated with the RPS while preserving support for renewable development.

Under the proposals, all Class I renewables could compete for power contracts in the contracted tier. In addition, DEEP has recommended that hydroelectric projects larger than 30 MW should be allowed to classify as a Class I renewable and compete within the contracted tier only.

According to the DEEP, it is also recommends phasing out subsidies for oiler biomass plants and landfill gas projects that “do not provide optimal economic or environmental benefits.”

“A gradual phase-in of more stringent standards will ensure that these plants would qualify as Class I or allow their replacement with newer, cleaner resources,” said DEEP Commissioner Danial Esty in a statement.  “Our analysis shows that a total of 75 percent of Connecticut ratepayer’s investment in Class I resources is currently going to support biomass plants located primarily in Maine and New Hampshire.  These plants are among the least ‘clean’ Class I resources and because many were already in operation when the RPS was enacted they do not necessarily meet the goal of displacing fossil fuel generation.”

The draft proposal published by the DEEP also calls for a tightening of standards that apply to biomass burning and a phase out of the renewable energy credit (REC) for landfill gas. The draft specifies that the DEEP is recommending that more stringent standards for these projects that will “either ensure that biomass plants deliver cleaner energy justifying ongoing qualification as Class I renewable power or allow their replacement with new cleaner resources such as wind power, solar arrays, or other zero-emissions renewables.”

Within the draft, the DEEP specifies that 13 percent of Connecticut’s Class I requirement is currently met with landfill gas projects, primarily those located out of state. “The clean energy produce by a few of these projects is already counted towards New York’s renewable goals,” said the department in the draft. “Consequently, although Connecticut subsidizes those plants through its RPS, the output from these resources is being double counted. In addition, the investment costs for these facilities have long since been recovered which means the REC purpose of supporting investment has already occurred.”

Regarding anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities, the proposal recommends that the Class I resource definition be modified to allow all biologically derived methane and biogas produce by new technologies, such as AD facilities, to qualify. Landfill gas projects can currently qualify as a Class I source.

A full copy of the draft proposal can be downloaded from the DEEP website. Technical meetings on the proposal are scheduled for April 4 and April 8, if necessary. A public hearing is scheduled for April 11, with public comments due April 19. The DEEP is scheduled to release a final draft of the study on May 13.