As Emissions in Northeast States Decline, Economic Growth Outpaces Nation

Environment Connecticut Research & Policy Center

Middletown – A new report by Environment Connecticut Research & Policy Center released today in front of the solar array atop Middletown-based Center Point Office Park, highlights the role that clean energy and environmental policies have played in moving states toward meeting targets for reducing global warming emissions, while challenging claims that actions that reduce emissions undermine economic growth.

According to A Record of Leadership: How Northeastern States are Cutting Global Warming Pollution and Building a Clean Economy, Connecticut and the nine other states that participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) have cut per capita carbon dioxide emissions 20 percent faster than the rest of the nation, even as the region’s gross product per capita grew 87 percent faster than the rest of the United States.

“Connecticut’s experience over the past decade gives us confidence that, with state leadership and more strong policies to promote clean energy and to limit carbon emissions, we can continue to make progress in meeting our goals for reducing the pollution that causes global warming,” said Johanna Neumann, Regional Director with Environment Connecticut Research & Policy Center.

Over the past decade, Connecticut, in partnership with other states in the region, has taken meaningful steps to reduce its carbon emissions, including:
Capping Carbon Emissions: In June 2008, Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell signed the Global Warming Solutions Act which, requires Connecticut to reduce emissions by ten percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by mid-century.

Reducing Power Plant Emissions: In 2005, Connecticut officials joined with nine other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States, including New York and Massachusetts, and other states in the Northeast to establish the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the first program in the United States to limit global warming emissions from power plants, sell permits to emit carbon and invest the revenues in energy efficiency and clean energy initiatives. So far, RGGI has been a tremendous success.  In Connecticut, 100 percent of proceeds, more than $51 million dollars so far, has gone to programs to improve energy efficiency and to accelerate the development of cleaner energy sources.  RGGI has already contributed to nearly $1.6 billion in consumer savings, 1,309 new jobs, and $189 million in economic growth in our state.

“ By providing us with important tools to reduce emissions and to invest in efficient and renewable energy, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is helping us to meet our energy goals and our emission reduction targets,” said John Betkoski, Vice Chairman of the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority and a member of the Board of Directors of RGGI, Inc.  “RGGI is a key part of Connecticut’s strategy shift to clean energy, and we look forward to building on RGGI’s success by working with other states in the region to improve the program.”

Cleaner Cars: Connecticut took meaningful action to reduce tailpipe emissions limits for carbon dioxide and other pollutants when it adopted the clean cars program in 2005.

Improving energy efficiency: Connecticut ranks eighth in the country for energy efficiency. Five of the other top ten states are also in the Northeast, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Expanding renewable energy: Connecticut and all the states in the RGGI program have adopted a renewable electricity standard designed to increase production of wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy. In 2000, the Northeast had only 24 megawatts (MW) of wind energy capacity; by 2010 it had 1,671 MW.  The region also had 397 MW of solar energy capacity by the end of 2010, of which 70 percent was installed in either 2009 or 2010.

“Last year Connecticut’s leaders created a renewable energy credit incentive program to support the construction of hundreds of megawatts of large scale zero-emission distributed renewable energy systems like solar and wind,” said Michael Licamele, Director of Marketing for Bridgeport-based Solar Change.

The region’s efforts have paid off in a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from energy use, even as the region’s economy has grown faster than the nation as a whole. In fact, the ten northeastern states participating in RGGI emitted 161 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from energy use in 2009 – 15 percent less than in 2000 and nine percent less than in 1990.

“Connecticut has made good initial progress, but global warming and fossil fuel dependence continue to threaten our prosperity and quality of life,” said Roger Smith, Energy Program Director with Clean Water Action. “We look forward to working with our state leaders to strengthen RGGI, expand efficiency programs, and fulfill our state’s commitment to renewable energy, which together will lead to a cleaner, more secure energy future.”