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DEEP Goes Deep On Recycling And Energy

DEEP Goes Deep On Recycling And Energy

New Haven Independent, August 16, 2019

By CCM staff

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) is responsible for more than just fishing permits, they maintain the Energy Branch, an Environmental Quality Branch, Environmental Conservation Branch. Joining us on this week’s episode of Connecticut Conference of Municipalities’ Municipal Voice is Katie S. Dykes, the Commissioner of CT DEEP to talk about energy costs, being green, and the future of utilities in the state. 

One of the biggest stories, that CCM has been on the forefront of, is the China National Sword Policy. We know that this is adversely affecting towns and cities across the state. Because China stopped taking in as much recyclable materials from the United States, the cost of handling those recyclables has increased tipping fees, which municipalities or residents have to pay. Local leaders’ have big concerns about the financial collapse in the market for municipal recyclables.

Dykes agreed that the recycling has become more costly for municipalities as a result of this change in the Chinese policy about importing recyclables from Connecticut and other states. “This not a problem that DEEP can solve on its own,” she emphasized. It is very important for DEEP to listen to municipal leaders as towns are addressing these commodity changes. They are living this every day, Dykes noted.

One solution presented by the Commissioner is to better assist businesses that support anaerobic digestion for organic recyclables which are wet and heavy and more costly to transport, therefore reducing tipping fees for municipalities.

“Improving the way we communicate with municipalities, and listen to their ideas, that’s how we’re going to find the best solutions.”

After the toasty July, on top of everyone’s minds is the cost of energy in the state. WalletHub recently ranked Connecticut as Commissioner Dykes cited as the “unenviable position” of having the highest rates in the state.

One way DEEP is attacking that issue is by trying to bring more renewable energy into the system. The group has recently put out a Request for Proposals for up to 2000 megawatts of offshore wind power, representing 30% of the power supply in Connecticut. While there are some concerns from groups like the Audobon Society and professional fishermen, wind has the benefit of being free and green. 

Supports Virtual Net Metering back to top

Additionally, DEEP supports the idea of Virtual Net Metering, with Commissioner Dykes citing the increased cap of $20 million for municipalities, the state, or agricultural businesses to participate. The way Virtual Net Metering works is a municipality can install a solar farm and credit the energy created back to multiple meters. In one example, a town can credit that back to town hall and public schools to reduce the energy costs in those buildings.

Retrofitting those municipal buildings is another idea that Dykes mentioned to help reduce energy costs for municipalities and others, saying that “efficiency is our first fuel” is a DEEP motto.

According to her, a lot of the infrastructure that came in during the 60s and 70s expansions is nearing the end of its useful life. So taking power off the grid is helpful not just to power bills, or to the municipalities or the state, but to everyone as Connecticut strives to cut its energy dependence.

Out in the streets, where “Municipalities have been making great strides with LED streetlighting” costs go down in the winter months where Commissioner Dykes said there is more concern about the grid being overloaded.

Most towns that are under Eversource were able to buy their streetlights due to a decision by PURA, but other towns under United Illuminating are not allowing towns, such as Hamden, to purchase theirs, which wants to make that change to energy-efficient LED lamps.

Coincidentally, this all fits in with a grand vision of being green throughout the state. From grants to renovate brownfields to wind power, to recycling alternatives like anaerobic composting in municipalities, Connecticut has a goal of reducing their carbon footprint by 80% by 2050.

As we aim to become the cities of the future, the current utility poles we use are of great concern to municipalities. Many towns are taking matters into their own hands and creating public free wi-fi areas in parks and in municipal buildings.

The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), which is under DEEP has seen the value of private capital in creating at 5g infrastructure that Governor Lamont, with Commissioner Dykes claiming that it is the “more impactful” model versus municipal ownership, but that she also agrees that this investment is necessary. Part of her goal will be to streamline the process of getting those companies sited on utility poles to facilitate this growth.

Commissioner Dykes said that “she doesn’t want to reinvent the wheel 170 times,” meaning that there are towns and cities that are already excelling and that there are things that the state does well.

Working together, streamlining, and being green is the message that Commissioner Dykes spread, making the goals of her work seem easy like the breeze that will power our state in the future.