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Environmentalists Craft New Solar Bill
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Although next year’s legislative session is still months away some environmental groups are already working on new bills. WNPR’s Nancy Cohen reports on one proposal designed to keep a steady stream of funding for new solar energy projects.

Connecticut has been handing out solar energy rebates since 2005. They're funded by a small charge paid by electric ratepayers, costing the average household about 70 cents per month. But the demand for solar energy has grown so much the rebate program which helps subsidize the cost of installing solar panels on homes and businesses has, at times, run out of money. Christopher Phelps of Environment Connecticut says his group and others are crafting a new bill, based on one that passed the House last year. Phelps says rather than provide rebates for commercial projects, the bill would require utilities to enter into long-term 15 year contracts to buy electricity from companies that install solar panels on commercial buildings.

“It’s in the long run, for ratepayers, much more affordable and cheaper than upfront rebates off the bat. Because we’re paying for the solar system over the course, of say, 15 years versus paying for a large solar system all at once.”

Anthony Marone of United Illuminating says he’s concerned about the cost of these contracts to ratepayers and he says perhaps the utilities, like U.I., should be installing the solar panels.

“It may make more sense to have more centralized, larger projects done by the utility company as opposed to many, many small projects  rom individual solar developers.”

Meanwhile, the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, which hands out the solar rebates, is investigating programs in other states, that have been able to provide long-term, consistent funding for solar energy.