I attended the second of the four part program on Energy and Environmental Innovations sponsored by the Connecticut Chapter of the Green Building Council (“CTGBC”). The program was held in New Canaan High School and featured a keynote address by CT Governor Malloy, presentations by four panelists, and was moderated by the Chairman of the CTGBC Green Homes Committee, Mark Robbins.
The goal of the Committee is to help CT citizens become aware of possibilities, clarify direction, and create incentives for Towns to encourage the building of energy efficient and sustainable buildings, specifically homes.
The Governor spoke to the fact that business growth in Connecticut is anemic due in large part to the high price of energy in the State. The State is overly reliant on oil for heating, because of historic factors which limited access to gas lines. In this era where gas is priced at a fraction of the price of oil, this disparity is keeping the Connecticut economy from attracting new businesses. Governor Malloy cited an anecdote of a small business in Manchester, CT, which recovered its capital costs of switching to gas from oil within five months, since it was able to save more than 50% of its energy costs using gas.
Other speakers included Alex Kragie, representing the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (“DEEP”), who informed the audience of approximately 125 people about the new microgrid program in Connecticut, which will enable Town centers to be powered on despite an event which disrupts the main power grid; David Bartlett, a V.P. of Smarter Physical Infrastructure, IBM; Andy Skok, Senior Director of FuelCell Energy, Danbury, CT; and Joseph Camean, Vice President of van Zelm Engineers.
We tend to speak of our CT innovation economy as being advanced manufacturing, or technology companies, and I don’t think we speak enough about energy conservation and energy innovation, except for alternative energy sources such as solar, geothermal, and wind. Those alternatives are not likely to spur business growth in CT as much as a policy to bring gas lines closer to CT population centers.
Although a policy to encourage more access to gas lines– rather than oil tanks– may not be in the strictest sense of the definition an “innovation,” all initiatives undertaken by CT’s DEEP to develop new values in energy use and energy conservation and energy efficiency through solutions that meet new requirements are innovative. Governor Malloy’s call for energy that is “reliable, clean and cheaper” is a mantra that can guide further innovation in the energy sector.