Solar For All Benefits the Poor

Note: On August 13, 2020, the Hartford Courant ran a Letter to the Editor submitted by Connecticut Green Bank CEO and President Bryan Garcia. The published letter was a shortened version (to fit the Courant’s guidelines); the full version of the letter is below.  


By Bryan Garcia, President and CEO of the Connecticut Green Bank

Paul Steidler’s July 26, 2020 article “Rush to Renewable Energy Hurts Poor” tries to make the point that America’s expanded use of natural gas will not only benefit our economy and the environment, but also help those who are less fortunate.  He notes that renewable energy is among the reasons why residential electricity is 66% more expensive in New England than the rest of the country.

In Connecticut, low-to-moderate income families and communities of color are reducing the burden of their energy costs not by consuming more natural gas, but by installing solar on their rooftops and making their homes more energy efficient. The energy affordability gap for our most vulnerable citizens is about $1,400 per year, which means that the poor are paying more for energy in our state than what is affordable.  Through state efforts in partnership with the private sector, it is solar power and energy efficiency that are reducing that affordability gap by nearly $1,100 per year not natural gas.  Our state is a “parity state” when it comes to income and “beyond parity state” when it comes to race in terms of solar deployment – meaning the poor and communities of color are demanding solar power and energy efficiency more than those with means and who are White.

Nearly a year ago to the day, Hartford experienced some of the hottest weather on record.  The weather was so hot and humid that state officials warned people about two problems – excessive heat and bad air.  This resulted in higher air conditioning usage stressing the electricity grid, resulting in ISO-NE calling upon higher-cost and higher-polluting power that came from fossil fuels.  These fossil fuel power plants emit pollutants that react with sunlight to create smog which contributes to poor air quality and is harmful to public health.  At the same time, across the Constitution State, there were nearly 28,000 homes powered by the sun that were providing 230 MW of power output during peak times. This reduced $3 million of peak demand costs which lowered energy costs for all electric ratepayers. It also removed the need for more power generation from burning fossil fuels thereby cleaning the air we all breathe.

Air pollution is not good for our public health – and it is especially detrimental when you have a disease that targets the respiratory system such as COVID-19.  We are seeing more clearly today than ever before, how pollution from fossil fuel resources creates a disproportionate share of the negative environmental impacts on the public health within communities of color.  Call it environmental justice or climate justice, natural gas and its infrastructure aren’t good for the poor! 

Right now, Connecticut is in the process of modernizing and decarbonizing its antiquated energy system into a 21st century clean energy platform that will continue to enable the growth of our green economy.  By combining renewable energy resources like the sun, with energy efficiency, battery storage, and demand response, we are working towards a zero-carbon electricity grid that will fuel zero emission vehicles for our roads and power carbon-free renewable heating and cooling systems for our homes.

During this pandemic, we are all experiencing tough economic times, but everyone can be part of the solution. Schedule a home energy audit (no-cost). Insulate your home to make it more energy efficient (rebates up to 100 percent available). Install solar on your roof (it’s affordable).  Solar for all, benefits all of us, especially the poor!