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Five little words

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The state has taken a big step forward on clean, renewable energy by signing deals to buy wind power from a company in Maine and solar power from an outfit in eastern Connecticut – energy that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says will be “cheaper, cleaner and more reliable.”

Cleaner? Certainly. Whether the technology will prove to be more reliable, only time will tell. But we can reasonably expect that these power sources will at least be immune to the kinds of price spikes and sudden shortages that have happened every time a war or some other upset, half a world away, has interrupted the flow of oil — a problem that’s unlikely to go away, ever. And having a broader mix of sources for electric power can only enhance our overall energy security.

As for cheaper, that’s the real breakthrough here. Both the governor and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel C. Esty tell us that this power will come in at under eight cents per kilowatt hour. That price, frankly, sounds too good to be true – because it is so much lower than the other proposals (which ranged from 12.8 cents to more than 20 cents) and because it is so close to what power from fossil fuels costs today.

Even more astoundingly, we’re told that the price will be locked in for 15 years, which again requires a suspension of disbelief – because no other prices are expected to stand still for a decade and a half, which will almost inevitably make this new power far cheaper than power from fossil fuels by the end of that period.

These new power sources don’t quite exist yet, however. Number Nine Wind Farm (250 megawatts), is to be built in Aroostook County, Maine, and Fusion Solar Center (20 megawatts) is planned for Sprague and Lisbon. DEEP picked these two proposals out of 47 it received. Together, they are expected to provide 3.5 percent of Connecticut’s energy.

All these plans, no matter how well-laid, are still subject to hazards of the market; companies do go out of business, after all, and some that don’t fail outright do fail to live up to their commitments.

Under state law, Connecticut will have to be generating 20 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020. While the governor reasonably calls this “truly a historic moment,” we still have a long way to go. But this moves us closer to that goal.



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