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Duff-led senate bills work toward water conservation, renewable energy

State Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) speaks at a recent press conference celebrating energy enhancements at a Westport Avenue shopping plaza that were funded through C-PACE.
State Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) speaks at a recent press conference celebrating energy enhancements at a Westport Avenue shopping plaza that were funded through C-PACE.

NORWALK, Conn. – State senate committees led by state Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) passed two environmentally oriented bills this week, a press release said.

One bill creates greater incentives for water conservation, the release said. The other expands a property tax exemption for sources of renewable energy. Both bills proceed to the Connecticut House of Representatives to await further action.

The latter bill would make commercial and industrial installations of renewable energy equipment eligible for an existing tax credit that currently applies only to residential locations, provided that those sources do not produce energy substantially in excess of what can be consumed on site, the release said. That includes all “Class I” resources, as well as solar thermal and geothermal resources used for heating.

For current installations, municipalities could opt to exempt any amount of property tax up to 100 percent of the assessment. The full exemption would take effect statewide for new projects installed after Jan. 1, 2014.

“As we try to encourage more clean energy in our state, this property tax exemption will prove to be a great incentive for more renewable development,” Duff, the Energy and Technology Committee chairman, said in the release. “Last year we started the C-PACE program, which helps private companies to finance energy improvements. My hometown of Norwalk already has a few companies who have benefited, and they would like to do even more. We want to encourage more renewable energy at our commercial properties around the state, and this tax break is a great addition to our existing incentives.”

The other bill attempts to encourage water companies in efforts to make their infrastructure more efficient, the release said.

Water companies and authorities in Connecticut currently face a disincentive when it comes to water conservation: the less water they sell, the less money they make, the release said. The bill would require the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), which oversees water rates, to authorize only proposed rate structures that promote both supply- and demand-side water conservation. The legislation also allows for an expanded Water Infrastructure and Conservation Adjustment (WICA) from 7.5 to 10 percent of a water company’s annual revenues, reflected as a charge or credit to customers’ rates. The resulting funds could be used to finance the purchase of energy efficient equipment, capital projects to comply with river and stream flow regulations, and other improvements.

“Fresh water is a precious resource,” said Duff, the Energy and Technology Committee chairman, in the release. “Even though we do not face the same water shortage issues as our friends in the Southwestern states, we must still be mindful of the need to conserve. It’s a matter of public health and safety.”

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