Himes leads talk of renewable energy for Earth Day

April 23, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Earth Day is a celebration of our planet and its curiosities and wonders. At the same time, the observance casts light on those things that threaten our home, such as climate change and energy shortages.

For dozens of local conservationists and those who study energy issues, who filled Greenwich’s Audubon Center on Tuesday afternoon — among them U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn. — Earth Day was also about finding solutions to those problems.

“The challenges are immense,” said Himes, who led a roundtable discussion on financing clean and green energy. “But the opportunities are as well. I want to strike an optimistic note.”

The talk didn’t focus simply on what is at stake — in a room overlooking the Audubon Center’s wooded, backcountry grounds and filled with stately prints of native birds — but rather how to pay for and encourage the measures needed to build a green economy and slow global climate change.

The economic impact of a nationwide push to lower carbon emissions and adopt more renewable energy at the expense of fossil fuels could by massive, Himes said.

“Eventually when we get the clean, sustainable energy revolution right, it will dwarf the wealth creation and the job creation of the IT revolution,” he said. “In the back of my mind, I’m always asking myself, `Why are we not more aggressively leading that revolution the way we did the IT revolution?’ “

Himes credited federal stimulus funds with “dramatically accelerating” the country’s understanding of and its market share in the energy storage and battery industry. But the measures need not be so direct, he said. The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, a new bill promoting new energy efficiency standards sponsored by Sens. Jean Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has been gaining support from both parties in the Senate. Bills like Shaheen-Portman, as it has become known, are good for both business and the planet, said Himes.

“It’s estimated to save as much energy as you would save from taking 22 million cars off the road,” said Himes. “There are huge savings for people who use energy, which is, of course, all of us.”

Himes also previewed a bill he has been working on that would help guarantee energy savings for green residences and translate them into financing for further improvements.

But simply focusing on efficiency and green technology incentives won’t be enough, he said.

“Everything I’ve talked about today — green banks, energy efficiency, the fact that such a dysfunctional Congress found a way to get Shaheen-Portman in — that’s all great,” he said. “But it’s not adequate to the task at hand, particularly from the standpoint of climate change.”

More significant steps eventually need to be taken, such as adding to the price of carbon to account for the environmental damage it would cause.

“That basically means paying for the mess you make,” Himes said

Also speaking Thursday were Mark Robbins, of the Connecticut Green Building Council, and Bryan Garcia, president and CEO of the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, the country’s first state-level renewable-energy financing organization. The duo explained how their organizations offer practical, market-driven initiatives to promote adoption of green energy.

“What we’re on the cusp of is a new model that says we need to look at, in this time of budget constraints, how we incentivize the energy market and how we can do it in a way that attracts more private investment,” Garcia said.

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