State Should Appoint An Energy Secretary, Study Says

By Lynn Doan, Hartford Courant

Connecticut should appoint a secretary of energy who, along with a new state energy office, would be responsible for overseeing all of the state's energy programs, a new study has recommended.

The study was conducted by the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering in Hartford, and it recommends an energy office staffed by 10 state employees who currently manage energy issues for the Office of Policy and Management.

Using existing staff would reduce costs and could save taxpayers money, the report said, by eliminating a "sometimes costly duplication of efforts."

With the help of an "energy coordinating council" and a "stakeholders advisory group," an energy secretary would set priorities for the state's long-term energy goals and ensure that energy programs support those goals. The state has energy programs designed to save power, promote clean energy and develop alternative fuels.

"Right now, if you had an energy question, who would you ask? Would you call the chairman of the energy conservation management board? Or the consultant for the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund? Or the chairman of the energy advisory board?" asked Richard Strauss, executive director of the academy. "You have all these things going on in various parts of the state, but you don't have a single person to go to. There needs to be a point person for all things energy."

The legislature commissioned the $125,000 study last year to decide how the state could best move forward with its long-term plans to reduce reliance on fossil fuels through energy efficiency and using renewable and clean energy.

But Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who has twice called for the creation of an energy department, said it would be difficult to find money for the proposal right now because of the state's growing budget deficit.

"In this serious recession, finding the money to pay for it, especially committing taxpayer dollars to anything new, would be extremely difficult, to say the least," Rell's office said after the study's release last week. "It may be worth revisiting, however, when the economy rebounds."