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Wethersfield, CT –  Wethersfield Green Summit Committee hosted the first statewide symposium for municipal tasks forces.  Cities and Towns from around Connecticut participated in an exchange of ideas regarding the State’s energy and conservation future.

Town leaders from across the state met for the first time to discuss energy and sustainability issues on Saturday, November 19, in Wethersfield. The Wethersfield Green Summit Committee hosted the Connecticut Energy & Sustainability Forum with a $2,500 grant from Cool Air-Clean Planet.

            Members of energy task forces from 43 towns attended. They were joined by representatives of the State Legislature Energy Committee, Connecticut Clean Energy Finance & Investment Authority, and others working with local communities on energy issues.

Participants reported on the variety of energy and sustainability projects being undertaken or considered by municipalities. The goal is to begin to cross-pollinate our energy issues, ideas and solutions. “Connecticut’s home rule governments often creates boundaries which we much overcome in the energy and sustainability field.”  Matthew Forrest, Symposium organizer and leader on several of Wethersfield’s energy committees. Wethersfield has begun using alternative-fuel vehicles. West Hartford has installed solar panels on a number of municipal buildings. Hebron is reviewing their transfer station operations to significantly expand recycling programs. Many are creating comprehensive municipal energy management plans. Some even are studying the creation of energy improvement districts to locally generate electricity in the wake of recent storm problems.

A lack of regional planning agencies has left many towns on their own to try to solve energy issues and navigate the many new clean energy technologies. Few municipal budgets provide the resources for long-term investments either, even as reducing energy costs have the potential to help reduce taxes. The symposium provided an opportunity for municipalities to identify others working on similar projects and to connect those with experience to those just getting started.

Rick Linden from Hebron, Matthew Forrest from Wethersfield, and Andy Bauer from Portland

Rick Linden from Hebron, Matthew Forrest from Wethersfield, and Andy Bauer from Portland

In addition, many communities have partnered with state and federal agencies such as the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund and Connecticut Clean Energy Finance & Investment Authority. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Department of Energy also have programs helping select municipalities. While appreciative of the help, some participants described the frustration of working within these narrowly defined programs while trying to advance holistic community energy solutions.

Organizers hope to keep participants talking online and in future meetings. “I believe this is the beginning of a coalition of municipalities to begin working on the various energy and sustainability issues we face as a State.  We are now being given the opportunity to coordinate our efforts toward common goals, develop common solutions, and work together for the common prosperity of our State and its municipalities.” Said Forrest.

The Wethersfield Green Summit Committee is an informal group of citizens and environmental groups working on energy and sustainability issues in Wethersfield, including working with the Town of Wethersfield’s Citizens Energy Advisory Task Force.