SolarConnecticut, the state’s solar industry group, is asking Governor Ned Lamont to veto SB 999, which forces solar developers and their subcontractors to pay state-ordered prevailing wage labor rates to electricians, construction workers and all site workers on projects two megawatts or larger, even if the project is not receiving subsidies, grants, loans or other state aid.
Instead, SolarConnecticut is urging Gov. Lamont to schedule a Clean Energy Jobs Summit this summer to examine commercial costs and create meaningful renewable energy jobs legislation.
The prevailing wage costs and job training requirements in SB 999 will increase the cost of commercial solar development in Connecticut, which will then be passed on to ratepayers. Connecticut ratepayers already pay the highest electric prices in America outside of Hawaii.
In passing the bill lawmakers also ignored a state law that protects consumers by requiring a deep dive fiscal analysis on any bill expected to increase electric bills. That fiscal analysis was not performed.
In his veto request to Governor Lamont, Mike Trahan, SolarConn executive director, wrote that SB 999 violates the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution that protects against government intrusion on a particular industry group.
“Connecticut lawmakers passed a bill that for the first time selectively forces private sector renewable energy developers to charge non-government customers union labor rates set by the state in violation of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution that protects the public against government intrusion,” said Trahan. “State prevailing wage laws currently apply only to publicly funded construction projects, such as roads or public buildings, when state dollars are involved. The bill clearly deprives private developers and the private consumers the right to negotiate the most-favorable terms for services.”
SB 999 proponents including Energy & Technology (ET) Committee Senate Chairman Sen. Norm Needleman (D-Essex) argued the bill would create jobs for unionized workers. Solar officials say there are no new jobs in large part because Needleman refuses to lift caps on commercial solar programs.
“Solar developers have worked for a decade to drive the price of solar down so that solar prices are close or lower than grid power and now we’re forced to increase our prices to consumers without any added benefit?” Trahan asked. “All SB 999 does is force ratepayers to pay more for solar without creating a single job. This bill defeats the reason why people choose solar in the first place.”
Trahan said solar developers don’t have a problem with prevailing wages so long as higher projects costs are balanced with additional benefits to ratepayers.