Over a year ago, we wrote about the plight of 360 State Street: a 32-story, 500-unit apartment complex in New Haven which is the first LEED Platinum-certified residential building in the state of Connecticut. At the time, developer Bruce Becker was fighting the state’s Department of Public Utility Control to allow net metering of 360 State Street’s units in order to turn on a $4 million, 400-kilowatt fuel cell, for which he expected to receive a $900,000 grant from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund (which would cover about 50 percent of the fuel cell’s total cost). In order to finance the rest of the purchase price, Mr. Becker anticipated that he could use net metering technology (again, selling excess capacity from the fuel cell back to the local utility) to cover the balance, while submetering individual residents.
Last year, as we noted here at GRELJ, Connecticut’s Department of Public Utility Control rejected multiple petitions from Becker to activate the fuel cell (including a novel proposal to operate it as an electrical cooperative, which would earn an exemption under Connecticut’s antiquated net metering statute). Fast forward a year and Becker is still stuck in limbo, the Hartford Courant recently reported. And not only does the fuel cell remain inactive but Mr. Becker is still waiting on $10 million in tax credits and $3.6 million in energy efficiency grants from the state which were tied to the project’s green building features.
Connecticut’s Green Building Tax Credit program – which was passed in October of 2009 – was supposed to be functioning by January 1, 2011, but is currently inactive (note that details on the specifics of what’s going on aren’t readily available). “The tax credit was a key funding source and an inducement to Becker’s investors [in exchage for incorporating] so many green building features into the project,” the Courant writes. Mr. Becker also claims he’s only received less than 10 percent of the grant money to which he’s entitled (for equipment which was installed over 2 years ago). According to the Courant, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is working to resolve the submetering, grant, and tax credit issues, but no specific timelines seem to be in place for any resolutions.
Last year, when we first noted this story (which was also reported by the Courant), we made some observations that, this year, seem even more salient. First, 360 State Street should demonstrate to developers the acuity of regulatory and financial risks on green building projects. In a new decade where austerity is the new paradigm, it shouldn’t be surprising that governments may reconsider providing subsidies for green building projects. Second, legislation continues to lag behind technologies that can improve building performance. More projects conceived before the recession will bump up against these sorts of outdated regulatory regimes: making it increasingly important for project teams to carefully scrutinize all applicable legislation as they proceed through each phase of design and construction.