Cleaner, cheaper and more reliable was the refrain repeated by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the panelists at the Energy and Infrastructure Solutions event March 28 at New Canaan High School.

Malloy and company were mainly talking about electricity and natural gas at the event, moderated by New Canaan's Mark Robbins, who is co-chairman of the Connecticut Green Buildings Council Green Homes Committee. More than 100 people attended the high-tech event.

Much of the discussion centered around increasing the use of natural gas in the state, an issue at the heart of New Canaan's project to tap into the Tennessee Gas Pipeline, which runs under Waveny Park. Another topic of interest was microgrids -- the idea behind which is to have a small power generation plant connected to critical town facilities so that in the event of an outage, these facilities remain operational, creating a small, decentralized power grid.

"We are living in a time of a rapidly changing environment," Malloy said, referencing the increased frequency and intensity of severe weather in recent years. "Microgrids are something we've fought mightily for, but we are investing in building out a system, so a town like New Canaan or Wilton or Ridgefield would have the ability to power up and be on a separate system from one which relies on aerial lines."

Malloy also championed the state's recently published Comprehensive Energy Strategy plan, which calls for 900 more miles of natural gas pipe to be laid in the coming years, and for tax breaks for the installation of natural gas to homes and businesses, among dozens of other recommendations.

The government has sent out a request for proposals for innovative energy projects.

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"We partnered with the General Assembly to come up with a very strong storm response bill, which has microgrid program," panelist Alex Kragie, the deputy chief of staff for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said. "We had 27 projects eligible for a request for proposal. At the end of the day, we're going to end up with 10 to 12 winning projects. We want to be sure that we have clean generation."

He said the state has $15 million to spend on the winning projects, and is hoping for an additional $30 million to come through the upcoming budget.

"We're spending big capital on heat-wasting machines," panelist Joseph Camean, vice president of VanZelm Engineers, said during his presentation.

He was talking about the amount of heat that power generation plants produce that simply vanishes into thin air. With most power plants in the United States, he said, as much as two-thirds of the fuel that goes into creating electricity goes off as waste. He proposed projects, called "co-generation," that would take the heat that escapes up a plant's smokestacks as water vapor and use it to heat people's homes and businesses. He pointed to large programs in Denmark that do just this and make substantially more usable electricity and heat with the same quantity of fuel inputs.

"When we talk about efficiency today as opposed to 10 years ago, it's a very different landscape with sensors," David Bartlett, vice president of smarter physical infrastructure at IBM, explained.

Bartlett was of the opinion that some of the most effective advances were not in the field of innovative ways of producing power, like fuel cells, but rather in using existing technology to most efficiently use energy. "Just look at what you can do from your smartphone. The big movement today is connecting things to the Internet," he said.

Such a connection, in addition to the sensors he mentioned, allow, at the most basic uses of the technology, buildings to automatically turn off lights when no one is in the room, as well as a multitude of other applications.

twoods@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4413; @Woods_NCNews