Connecticut lawmakers want cap on utilities’ rising fixed-rate charges

Having seen regulators approve in December an increase in Eversource Energy’s fixed-rate charge to its customers, some lawmakers are now proposing a cap on future increases.

Senate Bill 570 has been introduced by state Senate President Martin M. Looney and 10 other lawmakers. Although the language of the bill doesn’t mention a specific number, a few lawmakers talked about a cap of $10 per month, which is similar to one proposed in California.

Looney, D-New Haven, said in testimony before the legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee Tuesday that fixed-rate charges are “inherently regressive.”

Relationship between utilities, government needs to change, experts say

As Connecticut lawmakers begin to consider a slew of energy-related bills, they spent time Monday listening to advice from New York State’s “energy czar” and other experts about how the relationship between the utility industry and government needs to be overhauled…

…Amid discussion of increased utility infrastructure spending and use of technology, Abigail Anthony, director of the grid modernization initiative for the Acadia Center as well as the regional environmental group’s Rhode Island director, urged lawmakers not to lose sight of the consumer in the process.

“Our grid is not advanced if it does not protect consumers.” Anthony said. “It should be about creating healthier and better communities.”

Announcing UtilityVision: Empowering Consumers for a Clean Energy Future

UtilityVision is here! This publication frames an ambitious but realistic energy future that puts the consumer firmly in the center to allow them greater freedom and control over energy costs. UtilityVision presents a comprehensive regulatory framework for a modern energy system that revolves around the consumer and propels us toward our climate and economic goals.

AcadiaCenter_YourEnergyFuture
Copyright Acadia Center, 2015 (click to enlarge)

There are five key areas for reform:

  • Empowering the consumer: Consumers are the most important constituent of our energy system. The modern grid should meet their full energy needs: provide affordable and reliable energy, give them real control over their energy use and costs, help them enjoy the benefits of innovation, and treat all consumers fairly.
  • Planning a consumer-focused power grid: Grid planning must merge the traditional world of “poles and wires” with available new technologies and modern strategies.
  • Aligning utility incentives with consumer and environmental goals: Regulation of the power grid needs to change to provide utilities with the financial incentives that will achieve the goals of increased consumer control and decreased GHG emissions.
  • Helping consumers pay for power they use: Electric bills should be designed to empower consumers to make smart energy and economic decisions to save money and energy.
  • Paying consumers for power they produce: Consumers using local renewable energy resources—through distributed generation like rooftop solar–should be charged based on the costs of staying connected to the grid and credited for the full range of benefits they provide.

 

UtilityVision addresses one core part of Acadia Center’s vision a clean energy system that will drive down carbon emissions.  It outlines a pathway and detailed policy recommendations for stakeholders and regulators to modernize the way we plan, manage and invest in the power grid. This approach addresses utility business models, rate-making and customer-side energy resources together. UtilityVision follows on Acadia Center’s EnergyVision (2014) which charts out reforms in four interconnected areas to produce a cleaner, lower cost energy system and reach 80 percent carbon emission reductions by 2050.

Press release announcing UtilityVision  here.

UtilityVision: Empowering Consumers to for a Clean Energy Future

Today, Acadia Center, a leading non-profit organization that researches and advocates innovative approaches to advance the clean energy future, released, “UtilityVision: Reforming the Energy System to Work for Consumers and the Environment.” The publication presents an ambitious but realistic energy future that puts the consumer firmly in the center. UtilityVision outlines the specific steps needed to create a new energy system that both meets our needs and supports a fair, healthy economy and environment.

“The interests of consumers and a sustainable energy system are merged now more than ever before,” said Daniel Sosland, Acadia Center President. “UtilityVision offers a comprehensive pathway to a smart and dynamic electric system focused on giving consumers and communities greater freedom and control over their energy costs. This new system would be managed with the cooperation of utilities, governed by updated regulations that honor energy technology change, and provide a fair and safe system to protect consumers.”

The need for a comprehensive, new look at the energy system is urgent. “Decisions are being made today in state proceedings that will influence whether we steer towards a cleaner, more efficient and consumer friendly system,” Sosland said. “UtilityVision shows how we can embrace that future.”

UtilityVision is a comprehensive regulatory framework which shows how the parts of a modern energy system can be aligned to put the consumer at the system’s center.  This integrated vision enables us to attain our climate, economic, and consumer goals. UtilityVision is organized around five key areas for reform:

  • Empowering the consumer: Consumers are the most important constituent of our energy system. The modern grid should meet their full energy needs: provide affordable and reliable energy, give them real control over their energy use and costs, help them enjoy the benefits of innovation, and treat all consumers fairly.
  • Planning a consumer-focused power grid: Grid planning must merge the traditional world of “poles and wires” with available new technologies and modern strategies.
  • Aligning utility incentives with consumer and environmental goals: Regulation of the power grid needs to change to provide utilities with the financial incentives that will achieve the goals of increased consumer control and decreased GHG emissions.
  • Helping consumers pay for power they use: Electric bills should be designed to empower consumers to make smart energy and economic decisions to save money and energy.
  • Paying consumers for power they produce: Consumers using local renewable energy resources—through distributed generation like rooftop solar—should be charged based on the costs of staying connected to the grid and credited for the full range of benefits they provide

“Acadia Center’s UtilityVision demonstrates that consumer interests today include a broad span of energy-related issues, from the bedrock consumer concern of affordability to newer considerations like improved energy control, more sustainable energy, clear and accessible energy information, and the opportunity to generate their own local energy and sell it back to the grid,” said Abigail Anthony, Director of Acadia Center’s Grid Modernization and Utility Reform Initiative.

“UtilityVision provides an opportunity for regulators and key stakeholders to view consumer interests in this broader context far beyond the outdated lens of the centralized, one-way power grid of the past,” Anthony said.

Background: UtilityVision addresses one core part of a vision for how to move to a clean energy system and drive down carbon emissions.  It outlines a pathway for stakeholders and regulators to modernize the way we plan, manage and invest in the power grid and ties utility business models, rate-making and customer-side energy resources all together. The illustrated publication outlines the full range of relevant issues and includes detailed policy recommendations. It will serve as a starting point for conversations with policy makers, constituent groups, media and other public forums.

UtilityVision builds on Acadia Center’s EnergyVision (http://acadiacenter.staging.wpengine.com/document/energyvision/) —released in 2014—which charts out reforms in four interconnected areas to produce a cleaner, lower cost energy system and reach the necessary 80 percent carbon emission reductions by 2050.

UtilityVision is available online: http://acadiacenter.staging.wpengine.com/document/utilityvision

 

Contacts

Abigail Anthony, Director, Grid Modernization and Utility Reform Initiative, 401-276-0600, aanthony@acadiacenter.org
Emily Avery-Miller, Director External Relations, Acadia Center, 617-742-0054 x100, eavery-miller@acadiacenter.org

Forum: Envisioning Our Energy Future, Boston, 2/24

Please join Acadia Center in Boston on February 24th for a public forum: Envisioning Our Energy Future. The event is intended to help foster thought-leadership in the energy space, bringing together stakeholders and experts for a discussion of timely topics, with three panels and a lunch speaker.

Where: Federal Reserve Plaza/600 Atlantic Avenue, Connolly Center, Harborside 4th Floor
When: February 24th, 10AM-3:30PM
Lunch provided
To attend & for more information: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/envisioning-our-energy-future-tickets-15275579670

Keynote (Lunch) Speaker
Klaus Veslov of EcoGrid EU, is the developer of a E23 million smart grid pilot program on the Danish island of Bornhom—the first pilot in the EU to focus on how customer behavior impacts grid modernization efforts.  The EcoGrid pilot program is a core strategy for the Bornholm goal of being 100% fossil fuel free by 2025. For more information: http://www.eu-ecogrid.net/eogrid-eu/the-bornholm-test-site

Panels

I.    Utility of the Future
The advancement of viable, distributed energy technologies in the marketplace is happening quickly. Technology changes in the market are occurring faster than the regulatory structures governing the utilities.  There is a vast opportunity to structure a new energy system that embraces decentralized energy technologies. This panel will be asked to describe their vision of the future and identify key steps to achieving it.

Panelists: Nathan Adams, Green Mountain Power; Tim Woolf, Synapse Energy Economics, Inc; Jonathan Schrag, Guarini Center (NY); Peter Rothstein, New England Clean Energy Council

II.    Leveling the Playing Field for Distributed Energy Resources
The current system for planning and paying for the energy system favors poles and wires expenditures over investments to reduce demand for grid-supplied power, driving transmission and distribution costs higher than they would be if “non-wires alternatives” (NWA) could compete on a level playing field. The panel will examine recent examples of utilizing NWAs and explore policy reforms that can facilitate competition and reduce transmission and distribution costs.

Panelists: Amy Boyd, Acadia Center; Fran Cummings, Peregrine Energy Group; Jim Grevatt, Energy Futures Group; Kerrick Johnson, Vermont Electric Power Company

III.    The Role for Energy Efficiency and Demand-Side Resources to Reduce Price Pressures in the Energy System
Flexibility in energy efficiency investment programs offers the potential to achieve specific objectives such as serving low-income customers or geographic targeting to defer infrastructure upgrades. This panel will explore current efforts to utilize targeted efficiency investments and consider challenges to efficiency program design and implementation.

Panelists: Jeremy Newberger, National Grid; Eric Wilkinson, ISO-NE; Michael Stoddard, Efficiency Maine Trust; Jeff Schlegel, Efficiency Expert.

Looking Forward -Goals for 2015 and Beyond

Planning ahead in the new year, Acadia Center continues our quest for new solutions to propel us toward a clean energy future, one that can drastically reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change. Looking Forward presents our long-term vision and the current initiatives underway to make that vision a reality.

It all starts with EnergyVision : the framework for a clean energy, low-carbon future focused on using advances in clean electricity – phasing out fossil fuels –to heat buildings and power cars. This clean energy future empowers consumers, lowers greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increases economic productivity. EnergyVision demonstrates that reforms achieved simultaneously in four key sectors will help states reach 80% GHG emissions reductions by 2050 – a crucial target for addressing climate change.

To get there, Acadia Center researches, analyzes data and advocates—together with partners and stakeholders—in order to craft and implement needed policy reforms in four areas: electrification of vehicles and buildings; clean renewable energy; power grid modernization; and energy efficiency. We’re forging ahead and working on the ground to reach these specific goals:

  • Reduce GHGs in the transportation sector on many fronts with the goal 10% of new passenger vehicle sales in New England to be electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2020 and for transportation fuels sold in New England to be 10% less carbon intensive by 2020;
  • Increase investments in high-efficiency electric heat will bring direct savings to consumers and will avoid the risk of over-reliance on fossil fuels and costly investments in transmission infrastructure or pipelines. We’ll continue to advocate efficiency programs that offer incentives to consumers and help increase adoption of cleaner, cost-effective technologies;
  • Remove current barriers in the power grid and regulatory system that hinder increased renewable energy. We’ll work to strengthen and expand the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and update renewable portfolio standards (RPS) to increase demand for renewable resources. We must level the playing field so that renewable power can compete fairly and push for market-based solutions that put a price on pollution in order to drive emissions reductions;
  • Develop and launch UtilityVision, a comprehensive, regulatory framework that will result in a fully integrated, flexible, low-carbon consumer-friendly energy network. With the right decisions and investments, consumers will have greater control over energy use within and around the buildings they occupy as homes and as businesses. And, this innovative framework put into practice could bring aggressive GHG reductions. (Stay tuned for more on UtilityVision coming soon.)

 

The transition to new, broadly electrified energy system that is low-carbon, efficient, and consumer-friendly is already moving forward. That future will be achieved more quickly as we adopt forward-looking policies, uproot outdated technologies and apply new ways of thinking about energy options throughout the year.

Support Efficiency Investments for a Clean, Affordable Energy Economy in Rhode Island

Energy efficiency is a “Triple Win” for Rhode Island (RI): it lowers energy bills, increases economic activity from new clean energy jobs, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. And Rhode Island is a proven leader–tied with Massachusetts in first place for utility energy efficiency programs, and ranked third in the nation overall in the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE)’s 2014 State Scorecard.

Energy efficiency—a least-cost fuel—is a great deal for the state. Buying electricity from a power plant like the natural-gas fired Manchester Street Station costs between 8¢ and12¢ per kilowatt hour; yet, saving power through energy efficiency actions costs about 4¢ per kilowatt hour. By investing in as much low-cost energy efficiency as possible, RI reduces the cost of doing business in the state leaving consumers with more money in their pockets. Such consumer savings are often spent right in RI– where they can support our local markets, our students, our education and health facilities—while payments to fossil fuel providers head immediately out of state. Every dollar invested in cost-effective energy efficiency boosts the RI Gross State Product an estimated $3.60 and every $1 million invested in energy efficiency generates almost 40 job years of employment.

Building on RI’s great energy efficiency track record, the Public Utilities Commission approved the 2015 Energy Efficiency Program Plan in December and it will accomplish much more for the state:

•    Produce over $336 million in net economic benefits to RI homes and businesses
•    Save 1.9 million MWh of electricity and 4.8 million MMBTU of natural gas
•    Boost Rhode Island’s economy by adding over $417 million to Gross State Product
•    Create over 4,500 job-years of employment economy-wide

The cost savings are real! The Division of Public Utilities–the state agency charged with watching out for consumer interests– recently commissioned a research firm, Synapse Energy Economics, to see what efficiency is really doing for our electric bills. The analysis finds that a homeowner who gets a home energy assessment can save approximately 12% on her electric bill by undertaking energy efficiency upgrades. Small business customers, who are eligible for free energy audits, can save as much as 37% to 47% by doing the same.

Importantly, even customers who do nothing to their own houses or offices benefit from their neighbors’ energy efficiency actions. Reducing the state’s demand for power helps lower the costs of the whole energy system, and those savings are passed on to all electric consumers. Energy efficiency is the best strategy for reducing Rhode Islanders’ energy bills, lowering the cost of doing business in the state, and putting money back in the wallets of all consumers. It is a powerful tool to help chart RI’s pathway to a sustainable economy and clean energy future.

FMI: The 2015 Energy Efficiency Plan is part of a larger three-year Least Cost Procurement Plan for 2015, 2016, and 2017 that was approved by the PUC in October.

Energy efficiency investments are one aspect of a clean energy future for Rhode  Island. See Acadia Center’s 2015 Legislative Agenda for RI for more policy priorities.