Acadia Center Winter Newsletter
A look at Acadia Center’s work in the first three months of the year. The newsletter includes information about our new publication UtilityVision,which presents a comprehensive regulatory framework for a modern energy system, and updates on initiatives we’re involved with such as RGGI and energy efficiency programs.
What is the Place of Fuel Cell Vehicles in a Clean Energy Future?
In the coming year, vehicles powered by fuel cells are expected to come to market in the United States, first in California and subsequently in other regions. Fuel cells are a technology that uses hydrogen to generate electricity. A fuel cell vehicle (FCV) uses this electricity to run the motor. FCVs have environmental benefits because they emit no local pollutants and the only direct by-product is water. However, the production of hydrogen can result in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These emissions must be evaluated to understand how compatible they are with New England’s short-term and long-term GHG reduction targets (80% by 2050).
Hydrogen from Fossil Fuels or Renewables?
The most economical method for producing hydrogen today is steam reforming of methane. In this process, a byproduct of the hydrogen production is carbon dioxide–a greenhouse gas. In addition, there can be GHG emissions associated with the energy source used to create the steam, such as the combustion of fossil fuels. Chart 1 (below) shows the GHG emissions from a FCV using hydrogen derived from a steam reforming process that combusts natural gas as the energy source. These emissions are compared with a battery electric vehicle and a plug-in hybrid using the electricity grid mix in New England along with a traditional gasoline vehicle. This shows that a FCV can have 39% fewer GHG emissions than a gasoline vehicle, while a battery electric vehicle typically has 60% fewer GHG emissions than a gasoline vehicle. Cleaner methods of hydrogen production do exist. One common method—electrolysis–uses electricity to split a water molecule and produces only hydrogen and oxygen as a byproduct. This method has zero process emissions and, just like electric vehicles, the electricity used can be renewable, with zero GHG emissions.
Ensuring FCVs Integrate into a Clean Energy Future.
The key question is how to ensure that hydrogen production uses cleaner methods in a manner consistent with our GHG targets. In New England, our pre-dominant transportation fuels are not covered by a greenhouse gas policy. Policy solutions do exist across the country: California is now covering all sectors of the economy with a cap-and-trade program, including transportation. That state has specific requirements for hydrogen from renewable sources and encourages cleaner hydrogen with the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. New England states should adopt an appropriate combination of these policies to integrate FCVs into our clean energy future and ensure that our short-term and long-term GHG goals are met.
For more info see: Fuel Cell Vehicles GHG from Hydrogen Production
Energy Waste Worries American Businesses
It used to be pretty easy to predict America’s attitude about energy waste. The billboards everywhere that blare gasoline prices left us buoyed or dismayed about our energy prospects. And we consumed or conserved accordingly.
But something has changed in the American psyche, particularly among businesses. Even though oil and natural gas prices are low, Americans are are trying to save energy.
Connecticut Reaches $1B in Energy Savings
…The state of Connecticut is expected to save consumers nearly $1 billion as a result of its 2014 investments in energy efficiency, according to the Acadia Center. The savings, from efficiency installations for natural gas and electricity, will accumulate over the life of the measures.
New Hampshire Needs RGGI for Economic & Energy Efficiency Benefits
Proven Benefits of RGGI in NH. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a proven success for New Hampshire (NH), both as an engine of economic growth and a tool for reducing harmful emissions from the power sector. Since the program began in 2009, electricity prices have decreased while RGGI has delivered significant economic benefits, clean energy investments and health improvements in NH and the RGGI region as a whole. These benefits are due in large part to the reinvestment of RGGI auction revenue in energy efficiency and clean energy projects.
- Since 2009, RGGI states cut per-capita GHG pollution 2.7 times faster and their economy grew 2.5 times faster than the rest of the country.
- To date RGGI allowance auctions have generated $76.3 million in revenue for NH and projections for 2015-2020 are for an additional $198.7 million brought into the state.
- Effective investment of RGGI auction revenue has brought economic benefits to NH; the first two and a half years of RGGI participation resulted in $17 million in value added to the economy, and 458 job-years of employment.
- Electricity prices in the state have declined by 2% from 2008 (pre-RGGI) to 2013, and by 8% across the broader region.
Energy Efficiency Investments Under Threat in NH. A bill introduced by the NH House—HB 208—originally sought to withdraw the state from RGGI. Fortunately, testimony from the general public and experts was overwhelmingly in support of retaining the program. However, in a misguided attempt to help ratepayers in the state, legislators amended the bill to end the state’s use of RGGI revenue for investment in energy efficiency and to use it instead for rebates to consumers. This version passed the House. Unfortunately, the amended bill would only return an average of 16 cents per month to ratepayers, and yet would eliminate the proven economic benefits of efficiency investments. In the long-term, investments in efficiency help all ratepayers–by reducing demand for electricity–not just those who individually benefit from projects funded through efficiency programs.
The Time is Now to Support Energy Efficiency. NH’s best path forward at this point is to maximize the state’s economic benefits by revising the RGGI revenue spending plan to invest more heavily in energy efficiency–the most cost-effective energy resource. Research shows that the states that have invested most heavily in energy efficiency also experience the greatest economic impacts. If NH curtails its investments in energy efficiency (as the bill passed by the House proposes) and chooses to use all auction revenues as direct rebates for energy bills, the state’s vast potential economic benefits will be minimized. In the interest of the state’s economy, environment and employment, NH should seek to increase RGGI revenue investments in energy efficiency.
Connecticut’s Electric Vehicle Push
Transportation produces more than a quarter of U.S. carbon pollution, so the state of Connecticut is taking action to increase the number of zero-emission vehicles on its roads. It’s part of a multi-state effort to get 3.3 million zero emission vehicles on the road by the year 2025. Range anxiety — the fear of running out of power — is one of the most common reasons consumers decide not to buy an electric vehicle. To reduce this anxiety, Connecticut has added more than 270 charging stations at 150 locations across the state. But another hurdle facing electric vehicles is their higher up-front cost compared to traditional gasoline vehicles. Mark Lebel, of the nonprofit Acadia Center would like to see Connecticut follow the example set by other states
Testimony offered on Connecticut’s proposed energy legislation
…One of the bills garnering interest was House Bill 7009, which is legislation designed to encourage more Connecticut residents to purchase electric vehicles. The bill calls for offering incentives for electric car drivers such as free parking in metered spots and creating time of day rates for the vehicles’ charging stations to encourage powering up when statewide demand for electricity is lower. Bill Dornbos, senior attorney and Connecticut director at Acadia Center, a New England environmental group, said the bill gives all zero-emission vehicles, not just electric cars, “the practical policy boost they need to make it easier for consumers to use and enjoy them.”
Why We Need to Cap Fixed Charges in Connecticut: To Protect Consumers and Support Energy Efficiency & Local Clean Power
To advance a clean energy future, we need a modern power grid with full consumer control over energy generation, consumption, and costs. This modern power grid should enable consumers to make beneficial energy decisions. This can mean many things: installing rooftop solar; participating in demand response; weatherizing and investing in high-efficiency appliances; comparing apartments based on energy cost data; or, choosing to make no changes at all. Yet, Connecticut utilities continue to increase already high fixed charges, which hurt consumers by increasing the amount that must be paid regardless of energy use and, in so doing, interfering with the objectives of a modern power grid.
A fixed charge is an automatic monthly fee that applies regardless of how much electricity the consumer actually uses. Consumers must pay it to obtain access to electricity. High fixed charges discourage consumers from investing in energy efficiency and local clean power, such as residential solar. These charges also fall hardest on those consumers who use the least amount of electricity – typically, those on low incomes, seniors, efficient users, or households with solar PV arrays.
Historically, a reasonable fixed charge for residential customers has been in the $5 to $10 range. Yet, the residential fixed charges of Eversource Energy (in Connecticut) and United Illuminating are, respectively, the highest and the second highest in New England for any major electric utility. Eversource’s is now $19.25 per month, a twenty percent increase over the previous amount. UI’s is now $17.25 per month. Further, both utilities can be expected to seek additional increases in their next rate cases (2016 or 2017). In its most recent rate case, Eversource proposed a residential fixed charge of $25.50, while asserting that its analysis showed it was actually entitled to a $34.96 charge.
Connecticut’s General Assembly can solve the problem of ever-increasing and excessive fixed charges by placing a reasonable cap on fixed charge amounts for residential and small business customers. California successfully capped residential fixed charges at $10 in 2013. By lowering and capping fixed charges right now, we can give all consumers, including the most vulnerable, a real chance to benefit economically from the rapid advances in technology that are already modernizing the power grid. Connecticut needs a permanent solution to both protect consumers and to steer regulators towards electricity rate designs better aligned with key public policy goals.
Connecticut Energy Efficiency Programs Empowering and Benefiting Consumers
Connecticut’s 2014 energy efficiency programs for natural gas and electricity will save consumers nearly $1 billion. The official savings were released recently, and the benefits will be accumulated over the lifetime of the 2014 investments.
“Energy efficiency programs are empowering Connecticut consumers to control their energy use and costs,” said Daniel L. Sosland, Acadia Center President. “The 2014 results show the potential for efficiency as a first resource to meet the state’s energy needs.”
“One of the best benefits of these programs is that they help consumers with the challenge of high winter energy costs,” said William E. Dornbos, Senior Attorney at Acadia Center and Chair of the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Board, a stakeholder body which advises the utilities on the state’s energy efficiency plan. Throughout 2014, the Energy Efficiency Board worked with the utilities to mitigate the anticipated consumer impact of the current winter season by accelerating LED lighting options, helping big facilities cut energy loads, and getting the word out to continue to increase participation in the programs.
“Bringing demand down through efficiency programs helps everyone on the grid,” said Dornbos, “and consumers are already enjoying the benefits of that this winter.”
Connecticut invested over $220 million in cost-effective electric and natural gas efficiency in 2014—an investment that, if not made, would have required the state’s energy consumers to purchase more expensive energy supply, much of it imported from out-of-state. This is year two in a three-year efficiency plan. Other benefits of the current 2013-2015 plan include:
- lifetime dollar savings for consumers of $978.3 million (from 2014 investments) and $630 million (from 2013 investments);
- three-year demand savings equivalent to building a 143 MW power plant;
- electric energy savings of 4.2 billion kilowatt hours over the lifetime of the 2014 investment; ;
- increased market penetration of highly efficient LED lighting by 175% in 2014;
- energy system benefits of $2.40 for every $1 invested in electric, natural gas, propane, and oil heat efficiency measures—a return on investment of 140% across all fuels; and
- lifetime avoided greenhouse gas emissions of over 3.2 million tons from the 2014 investments alone (about the same as removing 466,259 cars from the road for a year)
For more details on the energy efficiency programs and results, see the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Board 2014 Program and Operations Report
“We look forward to continuing to work with the Energy Efficiency Board, utilities and state leaders to move toward capturing all cost-effective efficiency, and keep Connecticut on this path of strong investments with big consumer rewards,” said Sosland.
William Dornbos, Senior Attorney, Acadia Center, 860-246-7121 x202, email@example.com
Emily Avery-Miller, Director External Relations, Acadia Center, 617-742-0054 x100, firstname.lastname@example.org
Acadia Center is a non-profit, research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. Acadia Center is at the forefront of efforts to build clean, low-carbon and consumer-friendly economies. Acadia Center provides accurate and reliable information, and offers a real-world and comprehensive approach to problem solving through innovation and collaboration.
Boston, MA / Hartford, CT / New York, NY / Providence, RI / Rockport, ME / Ottawa, ON, Canada
email@example.com / www.acadiacenter.staging.wpengine.com / Daniel L. Sosland, President
Highlights: Envisioning Our Energy Future Forum
Acadia Center held a forum on Envisioning Our Energy Future in Boston on February 24th. The event was 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.
A highlight of the day was the keynote presentation by Klaus Vesløv, developer of a smart grid pilot program on the Danish island of Bornholm, the first pilot in the EU to focus on how customer behavior impacts grid modernization efforts. The ECOGRID pilot is one of the foundations for fulfilling the Bornholm strategy of being 100% fossil free by 2025, and becoming a Bright Green Island. With Denmark as a whole setting the goal to be fossil free by 2050, reforms are underway to use wind turbines as the foundation of the grid and electrify heating and transportation. Mr. Vesløv shared inspiring ideas and lessons from his work on this project.
The three panels of the day featured presentations from stakeholders with a wide range of expertise in the energy fields, and discussions of:
- visions of the future and identify key steps to achieving it
- recent examples of competition and reduce transmission and distribution costs
- current efforts to utilize targeted efficiency investments and consider challenges to efficiency program design and implementation
The event was also a public debut for Acadia Center’s UtilityVision, which provides comprehensive recommendations for decision-makers to advance a modern, consumer-friendly and environmentally-friendly electric grid. These recommendations contributed to the conversation at the event.
Acadia Center is grateful to the panelists and attendees who made this day a success and looks forward to more events in the future.