Acadia Center Submits Comments to Connecticut DEEP about Weatherization
Weatherization of our residential housing stock will be critical to achieving an affordable clean energy future in Connecticut.
Four years ago the Connecticut General Assembly made a smart move when they required the state’s Conservation and Load Management Plans (“C&LM Plan”) to take steps to weatherize eighty percent of the state’s residential units by 2030. The statute, however, did not include a definition of weatherization, so the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) along with stakeholders developed a draft definition in the fall of 2012.
The definition endorsed three possible approaches for defining a building as weatherized: a prescriptive approach (looking for the presence of certain building elements on a checklist), a performance approach (comparing the home’s energy performance against an equivalent modeled home), and a rating approach (using the U.S. Department of Energy’s Home Energy Score). Nothing was ever finalized, however, and two and a half years later DEEP has just recently issued a revised draft of the definition.
The latest definition is much weaker than the first and if approved would not help the state track the condition of its existing housing stock for weatherization purposes. For instance, the definition selects a Home Energy Score value that may allow as much as 60% of existing homes to qualify as weatherized. Worse, homes without wall or ceiling insulation could be considered as weatherized, even though those two building elements are typically viewed as key to any weatherization treatment.
Today Acadia Center issued comments on the definition, recommending that DEEP strengthen it and allow the state to take advantage of all of the economic and environmental benefits that can be achieved through weatherization. Acadia Center’s comments focus on five key points:
- DEEP should establish a weatherization standard so that regulators, policymakers, the General Assembly, stakeholders, and the public can track and measure our progress over time towards the 80% weatherization policy goal, but it should be stronger than what they have proposed.
- DEEP should use a modeling approach as the standard – like the Department of Energy’s Home Energy Score – rather than having multiple options that can lead to conflicting results and confusion.
- If DEEP uses the Home Energy Score, the appropriate score needs to be determined with respect to the existing Connecticut residential building stock.
- If DEEP uses the Home Energy Score, adjustments or accommodations for larger homes should not be made, since the score is based on something close to a typical or average home, any reduction in score for large homes should be balanced by a corresponding increase in scores for smaller homes.
- DEEP’s weatherization standard should be used for policy tracking purposes only, in other words, to measure progress towards the 80% weatherization goal, but not to enforce compliance on homeowners.
Weatherization can provide many important benefits to the state’s residents and economy – reduced energy costs, increased energy independence, and less carbon pollution – but only if it’s done effectively, and with these recommendations Acadia Center hopes to ensure that it is.
Acadia Center’s comments to DEEP are available here.
Bill Dornbos is the Director of the Connecticut Office and Senior Attorney for Acadia Center. Bill focuses on advancing policy and regulatory solutions that seek to transform the energy system and move Connecticut towards a climate-safe, sustainable future. Recent work includes advocating for expanded investment in cost-effective energy efficiency for all fuels and analyzing greenhouse gas emissions trends in the Northeast.
US Clean Power Plan Raises Carbon Trading Profile
…A new report from the non-profit Acadia Center, entitled RGGI: A Model Program for the Power Sector, shows that putting a price on carbon through cap-and-trade is an effective way to decrease harmful greenhouse gas emissions while allowing the economy to grow. As states begin considering how to meet the CPP requirements, the report calls RGGI “a natural fit” for compliance.“RGGI’s successful track record has boosted confidence in market-based mechanisms and the federal Clean Power Plan is an additional boost,” said Peter Shattuck, director of Acadia Center’s Clean Energy Initiative…
Report Disputes Need for More Gas Pipelines
“Market rule changes that would avoid public pipeline subsidies appear to be bearing fruit,” Peter Shattuck, Massachusetts director at the Acadia Center, a nonprofit environmental group, said by e-mail. “[These changes] should be allowed to take full effect before signing customers up for an untested approach that transfers billions of private risk to the public [and] undermines climate commitments.”
Bowing to critics, Eversource revises plan for NH power line
…“It seemed like a pretty natural step for [Eversource] to at least bury [the line] in some of the more controversial areas, particularly with the competition,” said Peter Shattuck, director of the Massachusetts office of Acadia Center, an environmental advocacy group. “[But] we can get power through Northern New England with fewer impacts by avoiding above-ground power lines and towers.”…
Energy Efficiency Instead of a New Natural Gas Pipeline for New England?
…In separate filings before the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, the Conservation Law Foundation, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Acadia Center and others also challenged need to subsidize a natural gas pipeline that could cost utility customers in excess of $1 billion.Energy efficiency alone probably can’t displace the natural gas pipeline. But it’s clearly an important step in doing so. With its tremendous push into efficiency, New England could be the proving ground for one of the resource’s biggest promises…
Solar Bills Heat Up at the Massachusetts Legislature
Efforts to Raise the Net Metering Cap
Solar energy has been an important success story in Massachusetts over the last eight years. Three major programs have contributed to this success: retail rate net metering*, solar renewable energy certificates (SREC), and federal tax credits currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2016. Based on these policies, the Commonwealth became a national leader in solar energy, reaching Governor Patrick’s initial goal of installing 250 MW several years early. This prompted the Patrick Administration to embrace a new goal of 1,600 MW of solar capacity, which the Baker Administration endorsed in early 2015.
Unfortunately, Massachusetts solar success is in jeopardy because of legislative caps on the amount of solar capacity that can qualify for net metering, although very small projects are exempted. In past years, whenever there was a danger of hitting these caps, the Massachusetts Legislature agreed to raise them. However, policymakers, including the Baker Administration, have come to demand that increasing the caps should come along with a long-term framework for solar policy. So when the caps were reached in National Grid service territory this March –preventing municipal, community-shared, and low-income solar projects from moving forward in 171 cities and towns across the Commonwealth – no action was forthcoming. At a hearing before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE Committee) on June 2 , Acadia Center and many other stakeholders proposed a long-term framework – the Next Generation Solar Policy Framework for Massachusetts – that has now been endorsed by 66 organizations and encouraged legislators to act swiftly.
The Senate Acts
As the August recess loomed, it looked as if the Legislature would not address this pressing issue. But in late July, as the Senate prepared to debate a climate adaptation bill, an amendment was unexpectedly introduced to address the net metering caps.
The amendment received bipartisan praise on the floor of the Senate, was attached to the underlying climate adaptation bill, and ultimately the full bill passed unanimously. The solar provisions of this bill would:
- Immediately increase the caps to 1600 MW to accommodate the Commonwealth’s current solar goal and eventually eliminate the caps;
- Allow the Department of Energy Resources to reform the SREC programs or replace them with a new incentive program;
- Grandfather existing solar projects under the current programs; and
- Starting in 2017, allow the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to adjust the distribution portion of retail rate net metering for solar projects that consume less than 67% of generation onsite.
Overall, this Senate solar amendment is great in the short run and would set the stage for strong continued solar growth after 1,600 MW, including community shared solar, but leaves at least two major questions unanswered. What levels of solar capacity should Massachusetts aim for after the 1,600 MW goal is achieved? And how, if at all, should the DPU use their authority to adjust net metering credits?
The Baker Administration Weighs In
Subsequently, the Baker Administration released its own solar bill, which contains some strong provisions, but also raises at least two major concerns.
On the plus side, the Administration bill would:
- Provide an immediate increase in the net metering caps and the ability for DPU to increase the caps further without legislative action;
- Extend the current programs through 1,600 MW;
- Allow reasonably good grandfathering provisions for projects that start operation before 1600 MW is reached;
- Continue full retail rate net metering for small projects after 1,600 MW is reached;
- Create a new incentive program for post-1,600 MW.
Unfortunately, because the increase in the caps is modest, the bill creates a new problem — needing the DPU to raise the caps again as early as next year. Relatedly, the net metering caps are never eliminated – even for new projects that would be covered by a new net metering structure – so the net metering caps would still be an issue far into the future.
Perhaps even more troubling, the Baker administration’s bill would substantially cut net metering credit value for larger projects after 1,600 MW of solar capacity has been installed. For community shared solar, low-income solar, and municipal projects, the transmission and distribution credits would be entirely removed and other types of projects would receive even bigger cuts. This would significantly affect all types of projects, but it could be a particular challenge for community shared solar and low-income solar. These types of projects are not able to offset the credit value decrease with an increase in incentive programs because of restrictions on how revenue from incentives can be distributed. This change risks setting solar policy back significantly and certainly won’t propel solar forward in Massachusetts.
Formally, the Senate bill containing the solar amendment (S.1979) has been sent to the House Ways and Means Committee and the Baker administration’s bill (H.3724) is now at the TUE Committee. This allows for a wide array of possible next steps. The Legislature should hit the ground running on these issues when the legislative recess ends in September.
Massachusetts would benefit if the many good aspects of both bills moved forward, such as strong grandfathering for existing projects and a continuation of current programs until 1,600 MW is reached. Both bills would benefit from a solar goal beyond 1,600 MW and a final bill should provide for a bigger cap increase than the Baker administration’s bill. But the major gap between the two bills is the alteration of the net metering credit framework in the long run. The Next Generation Solar Policy Framework for Massachusetts has a detailed proposal on this issue that is fair to solar generators and other ratepayers – adjusting net metering credits based on the long-run value of solar generation. Stay tuned for a coming blog post on how this would work in Massachusetts and similar proposals across the region.
* Net metering allows customers to generate their own electricity in order to offset their electricity usage (through, for example, a rooftop solar PV system). Net metering can lower a customer’s electricity bill by reducing the amount of electricity that the customer buys from the distribution company (the utility). Net metering allows customers to receive credits for any electricity that they generate but do not use. Each distribution company in MA has a cap, and after it is hit, no more customers can use net metering. Small systems, primarily those under 10 kW of capacity, are exempt from the caps. For more info see: http://www.mass.gov/eea/grants-and-tech-assistance/guidance-technical-assistance/agencies-and-divisions/dpu/net-metering-faqs.html#6
Mark LeBel is a staff attorney at Acadia Center working from the Boston office. He primarily works on transportation issues, including electric vehicles and clean fuels, and grid modernization issues. Mark holds a JD with honors from NYU School of Law and an AB with honors in Applied Mathematics with a focus in Economics from Harvard College.
Most RGGI States on Track to Meet Power Plan Targets
…Jordan Stutt, a policy analyst for the New England-based Acadia Center, agreed. “The RGGI states are well-positioned to comply with the Clean Power Plan, as EPA has designed the final rule in such a way that encourages the use of RGGI’s multi-state, mass-based trading model,” he told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail…
Get to Know Tyler Soleau: 10 Questions with Acadia Center’s Energy and Climate Outreach Director
Can you describe your job in one or two sentences?
I’ll be working as a resource to diverse stakeholders and building awareness to support Acadia Center’s mission to advance a clean energy future.
You came to Acadia Center from the Massachusetts House of Representatives where you served as Staff Director and Counsel for the House Committee on Climate Change. How do you think your experience there will help you with this new position?
At the State House, I developed environmental legislation, advocated for clean energy policies, and interacted with a broad range of groups. Having experienced how successful policy gets made and implemented will help me engage and empower communities and other stakeholders to work towards creating an energy system that supports a fair, healthy economy and environment.
Throughout your career your different positions all seem to focus around environmental issues, why is that?
I’ve been excited about the environment ever since I discovered the outdoors. Climate change is the most critical challenge we face, and I’m committed to doing everything I can to combat it.
What aspect of your new position are you most excited about?
I get pumped talking about all things clean energy and I look forward to speaking with a whole range of folks and getting them excited about clean energy as well.
Energy and Climate Outreach Director is a new position at Acadia Center. How does this role fit into the work and goals of the organization?
Building awareness and support for a great idea involves engaging with a number of different audiences. That is a hallmark of Acadia Center’s strategy, and in this new position I hope to create broader and stronger networks while sharing and developing EnergyVision, UtilityVision and other Acadia Center initiatives.
Can you explain what Acadia Center’s 2014 EnergyVision is all about?
If the aim is creating a low carbon, modern, sustainable, economic, and environmental future, EnergyVision is the path to get us there. It presents a clear and comprehensive framework for achieving key economic and environmental goals through reforms in four interconnected areas.
Who do you hope to reach with these messages and ideas?
Fortunately, the Northeast is an active place for energy and environmental issues. There are countless organizations, communities, companies, and individuals working to promote clean energy and protect the environment. I look forward to strengthening my existing relationships within these active communities and forming new ones.
What do you expect a typical day at Acadia Center is going to be like for you?
I’m discovering that there is no typical day at Acadia Center, thankfully. Whether it’s presenting EnergyVision to a group of students, discussing community energy projects with a town, or meeting with public health advocates, every day is going to be a little different.
What are your top priorities right now?
1. Learn as much as I can
2. Start reaching out to groups interested in working towards a clean energy future
3. Get a plant for my desk
Did you always dream of being an Energy and Climate Outreach Director?
I wanted to be a wizard. Once I figured out being a wizard wouldn’t pan out, I focused on the environment. I’m really into Lord of the Rings.
Five Fun Facts
What was your first concert?
My first concert was They Might Be Giants. I was young enough that my Dad brought me in one of those papoose baby slings. It didn’t stop me from rocking out though.
What’s the best vacation you’ve ever been on?
Between college and law school I traveled around the world for 8 months. I flew into Paris and home from Bangkok and went everywhere in between.
If you could live anywhere where would you live?
I’d take the art and culture of Berlin, the food from Tokyo, and plop them into the mountains of New Zealand. I was fortunate to live in New Zealand for six months during college.
If you could trade places with anyone for one day who would you trade places with?
Real or imaginary? Real Mick Jagger, imaginary Indiana Jones.
What’s your favorite movie?
The Original Star Wars Trilogy.
Tyler Soleau is Acadia Center’s Energy and Climate Outreach Director working from the Boston office. He focuses on raising awareness, network building and advancing Acadia Center’s clean energy program goals in Massachusetts and the Northeast. Tyler came to Acadia Center from the Massachusetts House of Representatives where he served most immediately as Staff Director and Counsel for the House Committee on Climate Change.
Acadia Center’s July Newsletter
A look at Acadia Center’s work in July. This newsletter includes information about Acadia Center’s two new Value of Solar reports for Vermont and Rhode Island, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s forthcoming study of New England’s energy needs and a new report detailing the benefits of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
Acadia Center Welcomes Tyler Soleau as Energy and Climate Outreach Director
Boston, MA —Acadia Center is pleased to announce that Tyler Soleau has joined the organization as Energy and Climate Outreach Director. His focus is on raising awareness, network building and advancing Acadia Center’s clean energy program goals in Massachusetts and the Northeast.
“We’re very excited to have Tyler on our team. His extensive experience in state government and energy and climate policy will contribute greatly to our work to advance a consumer-friendly, more local and clean energy system that will strengthen our communities and help bring together stakeholders and networks for broad-based support,” said Daniel L. Sosland, Acadia Center President. “Tyler brings a strong background and enthusiasm for community outreach and clean energy advocacy.”
Tyler comes to Acadia Center from the Massachusetts House of Representatives where he served most immediately as Staff Director and Counsel for the House Committee on Climate Change. In that position he had primary responsibility for the Committee’s operations, policy development, coalition building and communications. Previously, Tyler was Legislative Director and Counsel for the Committee. He created the Green Economy Caucus and was active on the Electric Vehicle Task Force, the Ocean Advisory Commission and the GWSA Advisory Committee.
Tyler holds a JD magna cum laude from Vermont Law School and BA in Government and Environmental Studies from Hamilton College.
Emily Avery-Miller, Dir. External Relations
(617) 742-0054 x100, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tyler Soleau, Energy and Climate Outreach Director
(617) 742-0054 x108, email@example.com
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.