Cap and trade today for a better tomorrow

According to Acadia Center, from 2008 to 2015 Co2 emissions dropped 30 percent in RGGI states compared to 14 percent in the rest of the country, excluding California, which has its own cap and trade program. During the same period, economic growth totaled 24.9 percent in RGGI states, compared to 21.3 percent in other states. According to a 2015 study, Co2 emissions would be 24 percent higher in RGGI states without the program. In addition, the auction proceeds have generated over $2.58 billion used to support investments in energy efficiency, renewables, greenhouse gas abatement and direct bill assistance. These reinvestments have contributed to lower utility bills and job creation.

Read the full blog post from The Hill here.

Can New England Steal California’s Storage Thunder?

Clean energy rivals New England and California are racing toward a new prize: leadership on energy storage. Both coasts have been leaders on energy efficiency, renewables deployment, and electric vehicles (EVs), and storage is the logical next step to improve system efficiency and back up intermittent wind and solar as they are increasingly adopted.

The benefits of storage are clear and increasingly well-recognized. Storage deployed at scale will serve the same purpose as warehouses and refrigerators in our food system by rationalizing an energy grid that is massively overbuilt to match supply and demand every second of every day. This logic is backed up by analysis from the Massachusetts’ Department of Energy Resources (DOER) showing that the top 10% of peak demand hours drive 40% of energy costs, and storing energy to meet these peaks would provide $3 billion in energy system benefits each year. According to a recent study from UC Berkeley, storage can also produce significant public health benefits by avoiding reliance on dirty ‘peaking’ power plants that are often located in marginalized urban areas.

Massachusetts Leadership
In the race for energy storage in the Northeast, Massachusetts is taking an early lead. Under energy diversity legislation passed this summer, DOER can act to meet the storage target it recommended—600MW by 2025—which proportionately would be far larger than California’s mandate. The legislation also cleared an important practical hurdle by authorizing utilities to own storage, and, so long as third-party owners are protected to ensure competition, political support for energy storage should remain strong.

An overall mandate would build on efforts already underway in the Commonwealth. DOER is offering $10 million for demonstration projects through the Energy Storage Initiative. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center has invested $9 million in storage-related initiatives and is serving as a match-maker for storage developers and potential customers. Under the new solar incentive mechanism being developed, bonus incentives for storage are being considered in the range of two to seven ¢/kWh, based on storage duration (kWh) and power (kW) relative to solar capacity. Within energy efficiency plans that invest $700 million per year, utilities are piloting demand management programs integrating thermal and battery storage, and attention to demand resources is likely to increase as peak demand flatlines, overall consumption declines, and the focus on improving system efficiency at all levels grows.

New Tool in the Energy Toolbox
Across the Northeast energy storage is gaining favor as an alternative to more expensive and often difficult-to-site transmission and distribution (T&D) system upgrades. In Boothbay Harbor, Maine, cheap energy available at night is stored in ice that is then used to cool buildings on hot summer afternoons. In conjunction with targeted efficiency, solar, and demand response, storage is being deployed instead of an $18 million transmission upgrade.  At a larger scale, in New York ConEd is investing $200 million in storage, targeted energy efficiency, distributed generation and demand-response in lieu of a $1.2 billion substation upgrade. The potential for eye-popping T&D savings (in addition to other energy system benefits) contributed to a proposed rule from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that would require all Regional Transmission Operators to remove barriers impeding storage from providing energy, capacity, and ancillary services.  This clear directive will help drive the grid operator ISO-NE to take necessary steps to enable storage, including compensating storage for rapid response capabilities, opening markets to smaller storage facilities, and allowing storage to provide multiple services simultaneously. Large scale energy storage could additionally help replace retiring nuclear and coal capacity in Southeast Massachusetts/Rhode Island (potentially pairing directly with offshore wind in a coal-to-clean energy conversion at the soon-closing Brayton Point plant) and address expected load growth in the greater Boston area.

Complementing top-down reform, several states are pursuing grid modernization processes in order to capitalize on declining costs and technology advances for energy storage and other distributed energy resources.  New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision has received the most attention, but REV does not stand alone.  Massachusetts utilities filed Grid Modernization plans including energy storage projects and pilots in August of 2015, and while the plans need improvement to ensure unified progress toward truly modern grids, the process has begun.  Meanwhile, Rhode Island is pursuing a truly bottom-up approach by using distributed resources to meet energy system needs, and grid modernization proceedings were recently initiated in New Hampshire.

Resiliency and Preparedness
Because of its resiliency and preparedness, storage is increasingly recognized for its security advantages. The vulnerability of the grid to cyber-attacks was made clear in Ukraine, and physical attacks on critical grid infrastructure have recently increased.  Weather-related outages will also increase with climate change-fueled extreme weather. As we grow ever more dependent on electrical devices, the importance of grid security expands accordingly.

Storage alone can provide backup power, and pairing storage distributed generation offers steady supply when the grid is down.  In recognition of these benefits, Massachusetts put $40 million into the Community Energy Resiliency Program to support solar plus storage projects at schools that double as emergency shelters, hospitals, and other critical facilities.  Following storms that caused major power outages, Connecticut established a microgrid grant and loan program that is currently deploying $30 million in funding.

And the Winner Is…
California receives the most attention for energy storage, and with real progress toward a bold procurement mandate the attention is deserved.  However, unique conditions in the Northeast—aggressive renewable energy targets, relatively high energy prices, and difficulty siting traditional infrastructure—make the region ripe for storage.

At this stage the race for energy storage leadership is just getting started, and the ultimate winners will be customers and the climate, as storage deployment ramps up, costs decline, and our entire energy system becomes more efficient and cleaner.

 

This blog post also appeared as a guest post on UtilityDive.com. See it here.

RI Public Utilities Commission Votes for Cost-Saving Energy Efficiency Plan

PROVIDENCE, RIOn December 20, 2016 the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved the 2017 Energy Efficiency and System Reliability Plans for Rhode Island in order to help save consumers money on their utility bills and boost Rhode Island’s economy. This plan was developed collaboratively by key stakeholders representing a wide range of consumer interests, including the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, the Office of Energy Resources, the Energy Efficiency and Resource Management Council, National Grid, Acadia Center, People’s Power and Light, and Emerald Cities Rhode Island.

In 2006, Rhode Island adopted a strategic and economic approach to investing in low cost energy efficiency to reduce consumers’ energy costs. In 2017, electricity from power plants like the Manchester Street Station in Providence will cost about 9.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, while the cost of eliminating wasted energy through efficiency improvements is about 5.79 cents per kilowatt-hour.

“Energy efficiency is an energy resource just like power from the coal and natural gas-fired power plants at Salem Harbor, Brayton Point, or Manchester Street. But energy efficiency is much cheaper, cleaner, and lower risk. In fact, the Public Utilities Commission’s decision to approve this plan is the best way to help customers save money,” said Acadia Center Rhode Island Director Abigail Anthony. Dr. Anthony represents environmental interests on the state’s Energy Efficiency and Resource Management Council (EERMC), which provides independent input and oversight to National Grid’s electric and natural gas efficiency programs.

Rhode Island’s energy efficiency programs help residents and businesses make energy efficient decisions by providing technical assistance and information coupled with financial incentives. For example, a residential electric or natural gas customer is eligible to receive a free home energy assessment during which the auditor will evaluate the lighting, insulation, appliance efficiency, and overall energy “fitness” of the home. The auditor will also inform the customer if she is eligible for financial incentives to help reduce the out-of-pocket cost of investing in energy efficient improvements, such as weatherization or new heating equipment. Loans are available to help homeowners and business owners with the up-front costs of efficiency upgrades.

These programs are proven and working for Rhode Island. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy ranked Rhode Island first in the nation for the state’s energy efficiency programs and policies. In addition to helping Rhode Islanders lower their utility bills, the state’s investments in low cost energy efficiency reduce the cost of doing business in the state, create jobs, and boost economic activity. The avoided spending on electricity and natural gas from the 2017 Energy Efficiency Plan will generate $314 million in economic benefits to Rhode Islanders. Rhode Island’s energy efficiency programs directly support 696 jobs across 1,009 firms, more than 79 percent of which are located in Rhode Island.

In 2014, The Division of Public Utilities–the state agency charged with watching out for consumer interests– commissioned the research firm Synapse Energy Economics to see what efficiency is really doing for our electric bills. Analysis of the 2017 Energy Efficiency Plan finds that the average residential consumer that undertakes energy efficiency actions will save 2% on her electric bill by replacing inefficient lighting and appliances and upgrading home insulation and weatherization. Factor in savings on natural gas or fuel oil use and total spending on energy is even lower. Additionally, small business customers, who are eligible for free energy audits, can save as much as 35% by installing high efficiency equipment and making recommended retrofits.

Contact:

Abigail Anthony, Rhode Island Director
401.474.8876, aanthony@acadiacenter.org

Krysia Wazny, Communications Associate
617.742.0054 x107, kwazny@acadiacenter.org

CT works on a new energy strategy as old one misses the mark

Acadia Center, a Northeast-based environmental advocacy group that was among critics of the natural gas emphasis in the 2013 CES, discovered a math error in DEEP’s calculation of greenhouse gas emissions in 2013.

Instead of being at, or even just below, the 2020 emissions cap dictated by the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act – which is where emissions were in 2012 they were heading back up. DEEP has since revised its calculation.

Acadia’s calculation, based on publicly available data, showed more. “We found an increase of 7.5 percent from 2012 to 2015,” said Bill Dornbos, who heads Acadia’s Connecticut office. “Looking at the data that’s out there now for 2016, we’re pretty confident 2016 will be higher than 2015 and maybe even significantly so.”

Most believe the cause is not the electricity sector, which has all but eliminated its dirtiest generators in the state and region. Rather the lower price of gasoline has increased the use of vehicles and the purchase of less fuel-efficient ones. Transportation accounts for about 40 percent of emissions.

Emissions from buildings and manufacturing account for another 40 percent, and that’s gone up too. “Our current natural gas emission level is higher than the entire carbon budget for 2050 (80 percent below 2001 emissions),” Dornbos said.

Read the full article, including a figure capturing Acadia Center analysis, from The CT Mirror here.

Connecticut regulators cut UI rate hike request

Bill Dornbos, the Connecticut director of the Acadia Center, said the reduction of the fixed-rate service charge is a crucial step to protect consumers and encouraging renewable energy. The Acadia Center is a Boston-based environmental group,

“The new rate design will also help promote energy efficiency and … more closely aligning the state’s electric rate structure with its energy policy,” Dornbos said in a statement.

Read the full article from the New Haven Register here.

Connecticut Rules in Favor of Consumers and Clean Energy in Electric Rate Case

Hartford, Conn.– Acadia Center applauds the announcement today by the Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) of its decision to dramatically lower the fixed charge for United Illuminating’s residential customers from $17.25 to $9.64. This 45% reduction represents a crucial step in implementing a new law enacted by the legislature last year to limit fixed charges, which customers pay monthly regardless of how much energy they use.

Bill Dornbos, Director of Acadia Center’s Connecticut Office, said, “Consumers everywhere prefer choice and control, and this lower monthly fixed charge will give customers substantially more control over their electric bills. The new rate design will also help promote energy efficiency and renewable energy, more closely aligning the state’s electric rate structure with its energy policy.”

By enacting this significant reduction, Connecticut brings UI’s fixed charge down to the levels of surrounding states and recognizes that high fixed charges run counter to consumer interests, leading the nation at a time when utilities around the country are petitioning for significantly higher fixed charges.

Acadia Center thanks the PURA, Office of Consumer Counsel, Attorney General’s Office, and the legislature for their contributions to bringing this relief to UI’s electric customers.

 

Contacts:

Bill Dornbos, Senior Attorney and Director, Connecticut Office
860-246-7121 x202, wdornbos@acadiacenter.org

Mark LeBel, Staff Attorney
617.742.0054 x104, mlebel@acadiacenter.org

RGGI Carbon Auction Prices Drop 22%

“We now have eight years of experience demonstrating that the electric sector can achieve ambitious emissions reductions at low costs; it’s time for that experience to be reflected in ambitious reforms,” Peter Shattuck, director of the Acadia Center’s Clean Energy Initiative, said in a statement. “The states must use the Program Review to establish more stringent cap levels through 2030 and to implement program design elements that account for the continuing decline in emissions.”

Read the full article from RTO Insider here.

With Gas Pipeline Projects Blocked, State Searching for an Energy Plan

William Dornbos, director of the Connecticut branch of a pro-renewable energy group called the Acadia Center, said: “I think this is a chance to pause and reassess the state’s energy plans.”

[…]

“We don’t think that’s the case,” said Dornbos. He said independent research indicates that energy conservation together with increasing renewable sources like solar and wind power can supply the region’s energy needs without massive investments to bring in more natural gas.

Read the full article from the Hartford Courant here.

RGGI Auction Prices Reflect Need for Program Reforms

BOSTON — Price declines in the latest Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) auction demonstrate the need to address an oversupply of allowances caused by faster-than-anticipated emissions declines. In the latest auction, all 14,791,315 available allowances were sold at a clearing price of $3.55, generating $52,509,168 in revenue for reinvestment. This brings the program’s total revenue to $2.64 billion-most of which has been used to fund energy efficiency and other consumer benefit programs. The Auction 34 clearing price is 22% lower than the previous auction and 53% lower than the clearing price from one year ago. This marks the lowest auction clearing price since December of 2013 and the least amount of auction revenue raised at a single auction since December of 2012.

 “State leadership to combat climate change has never been more important,” said Acadia Center President, Daniel Sosland. “Low prices and declining emissions confirm that now is the time for RGGI states to strengthen the program and continue leading the nation on climate.”

“Declining RGGI prices are occurring alongside declining emissions,” said Jordan Stutt, Policy Analyst with Acadia Center. “Electric sector carbon emissions through the first three quarters of 2016 were 5% below the same period last year — the lowest emissions level in the program’s history, and this is poised to be the eighth consecutive year in which emissions fall below the RGGI cap.”

With the market oversupplied, the ongoing 2016 Program Review offers the states an opportunity to make necessary reforms. “We now have eight years of experience demonstrating that the electric sector can achieve ambitious emissions reductions at low costs; it’s time for that experience to be reflected in ambitious reforms,” said Peter Shattuck, Director of Acadia Center’s Clean Energy Initiative. “The states must use the Program Review to establish more stringent cap levels through 2030 and to implement program design elements that account for the continuing decline in emissions.”

Information on RGGI’s performance to date and necessary reforms through the 2016 Program Review are described in Acadia Center’s recent RGGI Status Report:

Additional information on the benefits of RGGI can be found at https://www.cleanenergyeconomy.us/

RGGI Overview:
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first mandatory, market-based effort in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Nine northeastern and mid-Atlantic states reduce CO2 emissions by setting an overall limit on emissions “allowances,” which permit power plants to dispose of CO2 in the atmosphere. States sell allowances through auctions and invest proceeds in consumer benefit programs: energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other programs.


The official RGGI web site is: www.rggi.org

Can new tariff models help Massachusetts solve the rooftop solar compensation puzzle?

The DOER’s proposed tariff would replace the NEM retail rate remuneration and the SREC value that currently go to solar owners for the generation their arrays send to the grid, said Acadia Center Massachusetts Office Director Peter Shattuck, who’s followed the proposal.

[…]

“The most important thing is continuing solar development,” agreed Acadia’s Shattuck. “That can best be accomplished by a value-based payment structure that accurately credits solar generation.”

The value of solar’s benefits, including energy, capacity, and price and emissions reduction, can be worth more to the system than the retail price of electricity, Shattuck added. “We haven’t seen universal interest yet in an open transparent process to determine the accurate value of solar.”

Acadia Center Attorney Mark Lebel sees opportunity in the DOER straw proposal if stakeholder differences can be resolved. “There are a lot of important details still to be worked out but if it lowers costs for ratepayers and still provides the certainty developers need for financing we could get a win-win solution.”

Read the full article from Utility Dive here.