Acadia Center’s January Newsletter
A look at Acadia Center’s work in January. This newsletter features updates on a rate reform proposal in Rhode Island, nation-leading energy efficiency goals in Massachusetts, and more.
Rhode Island bank to shell out $25M in efficiency financing
…Rhode Island is ranked fourth nationwide on energy efficiency, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficiency Economy. And the year before, the state was tied for first with Massachusetts. Rhode Island’s strength in efficiency can largely be tied back to its legislature, according to Acadia Center…
After Supreme Court’s Stay of the Clean Power Plan, RGGI Even More Crucial to New England’s Future
On Tuesday, the US Supreme Court took the unusual step of delaying implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan until legal challenges to the regulation are completed – a decision that effectively stops the regulation in its tracks until 2017 or later. A centerpiece of the Obama administration’s climate change policy, the Clean Power Plan (CPP) was designed to lower carbon emissions from U.S. power plants to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030. In New England, compliance with the CPP was expected to come primarily through the states’ involvement in and strengthening of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI, a nine-state carbon trading program, has been in operation since 2009. The program’s success in reducing emissions while driving economic growth is reflected in the final version of the CPP, which encourages states to use a RGGI-like model.
While the CPP’s mandate is stayed, states are not required to move forward with planning for the substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions for the electric sector that it requires. But they should. As Acadia Center analysis shows, the 9 states involved in RGGI have reduced emissions and sent effective price signals to the electric sector in favor of carbon-free resources, while improving both public health and the economy. In the absence of the CPP – whether it’s temporary or permanent – state-led and regional initiatives like RGGI are even more crucial to ensuring that the US can meet its international obligations and national climate action plan, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve public health, and build the clean energy future. Fortunately, many states (CA, CT, IL, ME, MD, MA, NH, NM, NY, OR, RI, VT, VA, WA, and counting) have pledged to continue working on plans to reduce GHG emissions from their power sectors despite the stay. States looking to take a proactive stance on climate can maximize their environmental impact while delivering economic benefits by following the subsequent best practices from RGGI’s seven years of experience:
- Cover emissions from existing and new power plants;
- Auction allowances, rather than give them away for free;
- Invest auction revenue in energy efficiency; and
- Set ambitious reduction goals.
Tuesday’s decision did not evaluate the merits of the Clean Power Plan or the question of whether the Environmental Protection Agency went beyond its granted authority under the Clean Air Act to issue such regulations. Review of those questions remains at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, who is expected to hear arguments on these issues in June. If that court upholds the rule, and the Supreme Court either denies further review or takes the case and upholds the rule itself, the stay can be lifted and the rule implemented. Until either of those things happen, though, formal CPP implementation is on hold. Moreover, given the pace of appellate court decisions, neither of those possibilities will happen until mid-2017 – well after we have a new President.
Which means it’s up to the states to regulate greenhouse gas emissions – again. In New England, we’re fortunate to have taken the lead on innovative efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve our economy and public health, and invest in a more-efficient low-carbon electric sector. While we wait for federal programs to be straightened out, we should encourage other states to take action against climate change by adopting the RGGI model.
Amy Boyd is Senior Attorney in Acadia Center’s Boston office. She works on energy, transportation and climate change issues in Massachusetts and regionally. Amy came to Acadia Center from Foley Hoag LLP in Boston where she had been an associate in the Environmental Practice Group & Administrative Department since 2006.
Jordan Stutt is a Policy Analyst in Acadia Center’s Boston office. He works on energy, transportation and climate change issues, with an emphasis on research and policy analysis for energy systems and carbon markets. He was an Energy Policy Analyst at Pace Energy and Climate Center, Pace University Law School in White Plains, NY, where he focused on energy efficiency and RGGI.
RGGI emissions fall nearly 4% y/y in 2015 as allowance prices soften
…The fall in emissions is not a surprise, according to Jordan Stutt of think tank Acadia Center. “We had a pretty mild start to the winter in the last three months of the year… the year-end total shows a decline in line with the trend that we’ve seen since RGGI began,” he said. The drop in emissions, combined with the release of 10 million RGGI allowances from the scheme’s Cost Containment Reserve (CCR) last year, has added to the oversupply of allowances in the market, Stutt noted…
Acadia Center’s Year in Review
2015 was a good year for Acadia Center. New York Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, and MarketWatch included us in select 2015 lists of top charities making a difference and Charity Navigator once again included us on its list of “Top 10 Charities Worth Watching.” Our staff continued to provide tangible alternatives to an energy system based on fossil fuels and was quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, and the Hartford Courant among other media outlets as experts in our field. In case you missed them, here are some more Acadia Center highlights from 2015:
Expanding our Vision
In 2015, Acadia Center expanded our Vision series with the release of UtilityVision in February and Community|EnergyVision in December. The publications, which started with EnergyVision in 2014, outline a clear, compelling pathway to a low carbon future that offers lower energy costs and greater overall economic benefit. UtilityVision digs deeper into the world of regulatory change with a plan that will help reshape the electric power industry to level the playing field for efficiency and renewables, and provide incentives for clean energy. Community|EnergyVision identifies how exciting new energy technologies offer communities the power to have a cleaner, lower cost energy supply and greater control over energy decisions.
Getting our Ideas Out There
Peter Shattuck, Director of Acadia Center’s Massachusetts office and Clean Energy Initiative, wrote a three-part analysis series that was published in Commonwealth Magazine. The series influenced the public debate over whether billions of dollars should be spent on proposed energy infrastructure. Acadia Center effectively showed why the Northeast region does not need to invest in risky gas pipelines. We offered practical ideas for how the region can build a reliable, clean, lower cost and consumer friendly energy future. Shattuck went on to serve on an Advisory Group for the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office along with representatives from utilities, the natural gas industry, and clean energy and consumer groups.
Acadia Center co-led a successful legislative campaign with the CT Roundtable on Climate & Jobs to put in place new requirements for utility regulators that should reduce the currently excessive fixed charges paid by all residential customers. The fixed charge – sometimes called the customer service charge – is a monthly flat minimum fee that customers must pay to have access to electricity. High fixed charges disproportionately burden low income customers and interfere with energy efficiency and clean energy investments. Connecticut utilities Eversource Energy and United Illuminating have the two highest residential fixed charges of any major electric utility in New England.
The legislative remedy passed by Connecticut’s General Assembly during its 2015 special session should reduce these high fixed charges to historically reasonable amounts – likely less than $10 per month. Once applied in the next rate case for each utility, the new law will give over a million residential customers increased control over their electricity costs. Acadia Center intends to participate in those rate cases to ensure that this new consumer protection is properly applied.
Providing the Facts
The staff in Acadia’s CLEAN Center used our extensive energy and climate database to create the Value of Solar series, which shows why solar energy offers great consumer value and outlines the specific benefits realized in various states. CLEAN Center work also rebutted regressive claims, and helped us successfully beat back a proposal by the region’s largest utility that would have raised consumer costs in a manner that would have greatly limited energy efficiency and clean energy choices.
These are only a few of Acadia Center’s accomplishments in 2015 and we hope to continue our progress advancing a clean energy future in 2016.
Kiernan Dunlop is a Communications Associate in the the Boston office and brings experience in communications and environmental organizing. She has been a contributing writer for eco-RI News and the New Bedford Standard-Times. She supports Acadia Center’s communications efforts with press and media outreach, online and print content, events and other outreach strategies.
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
RGGI urged to consider deeper emissions cuts from 2020
…RGGI’s operators RGGI, Inc. last month said Washington’s draft proposal would be evaluated, but warned that it raised “substantive issues.” But Peter Shattuck of the Acadia Center asserted that integration of markets is a key goal.“Larger markets are more effective,” he said. “That’s been one of the benefits of RGGI and we’d like to see the whole country get there…”
Beautiful LED Lighting Displays Show that Energy Efficiency is about Aesthetics Too
…“Massachusetts’ energy efficiency programs are delivering on their promise to create large energy savings for consumers, and move the Commonwealth toward a clean, affordable and secure energy future,” said Daniel Sosland, Acadia Center president. “Efficiency is the best near-term energy strategy for reducing Massachusetts’ residents’ energy bills. Investing in energy efficiency produces immediate bill savings that persist for years to come…”
Shared Solar Program in Connecticut Stalled Over Who Pays for What
…“The pace of all this is concerning,” said Bill Dornbos, Connecticut director and senior attorney for Acadia Center, a regional environmental advocacy group that has fought for shared solar throughout the northeast. “DEEP probably would have been better off seeking some simple amendments from the General Assembly in this upcoming legislative session…”