Acadia Center Applauds Rhode Island as State Continues to Lead on Energy Efficiency

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island has taken first place in the utility-sector energy efficiency programs and policy category of the 2016 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, released Tuesday by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a national nonpartisan organization. In energy efficiency overall, Rhode Island ranks fourth behind Massachusetts and California (tied for #1), and Vermont (#3).  This is the fourth year that Rhode Island has ranked in the top five states.

Rhode Island’s Least Cost Procurement law is primarily responsible for the state’s continued leadership on energy efficiency. First implemented 9 years ago and extended for another 5 years last summer, the policy states that distribution companies cannot acquire new electric or natural gas supply until “all-cost effective” energy efficiency measures have been exhausted.

“By investing in low-cost energy efficiency instead of expensive electricity and natural gas, Rhode Island lowers energy bills and spurs economic growth,” said Daniel Sosland, President of Acadia Center. “Thus the whole state benefits when Rhode Island leads on energy efficiency,” said Sosland

“Rhode Island has learned that energy efficiency is critical for growing our economy and putting Rhode Islanders to work,” said Abigail Anthony, Rhode Island Director with Acadia Center. “Energy efficiency reduces the cost of doing business in Rhode Island, and when residents spend less money on energy, they have more left in their paycheck to spend locally on other things.”

Rhode Island’s energy efficiency investment since 2008 will create 23,764 job-years of employment economy-wide and add $2.67 billion to Gross State Product. In 2015, 1,009 companies and 696 full-time equivalent jobs were directly involved with the state’s energy efficiency programs, with 79% of those companies located in Rhode Island.

Since 2008, Rhode Island has invested over $558 million in energy efficiency and consumers have realized $1.99 billion in economic benefits.  In its 2016 Energy Efficiency Plan, National Grid proposed investing over $83 million in cost-effective efficiency programs to deliver electric savings that are 47% less expensive than the cost of supply, and natural gas savings that are 15% less than the cost of supply.  The investments in 2016 will generate more than $256.1 million in direct benefits over the life of the efficiency measures, and add over $386.9 million to Rhode Island’s Gross State Product (GSP) and 4,220 job-years of employment. Acadia Center is currently developing the 2017 Energy Efficiency Plan along with key stakeholders including National Grid, the Office of Energy Resources, the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, Emerald Cities, People’s Power & Light, and The Energy Council of Rhode Island.

Acadia Center is a member of the Energy Efficiency Resource Management Council (EERMC), the stakeholder council charged with assisting with the development, implementation, and review of energy efficiency programs in Rhode Island.  The EERMC is critical to the success of energy efficiency in the states, and Acadia Center looks forward to working with fellow members, utilities and other stakeholders to make sure that the plans are implemented effectively to deliver cost savings through lower utility bills, emissions reductions, and clean energy job growth, in addition to broader economic benefits.

 

See the Scorecard at: http://aceee.org/state-policy/scorecard

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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.

Massachusetts and California Share Top Energy Efficiency Ranking

BOSTON — The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a national nonpartisan organization, released its 2016 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard yesterday, with Massachusetts maintaining its #1 ranking for the sixth year in a row, but now sharing the podium with California.  Last year, only a half point separated the states’ rankings.

In achieving its highest score to date, Massachusetts’ score increased a point due to adopting the most recent IECC 2015 and ASHRAE 90.1-2013 as part of the state building code.  These new standards will reduce the cost of energy for new homes and businesses in the state. Massachusetts could earn a perfect score in the category of utility programs and policies, the largest category in the ACEEE scorecard, with deeper savings in its natural gas programs.

“Progress in investing in energy efficiency raises all boats—consumers in Massachusetts, California and all the leading states are the real winners here,” said Daniel Sosland, Acadia Center’s President.  “Maximizing efficiency is a major step toward securing a clean and affordable energy future. Massachusetts, Rhode Island and other leaders are showing that it really works to deploy least-cost, non-polluting measures to benefit the environment, the economy and consumers,” said Sosland.

Massachusetts has proven its continued commitment to energy efficiency under its Green Communities Act of 2008 by saving a large and growing percentage of energy every year through efficiency measures, and delivering over $14.8 billion in economic benefits and energy savings for ratepayers over the last six years.  Massachusetts’ current 3-year plan (2016-2018) is expected to deliver $8.1 billion in economic benefits and energy savings, and sets savings goals (2.93% of sales for electric and 1.24% of sales for natural gas) that are the highest in the nation, yet again. The environmental benefits the 3-year plan will deliver are equivalent to removing approximately 408,000 cars from the road.

California’s rise to the top is a sign that other states are rapidly ramping up their investments in low-cost energy efficiency, and helping consumers lower their energy bills and spur economic growth.  One area where Massachusetts risks falling behind the rest of the country and losing the top ranking is in the management and public availability of efficiency data.  Massachusetts satisfies only one of six standards on which ACEEE intends to score states in the future – for comparison, California satisfied five.

“Massachusetts is on the winning path, but there is still plenty of work to do to make the most of this low-cost, clean resource,” said Amy Boyd, Senior Attorney at Acadia Center. “We should celebrate our success, but then return to the hard work that it takes to accelerate strategies to reach the homes and businesses that still need help lowering their energy costs,” Boyd said.  “Making smart use of all the data that new technologies can provide utility companies will reduce costs, make processes more transparent, and keep us on track to stay on top of the ACEEE rankings,” Boyd concluded.

Acadia Center is a member of the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council, a stakeholder board that has statutory responsibility for advising and assisting the state’s utilities in developing and implementing cost-effective energy efficiency plans for electricity and natural gas. Acadia Center looks forward to working with fellow members, utilities and other stakeholders to make sure that the efficiency plans for Massachusetts are implemented effectively to deliver cost savings through lower utility bills, emissions reductions, and clean energy job growth, in addition to broader economic benefits.

See the Scorecard at: http://www.aceee.org/state-policy/scorecard

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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.

Environmental Groups: Con Ed Rate Case Settlement Proposal’s Advancement of Energy Efficiency Programs Will Help Meet Clean Energy Standard Targets

ALBANY, NY – New energy efficiency programs in a Joint Settlement Proposal filed today on Consolidated Edison Company of New York’s electric rates for 2017 to 2019 will help meet the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals and Clean Energy Standard renewables targets, according to environmental and energy efficiency groups participating in the proposed agreement with the utility, city, and state.

The Joint Settlement Proposal would commit the utility to $99 million in new energy efficiency programs over the next three years, providing customer energy bill savings while reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other dangerous pollutants emitted by power plants.

The Department of Public Service staff filed the proposed settlement today with the New York Public Service Commission for review and potential approval. The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Pace Energy and Climate Center, Acadia Center and the Association for Energy Affordability said the proposed efficiency programs are anticipated to yield more than 300 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of savings annually by 2019, and would continue to save customers that much each year for many years beyond that. A System Peak Reduction Program would add an additional 22 GWh of efficiency per year by the same date, while providing 49 megawatts of system peak reduction, which means fewer of Con Edison’s dirtiest, most expensive peaking power plants will be needed to serve Con Edison’s 3.3 million customers on the highest demand days of the year.

“By 2019, Con Edison’s new energy efficiency programs are expected to annually save the same amount of electricity that’s used by more than 70,000 typical New York City residential customers,” said Miles Farmer of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “That’s significant. The Public Service Commission should approve these programs and build upon that progress with more aggressive energy efficiency targets and initiatives in the near future.”

The Public Service Commission is expected this week to consider the procedural schedule for reviewing the Joint Settlement Proposal. Signatories include Department of Public Service staff, Con Edison, the Pace Energy and Climate Center, the City of New York, and various other environmental and consumer groups.

“By assisting customers to use energy more effectively, ConEd’s proposed programs would bring New York one step closer to achieving its requirement to use 50% renewables by 2030,” said Acadia Center President Dan Sosland. “Energy efficiency is far less expensive than building and operating fossil fuel power plants, and less risky, which means New Yorkers will benefit from this transition to a clean energy future.”

A study released by Synapse Energy Economics Inc. in April concluded that implementing aggressive energy efficiency targets and funding them appropriately holds the potential to reduce total costs to New York State’s electricity customers by roughly $3 billion.

Much more work remains to be done to pull New York up to speed with its neighbors in the Northeast. While the proposed Energy Efficiency and System Peak Reduction Programs are projected to help Con Edison more than double its energy efficiency performance over the level previously committed to (about 0.3% of load in efficiency gains per year), its total achievement will still be far short of the 2% to 3% in efficiency gains being made by utilities in states like Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Radina Valova, a Pace Energy and Climate Center Staff Attorney, noted, “The programs will secure energy efficiency in a way that makes the grid itself more cost-effective by responding to locational needs, bundling offerings through Distributed Energy Resource providers, and leveraging market-based approaches. Clean energy advocacy groups like ours support this broad focus on energy efficiency opportunities because it allows the utility to promote the most cost-effective and market-friendly savings opportunities.”

“This settlement proposal ensures Con Edison’s ability and commitment to leverage bigger and better ideas and technologies in pursuit of a broad range of advanced energy efficiency opportunities, working with third parties and interested consumers. This approach is an important step for Con Edison and a strong precedent for other utilities to help New York to meet its clean energy goals,” said David Hepinstall of the Association for Energy Affordability, Inc.

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Released jointly by Acadia Center, Association for Energy Affordability, Inc., National Resources Defense Council, and Pace Energy and Climate Center

Report: State is cleaning air, saving money

Emily Lewis, a policy analyst at the Acadia Center, a regional non-profit focused on market-based, consumer-friendly programs, said the hospital has conserved a lot of electricity. “By reducing load, they’re reducing costs for everybody,” said Lewis, noting that the RGGI brought $160 million in proceeds to Connecticut through April, 2016 that was mostly invested in energy efficiency.

Lewis estimated that about $245 million has been added to the Connecticut economy by the program.

“You can see that this is a great return on investment with proceeds coming in being only $160 (million) and adding $245 (million in value so far,” she said. “It’s lowered emissions without raising costs for consumers.”

Read the full article from the Connecticut Post here.

Does spending more on energy efficiency cut rates?

“It’s counterintuitive that paying more will result in a savings overall,” said Ellen Hawes, a senior analyst of Acadia Center, an environmental advocacy group in Boston. “But that’s what the data shows.”

[…]

Hawes said that Acadia hasn’t seen this “rebound” effect to be significant. “There is only so much electricity you can use,” she said.

Read the full article from the New Hampshire Business Review here.

Op-Ed: Energy-efficiency standard is an opportunity

One of New Hampshire’s economic engines is getting a boost with the start of a new energy-efficiency resource standard.

Utilities, state agencies, businesses and advocates all came together this year to develop a new energy-efficiency framework that strengthens our state’s commitment to reducing energy costs and helps keep New Hampshire’s energy dollars from leaving the state economy.

Each year, New Hampshire spends more than $6 billion on energy. Energy efficiency helps us recapture some of those dollars. This makes energy bills more manageable and frees up savings that can be used by New Hampshire’s families and business for other necessities and investments.

The new energy-efficiency standard establishes specific targets for energy savings that utilities must meet. By 2020, New Hampshire will realize cumulative energy savings equal to 3.1 percent of 2014 electric sales and 2.25 percent of 2014 natural gas sales.

Those savings will build upon the utilities’ award-winning “NHSaves” programs that help customers reduce energy by using new technologies and improving buildings. The new framework makes programs more available to lower-income families and also makes a wide range of incentives available to help families, businesses, municipalities and nonprofits take advantage of cost-saving energy efficiency projects.

While those who choose to participate directly in energy-efficiency programs will benefit immediately from lower energy bills, those who don’t choose to become active participants will also benefit. There will be less wear-and-tear on the energy grid, less need to build new power plants and less need to rely on the higher-cost power plants that keep the system running on hot summer days and chilly winter nights.

Beyond achieving cost-effective savings, energy efficiency provides many other benefits to our communities. The contractors who perform building improvements and equipment installations are usually local businesses employing skilled New Hampshire workers. Improving the efficiency of buildings also improves air quality and comfort, giving us safer, healthier and more enjoyable spaces to live, play and work.

The energy-efficiency programs are required to be cost-effective under stringent tests. The Public Utilities Commission, independent evaluators and ISO New England measure and verify the savings these programs offer us on an annual basis. ISO New England, which oversees New England’s electricity grid, not only quantifies energy efficiency results, it counts on those reductions in its regional planning. When we cut costs region-wide through reliable and low-cost efficiency measures, we make sure that New Hampshire energy bills are more manageable as a direct result of energy efficiency.

Thousands of residents and businesses across the state can tell you about the savings they have already seen from past energy-efficiency projects. However, there is more demand for energy efficiency than current programs can meet. These programs are very popular, and as a result they frequently become oversubscribed. This causes projects to be delayed and leaves additional savings on the table.

With the implementation of an energy-efficiency standard, we look forward to working together with families, businesses, legislators and other leaders to complete more efficiency projects and achieve greater energy savings that will benefit all of us here in New Hampshire.

This article was submitted by the settling parties to the NH Energy Efficiency Resource Standard: Eversource Energy; Unitil Energy Systems; Liberty Utilities Corp.; NH Electric Cooperative; NH Legal Assistance for The Way Home; Belknap-Merrimack Community Action Agency; Southern NH Services; Conservation Law Foundation NH; The Jordan Institute; NH Sustainable Energy Association; Acadia Center; TRC Energy Services; NH Rep. Robert Backus, pro se; NH Office of Energy and Planning; NH Department of Environmental Services; and the Office of the Consumer Advocate.

Reforming Electricity Pricing Can Promote Electric Vehicles and Help Optimize the Electric Grid

Electric vehicles (EVs) provide multiple environmental and consumer benefits. Because they emit about 60% less greenhouse gas (GHG) than conventional vehicles, EVs are an important element in reaching state GHG reduction requirements. Plus, EVs have lower operating costs than conventional vehicles—even with today’s low gasoline prices; for example, in Connecticut an EV only costs about five cents per mile to operate compared to eight cents for a conventional vehicle. That’s a savings of over 80 cents per gallon-equivalent. Given that the largest source of GHGs in the Northeast is the transportation sector, states should be pushing for accelerated adoption of these vehicles.

Recognizing this opportunity, many states in the Northeast have already committed to increasing the number of zero emission vehicles, primarily EVs, on the road by signing on to the California Clean Car Standards and the Multi-State Zero Emission Vehicle Memorandum of Understanding (ZEV MOU). These agreements have set an ambitious goal of increasing the vehicle fleet in those states to about 13% EVs by 2025.

Though this goal alone is commendable, concerns must be addressed about the amount of electricity that will be needed to charge these additional EVs. If EVs are plugged in during periods of high demand, they can strain the electricity system, triggering costs associated with increased distribution or transmission investment, greater capacity needs, and higher marginal energy prices. If EVs are charged at off-peak times, however, the impact on the electricity system is minimal and can even have benefits.

To encourage off-peak charging, several states have started to adopt electricity rate structures for EV owners that reflect the higher cost of providing electricity during peak periods and the lower cost during off-peak periods. These “time-of-day” rates typically divide the day into two or three different periods, during which electricity costs are different. “On-peak” periods encompass most of the afternoon and evening and have the highest rates; “off peak” periods comprise the rest of the day and weekends and feature lower rates; and sometimes “super off-peak” periods are offered with extra low rates from midnight to early morning when there is minimal demand on the system.

Because lower charging costs translate to lower costs per mile traveled, EV owners have a monetary incentive to charge during off-peak hours. This per-mile savings also makes owning an EV more attractive and can provide the extra push some consumers need to purchase an EV.

Pilot programs adopted by Maryland and New York have demonstrated that time-of-day rate structures are effective at shifting customer behavior. The chart below shows the electricity use of EV owners in Maryland before and after they adopted the time-of-day rate structure or “tariff.”1 Pre-EV tariff, the customers’ peak energy use was at about 6:00 pm (red line), indicating EV charging likely occurred when commuters returned from work and plugged in their vehicles.  This peak also corresponds with peak system demand. Following the EV-tariff adoption, the peak use for the pilot participants shifted to 10 pm (green line), indicating that customers had altered their behavior to take advantage of the lower rates.

bge-electric-vehicle-rate-pilot-program-report
Source: BGE Electric Vehicle Rate Pilot Program Report, February 2016, Page 21

A poll of the Maryland customers who adopted the EV tariff found that over 90% of participants were either “extremely satisfied” or “satisfied” with their new electricity plan, and the majority of customers saved money on their house electricity bill. With the positive result of this pilot and others, Maryland and other states, including California and New York, are now offering full-scale (non-pilot) time-of-day rates for EV owners.

Given their demonstrated success, both satisfying customers and shifting behavior, time-of-day rates should be considered by states as one of the key mechanisms for meeting ZEV commitments and GHG emissions reduction targets. This single reform offers multiple, important benefits: it incentivizes owning an EV, it reduces the contribution of EVs to peak load, and it helps capture the significant environmental benefits of EVs—not just GHG emissions reductions, but also local air pollution reductions that help improve public health.

The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) of Connecticut is currently considering whether to move forward with time-of-day rates for EV customers.2 As one of the 8 states committed to the ZEV MOU, Connecticut, through PURA, should make the smart choice to implement this proven reform as soon as possible. As Connecticut is likely not on track to meet its mandatory 2020 GHG emissions cap,3 and because transportation emissions comprise 40% of the state’s total GHG emissions, Connecticut will absolutely need the help of time-of-day rates. Acadia Center is participating in PURA’s current docket to ensure that it considers the environmental and consumer benefits of both EV adoption and time-of-day rates.

1 BGE Electric Vehicle Rate Pilot Program Report, February 2016

2 PURA Docket No. 16-07-21. Acadia Center has been granted status as an intervenor. Final decision scheduled for February 2017.

3 Acadia Center, “Updated Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory for Connecticut,” June 13, 2016. Emissions overall have increased 7.5% from 2012 to 2015 and we anticipate them increasing even more in 2016.

The Big Switch: As Renewables Boom, Sparks Fly Over Natural Gas

Peter Shattuck with the environmental advocacy group the Acadia Center echoes Ledoux’s call for deeper investments in renewables and energy efficiency, which have already created a meaningful dent in the region’s peak demand.

The ISO New England, the regional grid operator, expects energy efficiency to “dampen” normal growth in peak demand, the periods of highest electricity usage, by more than 70 percent, from 1.1 percent to .4 percent from 2020 to 2025.

“If we keep doing that [investments in energy efficiency and renewables], then the need for everything – for overbuilding our energy system to meet those peak demands – declines,” said Shattuck. “We don’t need as many power plants. We don’t need as many transmission lines. We don’t need as many pipelines.”

Shattuck said the gas pipelines were constrained indeed, but relying too much on natural gas created other issues in the energy market that made those price spikes worse.

“A lot of the generators were unprepared,” said Shattuck. “And because we had become so reliant on natural gas, when the natural gas was not available for the power plants (because it was going to heat homes and businesses) that caused prices to spike.”

 

Read or listen to the story from Rhode Island Public Radio and the New England News Collaborative here.

Md. Balks at Proposed Emission Cuts as RGGI States Ponder Future

“RGGI emissions through the first half of 2016 were the lowest they have been in the program’s history, and annual emissions have been below the RGGI cap level in each of the program’s seven years to date,” Acadia Center President Daniel Sosland said. “This shows that emissions are falling quickly and even more cost-effectively than expected and provides the foundation on which RGGI states can feel confident going forward to set more ambitious emission targets.”

Acadia said low trading volume and stable prices could be “an inflection point” as the market awaits the results of the program review now underway.

‘Oversupplied’ Market
“An oversupplied market and low RGGI prices limited the program’s impact in its early years,” said Jordan Stutt, a policy analyst with Acadia. “Failing to strengthen RGGI through the program review could result in similarly low prices, depriving the region of funding for clean energy programs and sending inadequate market signals to clean up the region’s power sector.”

 

Read the full article from RTO Insider here.

Low RGGI Auction Prices Suggest Need for Greater Ambition

BOSTON — The results of today’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative auction indicate that participating states have ample room to strengthen the program. Low emissions prices reflect the continuing decline of regional emissions and a growing oversupply of allowances. Without measures to significantly strengthen RGGI, the oversupply of allowances is likely to increase following recent commitments to foster zero-carbon energy. As detailed in our recent report, new commitments to clean energy in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut will reduce emissions by 45 million tons from 2020 to 2030, and New York has signaled support for the continued operation of existing nuclear facilities.

In the latest auction all 14,911,315 available allowances were sold at a clearing price of $4.54, which is nearly identical to the the previous auction ($4.53) and 25% lower than the clearing price from one year ago. The RGGI states raised $67,697,370 dollars from Auction 33, and have now raised $2.58 billion for reinvestment since the program began, the majority of which has been used to fund energy efficiency and other consumer benefit programs. Auction 33 coincides with the final stretch of the 2016 Program Review. As the RGGI states work to reach consensus on program reforms, the results of this auction and recent market trends should help to inform the decision-making process.

“RGGI emissions through the first half of 2016 were the lowest they have been in the program’s history, and annual emissions have been below the RGGI cap level in each of the program’s seven years to date,” said Acadia Center President, Daniel Sosland. “This shows that emissions are falling quickly and even more cost-effectively than expected and provides the foundation on which RGGI states can feel confident going forward to set more ambitious emission targets.”

Given the low volume of trades that have taken place since the previous auction and the relatively modest change in prices, Auction 33 may be viewed as an inflection point, as many market participants are waiting to see what the RGGI states do next in the Program Review. If the RGGI states announce measures that will result in greater stringency, such as an annual 5% cap decline, adjustment for banked allowances and cost containment reserve (CCR) reform, the RGGI market will likely recover. On the other hand, failing to commit to a future allowance adjustment, leaving the CCR unchanged, and establishing a less ambitious post-2020 cap would signal a long-term oversupply.

“The RGGI states showed great foresight during the previous Program Review by dramatically reducing the cap and adjusting for banked allowances,” said Peter Shattuck, Director of Acadia Center’s Clean Energy Initiative. “Now, four years later, continued emissions declines necessitate similar measures. Establishing ambitious cap levels and committing to future allowance adjustment will help propel the region’s clean energy transition.”

rggi-auction-9-9-2016

“An oversupplied market and low RGGI prices limited the program’s impact in its early years,” said Jordan Stutt, Policy Analyst with Acadia Center. “Failing to strengthen RGGI through the Program Review could result in similarly low prices, depriving the region of funding for clean energy programs and sending inadequate market signals to clean up the region’s power sector.”

 

Information on the 2016 RGGI Program Review, including meeting materials and stakeholder comments, can be found at: http://www.rggi.org/design/2016-program-review

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

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

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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.