Acadia Center Applauds New England’s Continued Nation-Leading Progress on Energy Efficiency
BOSTON — The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a national nonpartisan organization, released its 2017 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard today, with Massachusetts holding the #1 rank for the seventh straight year, Rhode Island climbing to #3, Vermont at #4, and Connecticut at #6. Maine and New Hampshire were ranked #13 and #21, respectively.
New England states’ rankings in the category of utility and public benefit efficiency programs are even more impressive. Together, these programs represent the single largest state policy-driven impact on greenhouse gas emissions in the region. The efficiency investments driven by these programs have brought tremendous energy and bill savings to the region’s residents. They have also halted the growth of peak electric usage and its associated need for expensive new transmission projects. Rhode Island was first in this category, followed by Massachusetts, Vermont, and Connecticut. Maine was ranked twelfth, and New Hampshire sixteenth.
“Maximizing efficiency is a major step toward putting the region on the path to the clean energy future detailed in Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 report. The New England states are showing that deploying least-cost, non-polluting measures effectively reduces the need for expensive fossil fuels. The leading states are successfully using this approach to spur economic development while also benefitting the environment and consumers, who enjoy lower costs and healthier, more comfortable spaces in which to live and work,” said Dan Sosland, Acadia Center President.
Massachusetts is leading the way with a current 3-year efficiency plan (2016‑2018) that is expected to deliver $8.1 billion in economic benefits and energy savings, as well as environmental benefits equivalent to removing approximately 408,000 cars from the road. The plan sets annual 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. In 2016, Massachusetts programs far exceeded these goals, achieving savings of 3.34% of sales for electric efficiency.
“Massachusetts holds the first-place ranking alone this year—and for an amazing seven years running—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 applaud our success, but not rest on our laurels. We must 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 will reduce costs, make processes more transparent and keep us on track to stay on top of the evolving ACEEE scoring criteria.”
Rhode Island’s Least Cost Procurement law is primarily responsible for the state’s continued leadership on energy efficiency. First implemented a decade ago and extended for another five years in 2015, the policy states that distribution companies cannot acquire new electric or natural gas supply until “all cost-effective” energy efficiency measures have been exhausted. However, recent actions by Rhode Island state government, including a diversion of $12.5 million in ratepayer funds collected for energy efficiency, will make it difficult for the state to maintain its ranking next year.
“By investing in low-cost energy efficiency instead of expensive electricity and natural gas, Rhode Island lowers energy bills and spurs economic growth,” said Erika Niedowski, Rhode Island Policy Advocate 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.”
A widening gap has emerged between the electric efficiency programs of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont and other states, with Vermont achieving 65% more savings than Connecticut. These three leading states have fully embraced efficiency as a resource, just like electric generation, and are choosing the lower-cost option of efficiency. The second tier of energy efficiency performers, Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire, finished the year with a mix of improved performance in some areas and need for improvement in others. Maine continues to achieve respectable savings levels and leads the nation in the deployment of clean, efficient heat pumps, despite a difficult political environment for clean energy. New Hampshire’s new Energy Efficiency Resource Standard promises to finally put that state on a path to reducing energy waste. Even with this progress, New Hampshire, as well as Connecticut and Maine, have plans to achieve only about half the electric efficiency savings that Massachusetts did in 2016.
“Connecticut dropped a spot to #6 this year, an indication that its historical commitments to energy efficiency are not enough. As other states are making big gains, Connecticut is only cutting half the energy waste it can,” said Kerry Schlichting, Connecticut Policy Advocate with Acadia Center. “Leaving these savings on the table is a loss for residents and businesses. Officials should reevaluate opportunities for future efficiency gains through increasing savings targets, addressing languishing appliance standards and tackling energy waste in state buildings.”
“It is unfortunate to see that Maine’s ranking dropped for the first time in five years, falling two spots to #13,” said Acadia Center Maine Policy Advocate Kathleen Meil. “As other states ramp up their commitment to energy efficiency, Maine’s drop demonstrates that standing still means falling behind.”
“Despite the temporary dip in savings and spending in 2016 for both the electric and natural gas programs, New Hampshire’s new Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) promises to finally put that state on a path to reducing energy waste,” said Ellen Hawes, Senior Analyst at Acadia Center.
“New England is on the right path, far ahead of some other regions, but there is still work to do to make the most of this clean resource. The states need to find better ways to weatherize older buildings, integrate new technologies, and accelerate strategies to reach all types of homes and businesses,” said Jamie Howland, Director of Acadia Center’s Energy Efficiency and Demand Side Initiative.
As a member of efficiency stakeholder boards in multiple states, 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://www.aceee.org/state-policy/scorecard
Jamie Howland, Director, Energy Efficiency and Demand Side Initiative
860-246-7121 x201, email@example.com
Krysia Wazny, Communications Director
617-742-0054 x107, firstname.lastname@example.org
45 Organizations Call for New York to Lower Monthly Mandatory Electric Charges
New York, N.Y. — Today, Acadia Center, Alliance for a Green Economy, Natural Resources Defense Council, Vote Solar, and 41 other organizations joined to support a common set of principles to address one of New York’s most regressive charges for utility service: the unavoidable monthly fee that all residential customers must pay regardless of the amount of electricity consumed. “Joint Principles on Residential Fixed Charges in New York” calls on New York utility regulators to lower these inefficient and regressive rates. The 45 organizations come from many different perspectives, including low-income and consumer advocates, environmental and clean energy public interest organizations, solar advocates, and clean energy industry groups, and span national organizations as well as community organizations across New York.
“In order to achieve a cleaner, more modern and consumer friendly energy system, New York needs to reform and lower fixed charges. The current regressive approach was adopted in the 1990s and places barriers in the way of consumer adoption of modern technologies like solar and energy efficiency” said Daniel Sosland, president of Acadia Center, which has successfully advocated for lower residential fixed charges in Connecticut. “The diverse array of groups who have endorsed lowering fixed charges show that this would be a win for ratepayers, clean energy, and communities across New York.”
New York has very high fixed customer charges compared to other states. For example, National Grid has a residential fixed charge of $17 in New York, but only $5 in Rhode Island and $5.50 in Massachusetts. Central Hudson has even higher fixed charges at $24, which it is seeking to increase to $25, as well as an additional tiered “service size charge” for many customers. Acadia Center found that current average residential customer charges for major investor-owned utilities are higher in New York than all of its neighboring states. New York’s fixed charges are even higher than Wisconsin, a state that has been widely criticized for approving large fixed charge increases since 2014.
Mark LeBel, Attorney and Associate Director of Acadia Center’s Grid Modernization and Utility Reform Initiative, said: “Most states across the country use a definition for residential fixed charges that is much narrower than New York’s approach. Our testimony in the National Grid rate case demonstrated that residential fixed charges are currently far too high and that reform would benefit the majority of residential ratepayers. Large consumers would pay more, but 61% of monthly bills would go down with lower residential fixed charges.”
“We see no reason why utility customers in New York should be paying fixed charges that are three times higher than those paid to the same company by customers in other states,” said Jessica Azulay, program director of Alliance for a Green Economy. “It’s high time to reduce these charges so that low-income customers, low energy users, and people who want to invest in energy efficiency and renewables are no longer overburdened with these regressive and unfair costs.”
“High unavoidable charges on electricity bills have a disproportionate impact on lower income customers who use less energy and decrease the incentive for customers to make energy efficiency improvements or invest in clean energy through actions like participating in a community solar project or installing solar panels,” said Miles Farmer, a Clean Energy Attorney at Natural Resources Defense Council. “New York utilities should reduce fixed charges and instead focus on designing rates that empower customers.”
“Vote Solar is proud to stand with dozens of organizations working for customer rights, community health, environmental justice and clean energy progress in the call for lower fixed charges,” said Nathan Phelps, program manager of DG regulatory policy at Vote Solar. “In order for New York to succeed in its ambitious and laudable clean energy vision, it must empower families and businesses to take control of their own electric bills. Lowering fixed charges is a critical step to achieving that vision.”
Cullen Howe, Acadia Center’s New York Director, noted, “Acadia Center supports the overall vision that has been laid out by the Public Service Commission and Cuomo Administration over the last several years. Lower residential fixed charges will help enable the goals of Reforming the Energy Vision, including increased energy efficiency and vibrant markets for clean energy.”
Cullen Howe, Senior Attorney & New York Director
Mark LeBel, Attorney & Associate Director, Grid Modernization and Utility Reform Initiative
email@example.com, 617-742-0054 x104
Krysia Wazny, Communications Director
firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-742-0054 x107
Acadia Center Strengthens New York Office and Hires New York State Director
It is an exciting time for clean energy issues in New York. New York’s ongoing Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding, its goal of 50% renewable energy by 2030, and its continued participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative provide key elements for the future of the state’s energy system. Acadia Center’s recently completed report, EnergyVision 2030, shows that New York can reduce emissions 45% and be on a path to a clean energy system by the year 2030 if the state acts now to further strengthen its commitment to clean energy technologies. To facilitate the action necessary to achieve this vision for all New Yorkers, Acadia Center has taken the next step, strengthening its staffing capacity in New York and hiring a full-time staff director of its New York program.
Acadia Center has been active on selected issues in the state for several years, participating with colleague organizations in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and other energy and climate issues. New York’s REV process—one of the most comprehensive reassessments of energy policy occurring in the country—has offered opportunities for Acadia Center’s experience in energy policy, energy efficiency and climate mitigation to be applied in New York forums. Fully active in the many REV proceedings, Acadia Center has focused on energy efficiency, power grid modernization, and climate policy. In 2015, by invitation of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Acadia Center hosted a multiday meeting at the Pocantico Conference Center focusing on utility reform and grid modernization issues. Beginning in 2015, the organization helped to protect the integrity of New York’s new Clean Energy Standard by successfully arguing against counting large hydropower as a renewable resource eligible for ratepayer support. In addition, it participated in the settlement phases of Con Edison’s most recent rate case and successfully advocated for the utility to increase its investments in energy efficiency.
This past July, this work ramped up when Acadia Center hired me as Senior Attorney as its inaugural New York Director, joining Acadia Center’s New York project team of lawyers and energy policy experts. I’ve joined the team at an exciting moment for the organization and the state. I came to Acadia Center from the New York City Council, where I had been a legislative counsel and was responsible for drafting and negotiating a wide variety of legislation focused on energy efficiency, clean energy, and sustainability. Before that I was an environmental law specialist at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer’s New York City office, where I focused on federal and state environmental issues involving climate change, energy efficiency, and green buildings. My work at Acadia Center largely focuses on policies that I’ve been working on throughout my career—policies that move us toward a future fueled by clean energy and energy efficiency.
One of my first tasks has been representing Acadia Center in a rate case brought by National Grid. The utility is seeking to increase customer rates by $331 million beginning next year. Acadia Center has focused on National Grid’s high fixed customer charges, which are charges all customers pay regardless of the amount of electricity they use. In most states, fixed charges range between $5 and $10 a month for residential customers, but in some states, including New York, these charges are much higher.
Since I started in the role of director, Acadia Center has released a paper explaining the problems with high utility fixed charges, which detrimentally impact consumer incentives to invest in energy efficiency and solar power, and the organization has filed testimony in the rate case stating that a reasonable range for customer charges would be between $5.57 and $8.30. We have also focused outreach efforts on educating consumers about the issue of high fixed charges and about opportunities to make their voices heard. This work will continue as Acadia Center expands its reach in New York, advocating for sustainable solutions across the energy system.
RGGI States Leading the Way Toward Economic and Environmental Success
BOSTON — A new report from Acadia Center shows that the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states’ Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) continues to deliver for the economy, for the environment, and for public health. The program is driving down CO2 emissions, which have declined in each of the last 6 years and are down 40% since the program launched. The RGGI states have outperformed the rest of the country in emissions reductions and economic growth over this period, and the region has seen average electricity prices fall while prices have increased in the rest of the country. On top of all this, the program has driven substantial reductions in harmful co-pollutants, making the region’s air cleaner and its people healthier.
The report, Outpacing the Nation: RGGI’s Environmental and Economic Success, describes key trends and drivers, including the following:
- Emissions of CO2 fell 8.4% below the RGGI cap in 2016, and emissions have declined 40% since RGGI launched.
- Average electricity prices across the region have decreased by 6.4% since RGGI took effect, while electricity prices in other states have increased by 6.2%.
- RGGI states have reduced emissions 15% faster than other states and have seen 4.3% more economic growth since RGGI launched.
- Proposed RGGI reforms will result in 130 million fewer tons of CO2 and $1.28 billion in avoided health impacts through 2031.
“States in RGGI are demonstrating the power of bipartisan climate leadership,” said Daniel L. Sosland, Acadia Center President. “RGGI is a powerful example of an effective policy that drives economic, consumer, health and climate benefits while tackling a major challenge. Responsible leaders know we need to address climate change, and RGGI provides a readily available blueprint for success.”
“Launching RGGI took bold action from the region’s Governors, and thanks to that leadership the participating states have been reaping the rewards ever since,” said Peter Shattuck, Director of Acadia Center’s Clean Energy Initiative. “The current RGGI Governors have built on that success by strengthening the program for the future, ensuring that RGGI will continue to deliver benefits for years to come.”
“The RGGI states have shown that we don’t have to choose between ambitious climate policy and economic prosperity. In fact, RGGI’s track record has proven that ambitious climate policy can drive economic prosperity,” said Jordan Stutt, Policy Analyst at Acadia Center. “Now that the program for the electric sector has been strengthened and extended, we hope this proven model will be expanded to cover more states and applied to the region’s largest source of climate pollution: transportation.”
For more information, see: acadiacenter.staging.wpengine.com/document/outpacing-the-nation-rggi
Jordan Stutt, Policy Analyst
email@example.com, (617) 742-0054 x105
Peter Shattuck, Director, Clean Energy Initiative
firstname.lastname@example.org, (617) 742-0054 x103
Krysia Wazny, Communications Director
email@example.com, (617) 742-0054 x107
Labor, Environmental Leaders Urge Connecticut Action on Offshore Wind
HARTFORD, CT — More than sixty labor, religious, environmental and business leaders gathered on Wednesday to discuss the development of offshore wind energy in New England and to call for Connecticut to act quickly to secure a share of the jobs and economic activity.
The half-day forum, hosted by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (“IBEW”) Local 90 in Wallingford, was organized by the CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs and Acadia Center, with co-sponsorship from the Connecticut Port Authority and the Greater Hartford-New Britain Building and Construction Trades Council.
Following the gathering, the CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs is submitting a letter, endorsed by more than 120 people representing more than 55 towns across the state, as a public comment on the state’s Draft Comprehensive Energy Strategy (“CES”). The letter urges the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (“DEEP”) to revise the draft CES to incorporate a meaningful commitment to offshore wind energy, taking advantage of planned development in pre-designated federal waters south of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
“By taking advantage of lessons learned from neighboring states, Connecticut can develop a robust offshore wind strategy that leverages our modern port facilities and skilled labor pool to capture a share of the benefits of this emerging regional resource,” said John Humphries, organizer for the CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs.
“Under legislation passed this year, DEEP now has the authority to procure offshore wind energy. Rather than including any recommendation that Connecticut take advantage of even that limited authority, however, the draft CES downplays the opportunity,” said Kerry Schlichting, Policy Advocate at Acadia Center. “The state must establish a clear path to securing a share of the regional economic and environmental benefits from offshore wind or risk losing out to its neighbors like New York and Massachusetts.”
So far Connecticut has lagged behind its neighboring states in creating a long-term energy strategy that embraces offshore wind. The Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island is operational, Massachusetts is actively reviewing offshore wind project bids, and New York, Maryland, and New Jersey are all developing their own ambitious programs. The scale of this offshore wind development presents an enormous economic opportunity for Connecticut’s deep-water ports, coastal communities and workers. To catch up and capture its share of this new economic opportunity, the state needs to develop a sound policy framework for offshore wind procurement.
The coalition’s CES comment builds on this week’s forum and argues that the final CES should ensure alignment of the state’s energy strategies with its mandated climate goals, while also envisioning a clean energy future that prioritizes local economic development and job creation.
Wednesday’s forum featured a panel discussion with labor leaders from Rhode Island and New York. Construction of the region’s first offshore wind farm off the coast of Block Island employed more than 300 union workers, including some from Connecticut. Advocacy by New York’s labor movement was critical in securing Governor Cuomo’s January 2017 executive order addressing the procurement of offshore wind energy.
For more information on Connecticut’s offshore wind opportunity and steps for state policy makers, please see Acadia Center’s analysis.
Kerry Schlichting, Policy Advocate, Acadia Center
firstname.lastname@example.org, 860-246-7121 ext. 208
John Humphries, Organizer, CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs
Public Service Commission Decision Undermines Consumer-Friendly Future for Solar Power and Clean Distributed Energy
NEW YORK — The Public Service Commission (PSC) issued an important Implementation Order on September 14, 2017, in the Value of Distributed Energy Resources (VDER) proceeding (Case 15-E-0751). Unfortunately, this order will impede the advancement of solar energy in New York and impose unnecessary barriers on the ability of consumers, businesses and communities to benefit from this clean energy resource. The structure laid out by the PSC in March of 2017 promised to reform and update New York’s approach to valuing solar energy and expanding consumer solar markets. The Order undermines the new VDER net metering structure because it undervalues distributed resources on the basis of unvetted utility studies that minimize solar’s economic value. In doing so, the Commission’s Order conflicts with the distributed energy future envisioned by New York’s historic and ambitious Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) future.
“The promise of a modern energy system that allows clean energy to flourish depends upon a fair determination of the economic value of solar and other clean energy resources,” said Daniel Sosland, president of Acadia Center, which has provided detailed comments on solar values in the PSC case. “Defining solar power’s economic future solely on information provided by electric utilities, who want to tilt the playing field towards investments that benefit the utility and its shareholders, is not a formula for short-term or long-term success.”
Mark LeBel, Associate Director of Acadia Center’s Grid Modernization Initiative, said, “The Commission has made a major mistake by approving unvetted marginal cost of service studies from Central Hudson, NYSEG and RGE. These studies all improperly limited the potential values provided by distributed energy resources. In addition, Central Hudson used a new and untested methodology that has never been put forward before in an adjudicated proceeding, and the Commission failed to address several detailed critiques brought forward by Acadia Center and other parties.”
Cullen Howe, Acadia Center’s New York Director, noted, “Acadia Center supports the overall vision that has been laid out by the Commission and the Cuomo Administration over the last several years. However, implementation of this vision cannot ignore the details and the practical realities of how to animate markets for energy efficiency and clean energy.”
Cullen Howe, Senior Attorney & New York Director
Mark LeBel, Attorney & Associate Director, Grid Modernization Initiative
617.742.0054 x104, email@example.com
Krysia Wazny, Communications Director & Coordinator, Public Engagement Initiative
617.742.0054 x107, firstname.lastname@example.org
Maine Grassroots Climate Change Action Conference draws activists statewide
One of the well-attended sessions was titled “Maine’s Clean Energy Future: A Vision for 2030 Fossil Fuel Free and Non-Transmission Alternatives.”
Kathleen Meil, of Acadia Center, an advocate for clean energy, said Maine is a leader in utilization of heat pumps.
“Heat pumps are paying off,“ she said.
Her presentation also emphasized that further introduction of natural gas into Maine is not an effective strategy.
“We are done with natural gas,” Meil said. “Natural gas is not the future.”
Read the full article from the Sun Journal here.
Environmentalists say state’s energy plan falls short
But in a letter to Klee last week, 24 environmental groups — including the Acadia Center, the Sierra Club and the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters — challenged Klee’s assumption, saying DEEP’s plan is too modest to achieve those goals.
Read the full article from the Connecticut Post here.
RGGI Auction Prices Rebound in Response to Proposed Changes
BOSTON — Prices increased in the first Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) auction since the participating states proposed a set of changes to the program. This is an initial indication that the market expects the program to be stronger in the future. All 14,371,585 available allowances were sold at a clearing price of $4.35, generating $62,516,395 in revenue for reinvestment. This brings the program’s total revenue to $2.78 billion—most of which has been used to fund energy efficiency and other consumer benefit programs. The Auction 37 clearing price is 72% higher than the previous auction and 4% lower than the clearing price from one year ago. This marks an end to the steady decline in auction clearing prices that began in early 2016.
The key changes announced by the states include:
- Reducing the emissions cap by 30% from 2020 to 2030;
- Conducting a full adjustment for banked allowances;
- Strengthening the existing Cost Containment Reserve; and
- Establishing an Emissions Containment Reserve
“We applaud the RGGI states for working together to improve the program, and the Auction 37 results show that these changes should make RGGI stronger,” said Acadia Center President Daniel Sosland. “After nearly two years of negotiations, the states have put RGGI on a course for long-term success.”
“Proposed policy changes have driven prices upward in this auction, but implementing RGGI reforms is the only way to ensure that prices won’t dive again,” said Jordan Stutt, Policy Analyst with Acadia Center. “Emissions continue to fall rapidly—each of the first two quarters in 2017 resulted in record low quarterly emissions—and even the new cap may not decline quickly enough to keep up with decarbonization in the electric sector. Fortunately, the new addition of an Emissions Containment Reserve should help the states reduce emissions further, at low costs to consumers.”
“The increase in allowance prices is a testament to the leadership of the RGGI states,” said Peter Shattuck, Director of Acadia Center’s Clean Energy Initiative. “By following through on proposed reforms, the nine RGGI states can demonstrate the power of bipartisan action to address climate change.”
Information on RGGI’s performance to date can be found in Acadia Center’s latest RGGI Status Report:
Additional information on the benefits of RGGI can be found at https://www.cleanenergyeconomy.us/
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
Jordan Stutt, Policy Analyst, Clean Energy Initiative
email@example.com, 617-742-0054 x105
Peter Shattuck, Director, Clean Energy Initiative
firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-742-0054 x103
Green groups push CT for more ambitious renewable standards
Two dozen officials from groups like Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Acadia Center, Sierra Club, CT Roundtable on Climate & Jobs and Connecticut Citizen Action Group signed a letter delivered to DEEP ahead of its Thursday afternoon public hearing on the draft Comprehensive Energy Strategy (CES), released last month.
Read the full article from the Hartford Business Journal here.