New London, state leaders push offshore wind development as Mass., R.I. projects move forward

Emily Lewis of the Acadia Center, which advocates for renewable energy, applauded Massachusetts’ and Rhode Island’s push for offshore wind.

“Today’s announcement should inspire all northeast states to set their own offshore wind commitments, and states with existing processes should keep things moving forward,” Lewis said.

Lewis noted New York had committed to producing 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, and New Jersey has called for projects totaling 3,500 megawatts by 2030.

Read the full article from The Day here (article may be behind paywall).

Massachusetts and Rhode Island Select Offshore Wind Projects Totaling 1200 MW

BOSTON – Today, Massachusetts utilities, in coordination with the MA Department of Energy Resources, selected Vineyard Wind’s offshore wind proposal and will begin contract negotiations. Simultaneously, Rhode Island selected one of the other two bidders in the competitive selection process, Deepwater Wind, to build a new wind farm for the state. The decision moves large-scale offshore wind one step closer to construction in the Northeast, and it expands Rhode Island’s offshore wind capacity by more than ten times. Vineyard Wind’s winning project in Massachusetts will provide 800 MW of electricity to the state—enough to power about 440,000 homes—with the first phase coming online as early as 2021. The Deepwater Wind project will provide 400 MW of electricity, powering about 225,000 homes.

“Acadia Center congratulates Massachusetts and Rhode Island for taking these crucial steps that cement them as leaders on offshore wind,” said Deborah Donovan, Acadia Center’s Massachusetts Director. “Massachusetts is now leading the region and the country in offshore wind development and is making strides to fulfill its promise to clean energy. The Commonwealth is locking in its position as the offshore wind hub for the Northeast, and both states will reap early economic benefits from their commitment to this clean energy technology.”

In addition to providing clean energy, the Vineyard Wind proposal contains several provisions to boost the Massachusetts economy, including use of the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal and $15 million of investment in a Massachusetts Offshore Wind Accelerator Program. Vineyard Wind expects the project to generate about 3,600 jobs. The proposal also includes innovative community partnerships, support for low-income ratepayers and a demonstration of battery energy storage benefits. Acadia Center urges the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to advance the process to secure these benefits by submitting negotiated contracts to the Department of Public Utilities for approval on schedule, by July 31, 2018.

Rhode Island’s selection of Deepwater Wind’s Revolution Wind project will also create hundreds of local and indirect jobs. Erika Niedowski, Acadia Center Policy Advocate in Rhode Island, said of the project, “With the Block Island wind farm, Rhode Island became the first state in the nation to produce electricity through offshore wind. Today’s announcement shows the state’s commitment to making clean energy generation available to all residents while spurring the economy and reducing climate pollution.”

“Massachusetts and Rhode Island are setting the example for how the Northeast states can commit to and follow through on large-scale offshore wind developments,” said Emily Lewis, policy analyst at Acadia Center. “Today’s announcement should inspire all the Northeast states to set their own offshore wind commitments, and states with existing processes should keep things moving forward. We hope to hear from Connecticut on their RFP in June as planned, for example.”

Following Massachusetts’ announcement that it would bring 1600 MW of offshore wind to the state by 2027, New York committed to 2400 MW by 2030 and New Jersey to 3500 MW by 2030. Currently, as part of its commitment, New York is soliciting input to inform an upcoming request for proposals. Connecticut is currently evaluating three offshore wind proposals for up to 200 MW. Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 suggests that New England and New York should develop 6400 MW of offshore wind by 2030 to stay on track to meet their emissions reduction targets.


Media Contacts:

Deborah Donovan, Massachusetts Director
ddonovan@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x103

Krysia Wazny, Communications Director
kwazny@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x107

RI Biomass Bill Sparks Debate Between Environmentalists, Green Energy Developers

Rhode Island lawmakers want biomass to be a part of that program, but environmentalists are against the idea.

“Burning biomass produces carbon dioxide, of course, and a host of other pollutants, including particulate matter and nitrous oxide,” Erika Niedowski, policy advocate for Acadia Center, said.

Read or listen to the full report from Rhode Island Public Radio here.

Connecticut’s Emissions Reduction Opportunity

Connecticut’s transportation system – the network of highways, trains, public transit, and walking and biking corridors – is vital to the state’s economy as it facilitates movement of goods and connects people to jobs and opportunities.  However, the system needs critical updates to continue to support the state.  

At the same time, the transportation system is the largest source (41%) of Connecticut’s greenhouse gas emissions (“GHGs”), which must be reduced for the state to meet its climate commitments.   

These two challenges of improving the transportation system and reducing GHGs can be addressed by applying a policy model that has been successfully used to clean up electricity generation and raise funds through emissions reductions.  

The Cap and Invest Model

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (“RGGI”) established in 2009 put a price on carbon emissions from electricity generation and used the proceeds to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Since the program began: 

  • CO2 emissions in the region have dropped by 50%
  • $4 billion of economic activity has been generated
  • Tens of thousands of jobs have been created.1

Connecticut was a founding member of this regional cap-and-invest program, and as of 2017 had spent about $201 million of RGGI proceeds on clean energy projects. As of 2014, the latest figures available, RGGI expenditures added about $245 million to Connecticut’s economy, created 2,200 job-years, and helped avoid $13 million in health impacts.2

A similar regional cap-and-invest program could be applied to transportation to raise revenues, reduce emissions, and stimulate the economy.  To better understand this opportunity, Acadia Center looked at a scenario that reduced Connecticut’s transportation GHGs 4%, or nearly 4 million metric tons of CO2, by 2030 compared to the baseline scenario from EnergyVision 2030.3 This level of emissions reductions is aligned with Georgetown Climate Center’s estimate for market-based policy compared to existing Federal policies.4

Revenue and Reinvestment Strategies

Based on a $15/ton carbon price,5 the state could generate about $2.5 billion in revenue between 2019-2030 by capping emissions. Connecticut could allocate these funds in many ways to improve transportation and reduce GHGs. For example:

  • Maximizing transportation GHG reductions by designating 100% of the program proceeds to emissions reduction measures, such as transit expansion, consumer electric vehicle and charging infrastructure rebates, and electrification of medium and heavy-duty vehicles like transit or school buses.
  • Designating funding for infrastructure maintenance and transit operations, which could also reduce GHGs (by reducing traffic congestion, for example) as an ancillary benefit.

 

To provide an example of the revenue that could be generated by a cap-and-invest program, Acadia Center examined a 50/50 portfolio, with half of the program proceeds going to maintenance of infrastructure and half going to specific GHG reduction measures (Table 1). This portfolio is only provided as a point of reference, not a recommendation, and it does not include the full suite of activities that could be funded with proceeds.

Table 1: Simplified Reinvestment Portfolio for Connecticut’s Proceeds from Transportation Climate Policy

Simplified Reinvestment Portfolio

Benefits from Reinvestment

By examining the benefits of similar transportation expenditures in Connecticut and the U.S., Acadia Center has estimated some of the economic activity and other monetary benefits a 50/50 portfolio could generate (Figure 1). The total benefits from both tracks of spending are estimated at:

  • $10.3 billion in economic output.
  • $4.3 billion in added personal income.
  • $11.6 billion in other benefits including fewer hours spent in traffic (not including the value of reduced GHG emissions).
  • Over 3,000 long-term jobs created (i.e. not temporary construction jobs).
  • $86 million in savings from avoided GHG emissions7 avoided costs.

 

Figure 1: Increased Economic Activity and Other Benefits from Reinvesting Transportation Climate Policy Revenues8

Benefits of reinvesting TCI revenues


For more information:

Emily Lewis, Policy Analyst
elewis@acadiacenter.org, 860-246-7121 x207


1See: Analysis Group’s The Economic Impacts of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative on Nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States: Review of RGGI’s Third Three-Year Compliance Period (2015-2017)

2See: Acadia Center’s Clean Energy Investments at Stake in Connecticut

3See Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 Technical Appendix for modeling details. The Baseline scenario includes existing EPA/DOT fuel efficiency standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles, as well as the existing Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards through 2025.

4See: Georgetown Climate Center’s  Technical Appendix Emission Reduction Strategy Analysis from Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Transportation: Opportunities in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic

5Georgetown Climate Center’s analysis estimates a carbon price for market-based transportation climate policy between $5-$30/ton CO2.

6See: Economic Analysis Reports for the 1-84 Viaduct, the I-84/Route 8 Mixmaster in Waterbury, and the New Haven Rail Line, available in the November 2015 Briefing for the Transportation Finance Panel, and NREL’s National Economic Value Assessment of Plug-In Electric Vehicles.

7See: EPA’s Social Cost of Carbon methodology

8Other benefits calculated as present value. Output and income are cumulative totals over the project lifespans.

Natural gas is not a clean fuel

Altemose is correct that the Globe overstates the environmental impact of this winter’s reliance on old coal- and oil-fired generating plants.  A May 2018 report from the Acadia Center states  “annual GHG emissions from electricity generation in New England have continued to trend strongly downward since the early 2000s, even when taking the 2017-18 winter into account.”

An even more worrisome aspect of the Globe’s stance on the use of coal and oil on especially frigid winter days is the message that natural gas is a clean fuel.  That is the unrelenting drumbeat of the fossil fuel industry, and it is disturbing to watch the Globe amplify it.

Read the full article from Commonwealth Magazine here.

R.I. lawmakers poised to OK biomass bill

But environmental groups that include the Conservation Law Foundation and the Acadia Center counter that burning wood waste will produce carbon emissions and nitrous oxides. They also say that if the plant were to burn other construction or demolition debris, it would release potential contaminants from lead paint and arsenic.

“Expanding use of biomass will increase conventional air pollution by subsidizing a technology — wood burning — that is one of the largest sources of air pollution in the U.S. per megawatt hour of energy produced,” James Bryan McCaffrey, of the Partnership for Policy Integrity, wrote in testimony to the General Assembly.

Read the full article form the Providence Journal here.

Another skirmish in the pipeline wars

Mark LeBel, a staff attorney at Acadia, said no one wants to see emission levels go up. “But the bottom line is in terms of overall pollution you want to look at annual progress,” he said. On that score, he said, New England is headed in the right direction.

Read the full article from CommonWealth Magazine here.

Nuclear waste storage projects receive bipartisan boost

Titus on Thursday proposed an amendment paving the way for consent-based siting and scrapping the Yucca Mountain project. It failed 332-80.

Emily Lewis of the Acadia Center, which promotes clean energy, said Friday a “consensus-based process” was favorable, because “we need a central repository for that waste, but it seems like that community does not want that storage.”

Read the full article from The Day here (article may be behind paywall).

Clearing the Air: Long-Term Trends and Context for New England’s Electricity Grid

Some entities and stakeholders have raised concerns about the environmental performance of New England’s electricity system during a particularly cold multi-week period in December 2017 and January 2018. Specifically, they have called attention to emissions due to the amount of oil and coal used for electricity generation during that time. Acadia Center takes these concerns very seriously and advocates strongly for reducing pollution that hurts public health and the climate in order to meet the region’s science-based requirements.

In addition, some of these stakeholders are advancing a specific proposal that they argue would solve the region’s emissions issues, a multi-billion-dollar electric ratepayer-funded investment in new natural gas pipeline capacity. Public investments in natural gas pipelines would have significant consequences for the region and the claimed benefits of such an investment should be scrutinized closely.

To provide perspective on the grid’s environmental performance this past winter and the impacts of a proposed major expansion of natural gas pipeline capacity, Acadia Center has developed a fact sheet which takes a comprehensive look at several different regional trends for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, electricity generation, and fuel consumption across all sectors. The results demonstrate that the selective statistics used by pipeline advocates are incomplete at best and significantly misleading at worst.

Policymakers in the region should not be misled by pipeline advocates and must consider a full set of options to ensure that New England continues to progress toward a clean, reliable, and affordable electricity system in the coming years. Eight charts on relevant issues are presented in the fact sheet, but the most important points are included here.

New England is making significant progress reducing GHG emissions from the electric sector over the long-term. New England GHG emissions from electricity generation from March 2017 through February 2018 were 53% lower than in 2001-02, 26% lower than in 2012-13, and 8% lower than in 2016-17. Progress reducing GHG emissions in the electric sector is undeniable, even accounting for emissions related to the cold snap in December 2017 and January 2018.

Figure 1 – Annual GHG Emissions (Mar. to Feb.) from Electricity
Generation in New England

The region has historically seen significant monthly variation in GHG emissions from electricity generation. While GHG emissions from electricity generation in New England were higher in December 2017 and January 2018 than some other months, seasonal and monthly variation in GHG emissions is normal. Monthly GHG emissions from electricity generation in New England are typically higher in hot summers and cold winters. January 2018 was the 10th highest month of GHG emissions dating back to the beginning of 2014, while February 2018 was the lowest in the 21st century.

Figure 2 – Monthly GHG Emissions from Electricity Generation
in New England

GHG emissions from electricity generation are falling in New England because of several drivers, including energy efficiency, increased renewables investment, and a major decrease in the amount of electricity generation from coal and oil. Annual electricity generated by coal and oil from March 2017 through February 2018 was 91% lower than the levels in 2001-02 and 49% lower than just five years ago in 2012-13.

Figure 3 – Annual Electricity Generation from Coal and Oil (Mar. to Feb.)
in New England

New England is rapidly approaching the limit of the GHG reduction strategy of replacing electricity generation from coal and oil with natural gas. As might be expected, coal and oil generation has been reduced in part through increases in natural gas generation. However, as a long-term strategy, shifting from one fossil fuel to another will not allow for the GHG emissions reductions the region needs to meet its science-based commitments.

GHG emissions from natural gas combustion across all sectors, including those from gas delivered through two recent regional pipeline expansions, will be an increasingly significant percentage of overall regional GHG emission limits over time. Looking at combustion emissions in isolation also understates the overall impact of emissions from natural gas because it ignores the significant GHG emissions during extraction and delivery. Adding a major new regional pipeline would only exacerbate this issue, potentially increasing combustion emissions from natural gas to 49% of the overall regional GHG emissions target in 2030, and that would rise to 72% in 2040, and 135% in 2050.

Figure 4 – Natural Gas Combustion Emissions in New England from All Sectors Versus Overall Regional GHG Emissions Requirements

Of course, emissions are not the only important policy consideration for the successful operation of New England’s grid. Other serious considerations are reliability and consumer costs. Some stakeholders have argued that there is a medium-term reliability risk, which could lead to rolling blackouts or other harms. However, a recent report from Synapse Energy Economics demonstrates that, with reasonable expectations for growth in demand for electricity and natural gas and accounting for planned investments in renewables and transmission for clean energy, the risk of major reliability issues is close to zero. Keeping on this path will take some effort but should be achievable.

On the consumer costs side, using hard-earned ratepayer dollars for major new natural gas pipelines would not have any impact on electricity prices until construction is finished, which could be in 2022 or even later. Furthermore, there are good reasons to think that purported consumer benefits would not outweigh the guaranteed costs that ratepayers would have to pay. Major investments are currently being planned for offshore wind and new transmission lines for clean energy that would come online in the same timeframe as a pipeline, and these investments undercut many of the alleged benefits of a pipeline. Additional pipeline capacity would also increase the chances of exporting natural gas out of New England, which would drive up natural gas prices.

In the shorter term, many other available policy options can help improve the reliability of New England’s grid and reduce costs, while simultaneously lowering emissions. This year, ISO-NE is implementing “pay-for-performance” market reforms, which provide additional incentives to generators to respond during times of high demand and high prices. Additional investments in energy efficiency for natural gas and electricity, fixing leaks in the natural gas distribution system, advanced energy storage, local renewables, and grid modernization will start to help right away with energy prices and reliability, while simultaneously advancing the region’s long-term emissions requirements.

The usefulness of using natural gas as a “bridge” over the last two decades is at an end and the region needs to avoid further long-term public investments in fossil fuels. New England’s economic and environmental future depends upon building a clean, reliable, and affordable modern energy system. Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 shows a path to meet economy-wide GHG emissions reductions of 45% from 1990 levels by 2030 using market-ready technologies, with no additional natural gas pipeline capacity needed.  It’s time to move forward with a smart portfolio of investments to benefit consumers, create well-paying local jobs, improve public health, and lower the risks of climate change.

R.I. Plays Catch-Up When It Comes to Solar Siting

Legislation also has bee filed at the Statehouse to address the issue. The Rhode Island Energy Resources Acthas the support of OER, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, the Rhode Island Farm Bureau, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Rhode Island Builders Association, the Northeast Clean Energy Council, the Conservation Law Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and the Audubon Society of Rhode Island.

Another bill was recently introduced that would severely hinder the construction of solar facilities and other renewable-energy projects on forestland. Environmental groups, such as the Audubon Society and the Conservation Law Foundation, have pushed back against this bill, saying it has several drawbacks, including paving the way for real-estate development and fossil-fuel power plants.

Read more from ecoRI News here.