New Rates, Energy Plan Approved for R.I. Electricity

After months of hearings and negotiations, an energy initiative called grid modernization is moving forward in Rhode Island, along with new gas and electricity rates.

On Aug. 24 the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved a new model for compensating National Grid for operating and maintaining utility poles, transmission lines, and substations. For the next three years a portion of National Grid’s revenue will also go to making the power grid more cost-efficient and accommodating to renewable power, electric vehicles, and energy storage.

Read the full article from ecoRI News here.

Rhode Island approves National Grid modernization plan, rate increase

States are increasingly focused on efforts to transform the power sector, but regulators need to strike a delicate balance to ensure that customers are not over-burdened by costly grid modernization investments.

The agreement puts Rhode Island “into a leadership role among New England states seeking to reform utility regulations,” according to a statement from Daniel Sosland, president of the Acadia Center.

The final settlement represents a win for low-income customer advocates, most of whom will see a significant rate reduction. The current discount for income-eligible customers will be doubled to 25% of the total bill, with another 5% for customers who qualify through income restrictive federal assistance programs.

Read the full article from Utility Dive here.

R.I regulators OK changes to electricity, gas rates

The settlement, approved unanimously by the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission in an open meeting, gives the state’s dominant utility about one-third of its original $214.8 million request made last November and less than two-thirds of a revised request of $137.5 million that factored in changes to federal taxes by the Trump administration.

The version of the settlement amended by the commission is also about $4.5 million lower than the initial iteration that was filed in June and resulted from negotiations between the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, National Grid, the state Office of Energy Resources and other stakeholders, such as nonprofit groups the George Wiley Center and Acadia Center.

Read the full article from the Providence Journal here.

Settlement Puts Rhode Island in a Leading Role on Utility Reform

PROVIDENCE — Acadia Center applauds the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) approval today of an amended comprehensive settlement in National Grid’s distribution rate case and Power Sector Transformation proceeding. The PUC’s order represents the first steps toward utility business model reforms and power sector transformation activities that will further Rhode Island’s ability to achieve a clean energy future.

“Approval of the revised National Grid settlement will greatly benefit ratepayers and the state by putting Rhode Island firmly on a path toward expanding local clean energy resources and bolstering energy system reliability,” said Daniel Sosland, Acadia Center President. “Rhode Island has jumped into a leadership role among New England states seeking to reform utility regulations. Embracing the changes needed to modernize the energy system will deliver large economic, public health, consumer and environmental benefits to all Rhode Islanders.”

The agreement lowers National Grid’s return on equity and reduces the utility’s original base rate proposal by over $40 million. The agreement also provides more meaningful bill relief for low-income customers, up to a maximum discount of 30% for some qualifying customers. Importantly, the agreement also approves initial investments in a modern grid, electric vehicle charging, and energy storage as well as a study of Advanced Metering Functionality (AMF) and further grid modernization investment.

“Acadia Center commends the Public Utilities Commission, Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, National Grid, the Office of Energy Resources and other intervenors for the commitment and collaboration throughout this process,” said Erika Niedowski, Rhode Island Director for Acadia Center. “We look forward to working with our colleagues through the newly established Power Sector Transformation Advisory Group to advance further reforms including new utility performance mechanisms, grid flexibility and resiliency, and expansion of clean energy resources that benefit customers.”

Acadia Center engaged in every stage of Rhode Island’s Power Sector Transformation stakeholder process and provided expert testimony to the PUC on a variety of components in today’s settlement. Acadia Center has long recommended the types of reforms included in the settlement through reports and materials such as UtilityVision.

“Rhode Island is now leading the way in New England utility business model reforms,” said Mark LeBel, staff attorney at Acadia Center. “In the future, Rhode Island must do even more to shift investments away from expensive capacity building projects that primarily benefit the utility and toward projects that benefit the customer by maximizing energy efficiency, expanding distributed energy resources, and bolstering system reliability.”

Acadia Center will release a more detailed summary of the approved settlement in the coming days.

Media Contacts:

Erika Niedowski, Policy Advocate, Rhode Island Office, 401-276-0600 x401

Janice Gan, Public Engagement Associate, 617-742-0054 x106

Connecticut Finally Makes a Commitment to Offshore Wind

The 200-megawatt project that DEEP officials selected in June represents only 3 percent of Connecticut’s electric load, according to Emily Lewis, a policy analyst with Acadia Center, a New England-based environmental group with offices in Hartford. The output is expected to power about 100,000 homes. Connecticut’s neighbors have far more ambitious offshore wind plans moving forward.

New Jersey’s goal is to have 3,500 megawatts of power in its portfolio by 2032, for example. Massachusetts has been a trailblazer in the wind power movement. Even tiny Rhode Island — with less than a third of Connecticut’s population — is procuring 400 megawatts of offshore wind power, Lewis says.

“It seems like Connecticut has been playing catch-up for years,” Lewis says.

Read the full article form Connecticut Magazine here.

Power over solar: R.I. seeks to strike a development balance

Among the other efforts are new incentives released last month by the Office of Energy Resources that include increasing funding for solar projects on former industrial sites, raising the cap in a key state renewable energy program for rooftop solar, and creating a class in the same program for solar carports installed in parking lots.

Nearly everyone involved in the issue agrees that changes need to be made.

“There absolutely is an urgency, and I think that it would be great if we had all of the solutions immediately,” said Erika Niedowski, policy advocate for the Acadia Center, an environmental group. “But I think we have made progress and we are set up to make continued progress.”

Read the full article from the Providence Journal here.

How Big a Deal Is Trump’s Fuel Economy Rollback? For the Climate, Maybe the Biggest Yet

But pollution from cars and trucks has proved much trickier for states to take on. Transportation now accounts for one-third of America’s carbon-dioxide emissions, surpassing power plants as the largest source, and vehicle emissions have been steadily rising over the past few years. Federal fuel-economy standards were widely seen as a vital tool for curbing gasoline use.

“We’ve seen nowhere near the same progress in transportation as we’ve seen in electricity,” said Jordan Stutt, a policy analyst at the Acadia Center, a group in New England that is pushing for cleaner energy.

Read the full article from the New York Times here.

White House Pollution Proposal Puts Big Government Ahead Of States’ Rights

“It’s gutting these foundational environmental laws,” said Emily Lewis, a policy analyst at the Acadia Center, an environmental advocacy group. “Transportation is the biggest chunk of emissions that we’re trying to deal with right now. We’ve brought down emissions significantly in the electricity generating sector. We really need to be addressing transportation. So this is just a complete 180-reversal from where we need to be going.”

CT poised to catch brunt of Trump’s auto standard rollbacks

Area environmental groups wasted no time expressing their displeasure with the EPA proposal, warning of the dire consequences on Connecticut but also pointing out that the proposals now face a 60-day comment period and could change.

“It certainly would be awful if it went through,” said Emily Lewis, a policy analyst at Acadia Center. “It would have a big impact on Connecticut emissions, but there are a lot of steps before we get to that point.”

Read the full article from the CT Mirror here.

EPA and NHTSA Proposal on Car Standards Threatens Climate, Public Health, and States’ Rights

BOSTON — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released for public comment their proposal to roll back the federal clean car standards. The clean car standards require automakers to limit the amount of pollution emitted by the vehicles they produce. The administration’s preferred proposal keeps vehicle standards flat beyond 2020, which is a reversal from the original program design that steadily increased the standards through 2026. At the same time, EPA is proposing to revoke the right of states to adopt more stringent vehicle emission standards set by California, which allows them to better protect their citizens by limiting pollution within their borders.

In response, Acadia Center has released the following statement:

“Today’s proposal from the EPA launches a two-pronged attack on Americans. The proposed rollback of federal clean car standards would do nothing but increase pollution and raise costs for consumers. It is compounded by a direct assault on the ability of states to protect the health of their citizens by adopting stricter vehicle emission standards – forcing states to swallow this dangerous rollback,” said Daniel Sosland, president of Acadia Center. “States combatting pollution must have the right to reduce tailpipe emissions within their boundaries, as the Clean Air Act intended. For over 40 years, states have had this explicit authority to protect their citizens’ health by reducing vehicle pollution.”

Under the Clean Air Act, states suffering from air pollution have the authority to put in place stronger limits on tailpipe pollution when federal standards fall short. Thirteen states, including most of the Northeast, and the District of Columbia are already exercising this right. Colorado just announced their intention to adopt more stringent clean car rules too. That means that states representing more than 118 million people and over a third of the automotive market are exercising this right.

“Today’s decision goes against the conclusion from experts that stringent clean car standards are in the best interest of all Americans, protecting them from unnecessarily high fuel costs, respiratory and other health problems caused by pollution, and climate change from greenhouse gas emissions,” said Emily Lewis, policy analyst at Acadia Center. ” Americans across the country are breathing easier because the clean car states’ commitment to delivering cleaner, more efficient cars to consumers.”

The Obama Administration approved the latest clean car standards in 2012, with the support of automakers and California. In January 2017, the EPA concluded that these standards are working, achievable, and should not be rolled back.

“Reducing pollution from the transportation sector was difficult before EPA undermined state efforts. The challenge is even greater now, but leadership states are up to the task,” said Jordan Stutt, Acadia Center’s Carbon Programs Director. “Last week eight Northeast states and Washington, D.C., convened a listening session, as part of an ongoing series of stakeholder meetings, to explore opportunities for regional collaboration to modernize and decarbonize the transportation sector. Given the federal rollbacks, it is more important than ever that these states advance ambitious policies to reduce pollution and enable investment in clean transportation.”

Media Contacts:

Emily Lewis, Policy Analyst, 860-246-7121 x207

Krysia Wazny, Communications Director, 617-742-0054 x107