Herding cats: Controversy over the solar siting bill in Rhode Island
This approach appears to give a lot of leeway to towns and cities to make their own decisions about how to regulate the siting of solar, and would also steer developers to previously disturbed sites. As such it was endorsed by many of the main non-profits active in the environmental and energy space, including Conservation Law Foundation, Audubon Society, Acadia Center, Save the Bay and Green Energy Consumers Alliance.
Read the full article from PV Magazine here.
Our View: Fewer cars, cleaner air should be goal for Maine transit
But lowering emissions will show that Maine is serious about contributing to a very important fight.
It will make us healthier, too – according to the Rockport-based Acadia Center, passenger vehicle emissions were responsible for $500 million in health costs in Maine in 2015.
The Acadia Center also figures that modernizing and making green Maine’s transportation system would be a boost to the economy. By prioritizing electric cars and buses – and by implementing a vehicle emissions cap-and-trade plan based on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – Maine can raise $1 billion in new wages, create 8,700 long-term jobs and reduce emissions by 45 percent.
Read the full article from the Portland Press Herald here.
Lawmakers want to amend 2018 energy bill
The bill was a major issue in the energy landscape that met Gov. Lamont when he took office with an agenda that was at odds parts of the 2018 law.
“This was a big one coming into this year,” Arconti said just prior to the committee vote, two days before its deadline to act. “I think we have a really good framework going forward to a final product, and not having to address it for a while after the session.”
“It’s way better than it was, and it’s going to save Connecticut jobs, but it won’t expand the solar industry,” said Amy McLean Salls, senior policy advocate for the Acadia Center.
Read the full article from CT Post here.
Rhode Island Must Prioritize Solar Siting in 2019
Solar energy is growing in the Northeast, but the urgency of climate change means that states need to accelerate the transition to clean energy sources.
In Rhode Island, siting challenges that have arisen in the past few years show that the state can’t do this without a plan. In a landscape patchworked with forest, farmland, and open space, policies and incentives must prioritize solar projects in areas with compatible land uses.
On March 14, the House held a hearing for H5789, a solar siting bill that aims to address these challenges. The bill represents months of collaboration between conservation groups, municipal planners, renewable energy developers, farm interests, state agencies and others as part of the Renewable Energy Siting Stakeholder Committee. Acadia Center has worked alongside these groups to generate a range of strategies designed to drive projects to preferred areas, including previously developed and disturbed parcels.
These strategies include:
- Prohibiting the largest, most controversial projects by preventing projects from being built across neighboring parcels;
- Significantly limiting the size of solar projects in designated areas of environmental concern;
- Introducing an incentive through the Public Utilities Commission to reimburse solar projects in preferred areas for interconnection costs;
- Directing OER to incorporate smart siting policies in an implementation plan for reaching the state’s emissions reductions goals;
- Setting a deadline for municipalities to adopt individually tailored solar siting ordinances that will help local officials review projects and, if desired, establish more streamlined processes for preferred siting.
This bill is not the sole solution to the challenge of solar siting. Small-scale solar capacity in the state’s Renewable Energy Growth (REG) program has been nearly doubled to maximize residential and commercial rooftop arrays, which pose no siting conflicts. Further, just this week, OER and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation opened a $1 million fund to support projects that propose solar on brownfields.
But make no mistake: legislators must act this session to avoid risking another year without significant protections for the state’s forests and habitats. The economics of siting currently favor large projects in flat, forested tracts, but they don’t have to remain that way.
To learn more, read Acadia Center’s full testimony on House Bill 5789.
Threat of shutdown hovers over negotiations between Millstone and utilities over power prices
The Malloy administration last year selected Millstone as a source of “low-cost zero carbon energy” and offshore wind that combined will bolster Connecticut’s contribution to reduced emissions. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection directed Eversource and UI to negotiate a price downward “to better reflect a reasonable rate of return for the plant’s owner, Dominion Energy,” then-Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in December.
A “normal utility rate of return on equity” is 9 percent, but the state would consider 12 percent to 15 percent reasonable for a plant with a long-term contract, Malloy said.
Emily Lewis, a senior policy analyst at the Acadia Center, an environmental advocacy group, said the attempt to negotiate a lower price with Millstone is a “big ask.”
“It comes back to ratepayers,” she said. “How much are ratepayers going to pay to subsidize Millstone?”
Read the full article from the Hartford Courant here.
Maine’s Biggest Utility Must Change to Make Way for Clean Energy
Maine is at a crossroads in its climate and energy future. For the state to move forward and embrace a consumer-friendly, low-polluting clean energy future, its biggest utility, Central Maine Power (CMP), must dramatically change the way it does business and do much more to support consumer and community access to solar, wind, building weatherization, and clean technologies like electric vehicles and heat pumps. Up to this point, CMP has frequently blocked these measures. It is time for CMP to change.
As a whole, Maine has struggled to make progress toward a clean energy future, falling behind its New England neighbors despite strong calls from Mainers and their communities for more clean solutions. Governor Mills understands the threats climate change poses to Maine’s economy and way of life. She has committed the state to the Paris Climate Accords among other steps. But for her attempts to gain ground, the state’s utility companies must also reform and stop putting roadblocks in the path to progress.
For instance, Maine prevents its communities from adopting advanced building energy codes. Maine bars community choice aggregation and has consistently blocked efforts to more fairly compensate solar customers for the power they create. CMP must align its investments and rates with consumer interests so that they have access to clean energy options like rooftop and community solar.
CMP’s request for a certificate from the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for a proposed power line to transmit hydroelectricity from Canada to New England has raised a host of issues directly tied to core Maine concerns: the urgent need to reduce climate pollution from energy generation; reforming the role of the state’s utilities, particularly Central Maine Power; and whether the intrusion of this project in the Maine forest is appropriate.
Acadia Center is involved in issues surrounding the project because of the importance of these issues to Maine’s energy, economic, and consumer future. In the PUC proceeding, Acadia Center has joined with other parties to recommend that if the PUC issue a certificate for the project, it should impose a set of commitments on CMP to support clean energy and consumer access to new technologies. These conditions would require CMP to:
- Provide measurable benefits to Maine ratepayers and affected communities.
- Support Maine’s efforts to expand its clean energy economy.
- Increase access for Maine residents to clean transportation and clean distributed energy resources such as solar.
- Make CMP’s planning and decision-making more transparent to expand opportunities for alternative investments in solar, storage, and efficiency.
- Support a study examining pathways to achieve regional decarbonization goals.
Outside of the issues before the PUC, a review of whether the land use and siting impacts of the project are tolerable is pending at the Department of Environmental Protection. Acadia Center looks to the efforts underway by organizations engaged in the Department of Environmental Protection permit review process to determine if the impacts to Maine’s forests and natural landscape are acceptable. Acadia Center does not believe this project should proceed unless there is satisfactory resolution of the land use issues, in addition to consumer benefits, and the need by the state’s largest utility to work in concert with clean energy and climate values.
In addition, the energy companies involved—CMP, Avangrid, and Hydro-Quebec—must change in their willingness to provide transparent information, to allow the public to determine that the regional climate benefits of the project are real and will bear out over time.
Conditioning the PUC certificate with added requirements on CMP is only the beginning of the changes in direction CMP must undertake. The company cannot cite the climate benefits of this proposal while also blocking clean energy options for Maine consumers and communities. In order to decide if the project is good for Maine, the Northeast, and the global climate, the public needs to know more.
Acadia Center’s statements on the line and the proposed settlement filed with the PUC are available here.