A regional plan to improve transportation and reduce pollution

When RGGI was being developed, opponents said that it would raise electricity costs and hurt the economy. As it turns out, they were wrong on both counts. Since RGGI was put in place, electricity prices in RGGI states have declined 5.7% while they have risen 8.6% in the rest of the country, and the economies of the participating states have grown 31% faster than the rest of the country, according to the non-partisan Acadia Center. What happened? One part of the story is that the price of natural gas declined. But perhaps even more importantly, RGGI helped the Massachusetts energy sector become more efficient. Proceeds from the sale of RGGI credits fund programs such as the popular Mass Save that have provided consumers and businesses with billions of dollars in incentives to upgrade insulation, install new appliances, or make other cost-saving energy-efficiency changes. Programs like RGGI have contributed to Massachusetts being named the most energy-efficient state in the country for the 9th consecutive year. Lowering demand has helped drive down the cost that consumers pay for electricity.

Read the full article from Gloucester Daily Times here.

Cities Look to Natural Gas Bans to Curb Carbon Emissions

In Massachusetts, residential buildings account for roughly 15% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Commercial buildings represent another 9.5%. Power plants, by contrast, are responsible for almost 20% of Massachusetts’ greenhouse gases.

“If we are going to decarbonize the economy, we have to stop putting gas in new buildings now,” said Deborah Donovan, Massachusetts director at the Acadia Center, an environmental group. “Building stock built now will be us in 2050 when we need to be decarbonized.”

Read the full article from Scientific American here.

CT sets ambitious plan to put 500K electric vehicles on the road by 2030

“We have these goals that, frankly, we’re not hitting,” said Amy McLean Salls, Connecticut director at the nonprofit Acadia Center, a clean-energy advocate. “We’re behind.”

Read the full article from Hartford Business Journal here.

Climate Justice for Providence

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza had powerful words about the role equity must play in climate work when the city released its Climate Justice Plan in late October.

“Despite being one of the three pillars of sustainability, equity is often an afterthought when it comes to climate action planning,” Elorza wrote in the plan’s introduction. “In creating this plan, we chose to lead with equity and partnered with those who are most impacted by the climate crisis and other environmental injustices.”

Acadia Center is proud to have supported Providence and its Racial and Environmental Justice Committee (REJC) in developing a plan that charts an equitable, low-carbon, climate-resilient future for residents.

Overall, the Climate Justice Plan is built around carbon-reduction targets in two key sectors – buildings and transportation – and a complete transition to carbon-free electricity sources like solar and wind. Acadia Center developed those targets in a two-step process. First, analysts in our CLEAN Center projected the city’s emissions out to 2050 assuming no new climate action and taking into account existing technologies and trends. Next, Acadia Center built another scenario to put Providence on track for at least an 80% greenhouse gas emissions reduction — and carbon neutrality — by 2050. Figure 1 below shows the emissions reduction trajectory by sector.

Figure 1

In addition to recommending targets, Acadia Center supported the REJC’s development of approaches to achieve deep reductions in carbon emissions and local air pollution to improve community health. The policies listed below are among those that will help Providence reach the necessary emission reductions.

Buildings:

2050 Target2035 Interim TargetPolicy Examples
90% of residential heating and 85% of commercial heating converted to high-efficiency electric heat pumps48% residential and 45% commercial heating converted to heat pumps
• Increasing energy efficiency program participation and total energy savings for low-income residents
• Passing a Building Energy Reporting Ordinance requiring large building owners to report energy use and emissions to the city
• Launching a formal stakeholder process to explore mandatory emissions reductions for large buildings

Transportation:

2050 Target2035 Interim TargetPolicy Examples
20% reduction in Vehicle Miles Traveled in Providence; 80% of VMTs in Providence electrified11% reduction in VMTs in Providence; 43% of VMTs electrified

• Investing in cleaner, more accessible public transit through electrification of RIPTA, prioritizing routes in communities of color
• Converting 100% of the city’s vehicle and school bus fleets to renewable vehicles

 

Clean Energy:

2050 Target2035 Interim TargetPolicy Examples
100% of electricity is carbon-free50% of electricity is carbon-free• Implementing a community choice aggregation
program that prioritizes local renewable energy
sources and includes principles of energy democracy
• Increasing access to renewable energy for
frontline communities via community solar
• Exploring the use of municipal buildings to
support a community solar project for low-income
residents and renters

Figure 2 below shows that the three sectors contributing the most to the city’s overall GHG emissions reductions in 2050 are clean electricity (44%), fuel switching to heat pumps (25%), and penetration of electric vehicles (22%). Eliminating energy waste through energy efficiency and reducing reliance on vehicles are also contributors.

Figure 2

Much hard work remains to put the plan into action. In addition to carbon reduction strategies, it calls for systems-level changes in the city’s governance structure and economic system and assurance that frontline communities will not be displaced as Providence becomes climate-ready.

Pol Tavarez, a member of the REJC, told The Providence Journal, “I have faith that this report is really the first step in community members coming together to recognize their influence and their power to reach these objectives.”

 

Visit Providence’s Climate Justice Plan home page for more resources including a Spanish translation and audio “future stories.” Complete information on Acadia Center’s modeling approach is found in the Technical Appendix.

 

by Erika Niedowski

CT debates emissions, cars

“We’re not going to meet these goals with the way we’re going right now,” said Amy McLean Salls, a senior policy advocate at the Acadia Center, a member organization of the Connecticut Electric Vehicle Coalition. She said that overall, the Acadia Center was “pretty happy” with the draft road map.

Read the full article from Yale Daily News here.

Marks joins Acadia Center as senior policy advocate

Jeff Marks joined Acadia Center as senior policy advocate and Maine director.

Marks previously served as executive director of E2Tech, a business trade association of Maine’s energy and environmental companies. Prior to that role, he was deputy director of the Maine Energy Office where he advised state officials and agencies on energy, environmental and economic policy.

Read the full article from Portland Press Herald here.

Deep State: Conservation — The Forgotten Alternative

The Acadia Center, a regional environmental group based in Rockport, recommends 500 new inter- and intracity electric buses for Maine at a cost of $750,000 each.

The center’s Jordan Stutt told me that this very large expense ($375 million, plus the cost of electricity-charging stations) could be financed by a “cap-and-invest” (a.k.a. cap-and-trade) agreement with oil companies similar to the existing emissions-trading agreements between power plants and 11 Northeastern states, including Maine, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Read the full article from The Free Press here.