Will the Inflation Reduction Act Meet Environmental Justice Goals?

On August 16, 2022, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law. This act makes provisions for healthcare, job opportunities, and climate and energy security. The law contains clean energy infrastructure for transportation, housing, solar, and wind facilities, prioritizing low-income and environmental justice communities. Through the IRA, around $60 billion will be allocated toward environmental justice communities and low-income communities with investments made towards infrastructure and improved funding. 

The Biden administration has been forward in its response to meeting demands of climate and clean energy transition. Early on, the administration demonstrated its commitment to mitigating climate impacts and consideration to environmental justice by issuing Executive Order 14008 titled Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. While that order quickly set the pace in putting climate and environmental justice discourse forefront, the recent Inflation Reduction Act builds on previous efforts including climate bills, Build Back Better Act (BBBA) and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) (IIJA), placing the nation at an advantageous position to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach climate targets in the near decade.  

The IRA provides an opportunity to establish clean energy infrastructure in low-income and environmental justice communities. Such infrastructure can provide energy credit for solar and wind facilities situated in the communities, thus ensuring increased clean energy deployment and economic benefit to those overburdened and disadvantaged communities. The dividends for environmental and climate justice were expanded to include grants and financial incentives provided through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Transport (DOT), Department of Housing and Urban Development, and a few other federal agencies. This will provide federal intervention that reaches environmental justice communities, low-income communities, and tribal communities to reduce pollution and environmental injustice across the country.  

The Inflation Reduction Act provides funding for pollution monitoring equipment and cleanups needed to address environmental injustice—a key provision for which Acadia Center advocated as a companion policy to the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI).  While the law is particularly aimed to provide infrastructure on clean technologies that get situated in already disadvantaged communities, it is essential that implementation of these programs, grants, and financial incentives are administered with clarity through a transparent approach that is led by the voices and participation of communities across the country. 

Though the Inflation Reduction Act may be the biggest and most ambitious climate legislation enacted to provide climate solutions and support low-income communities, environmental justice communities, and tribal communities, continued climate leadership and stewardship is needed for climate solutions and environmental justice. The White House Interagency on Environmental Justice and White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, both created through Executive Order 14008, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), are examples of equity and environmental justice stewardship at the federal level. With more state and municipality-level engagement from communities of color, tribal communities, and low-income communities, equity and environmental justice in climate action becomes foreseeable. 

For more information: 

Joy Yakie, Manager, Environmental Justice and Outreach, jyakie@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x110  

  

Woe is T

An Orange Line that shut down after a train caught fire in July. 

Power problems on the Green and Blue Lines. 

Delays and derailments on the Red Line, with rumors of a shut down as well. 

A driver shortage on the bus lines causing headaches. 

And a commuter rail system subject to occasional shutdowns in both directions. 

Residents of Massachusetts have become frustrated with a public transit system plagued by disruptions and uncertainty. Transportation that many rely upon for daily life has become one that cannot be trusted to safely get you where you need to go when you need to. While the MBTA has struggled with issues for quite some time, a question remains: how did it get this bad so quickly? Harder yet, how do we fix it? And, in the meantime, what does it mean for our air quality as more and more commuters abandon transit and pile into individual vehicles? Our fight against climate does not work unless our transit system does as well. Our political leaders in Massachusetts cannot claim to be fighting for climate as our public transit system struggles. 

In April, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced a safety inspection of the MBTA, and in June they ordered several immediate safety fixes. Unfortunately, as a result of the frequent safety problems and disruptions, the Federal Transit Administration announced an “immediate safety standdown” in July, requiring workers to attend a special safety briefing. This announcement led to the complete shutdown of the Orange Line for immediate emergency repairs, with rumors of a complete takeover of the system circulating. 

In August, the FTA issued its Safety Management Inspection report, a scathing report that highlighted chronic deficiencies. While the MBTA managed to avoid a complete takeover by the FTA, the FTA identified several crucial areas in which the agency has been mismanaged over the years. Some of these 24-identified findings included: 

  • Chronic understaffing at the agency 
  • Underprioritized safety management information
  • Prioritization of the capital budget at the expense of the operations and maintenance budget 
  • Deficient oversight from the Department of Public Utilities 

The FTA then ordered fixes to these problems immediately. The issuance of this report also led to the announcement of an oversight hearing by the legislature, to conduct their own investigation. 

The report from the FTA highlights what transit advocates have long known: public transit in Massachusetts has been given the short shrift over the years, resulting in a system that is underinvested in, unreliable, and unsafe. However, the system does not have to remain that way. Unfortunately, while many may look to federal grants for a solution, the Federal Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act did not meaningfully address public transit, making our state leaders’ action even more important. The state legislature, incoming and current executive branch, advocates, and the general public need to come together to find a sustainable funding mechanism that does not heavily rely upon fares and promotes long-term growth, safety, and reliability. Parallel to this funding work, decisionmakers should work to advance other policies, such as fare-free ridership for low-income individuals, and other ways to grow ridership and restore trust in the system. Additionally, beyond public transit, decisionmakers need to embrace mobility shifting and enhance better opportunities for biking and walkable communities. The answers to these ongoing issues are not magic, but they do require dedication, vision, and ingenuity from our elected officials. 

For more information:
Kyle Murray, Senior Policy Advocate-Massachusetts, 
kmurray@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054, ext. 106 

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) Releases 57th Auction Results

Media Contacts: 

Ben Butterworth, Director: Climate, Energy, and Equity Analysis
bbutterworth@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x111

Paola Moncada Tamayo, Policy Analyst
ptamayo@acadiacenter.org, 860-246-7121 x204

BOSTON, MA- On Friday, September 9, 2022, the eleven states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) released the results of the 57th auction. Emissions allowances were sold for $13.45 each, generating $301 million for clean energy investments in participating states. The allowance price for the RGGI program has declined for the first time since June of 2019. The Cost Containment Reserve (“CCR”) Trigger Price of $13.91 per ton was avoided, so no CCR allowances were sold in the auction. The proceeds from sales of allowances in the 57th auction was the third highest of all time, lower than only the proceeds from the 54th and 56th auction held in December of 2021 and June 2022.  

 

Higher RGGI allowance price is good for climate, clean energy investment  

The auction clearing price of $13.45 represents a modest 3% decrease from the previous auction in June, but a significant 45% increase from the auction price from one year ago. The clearing price represents the price that power plant operators must pay for each ton of CO2 emitted by their fossil-fuel-fired plants. The higher allowance prices seen in 2022 mean the RGGI program is sending a stronger incentive to produce electricity from carbon-free sources, like wind and solar. Recent auctions have demonstrated the growing significance of the CCR – the two most recent auctions narrowly avoided the CCR trigger price, while the 54th auction in December 2021 represented the first time since 2015 that additional allowances were released because of triggering the CCR.  

Since the program launched, the vast majority of RGGI proceeds have been invested in energy efficiency and clean energy projects as detailed in the report on RGGI investments in 2020, released in May of this year. The $301 million in proceeds generated in this auction brings the annual to-date total to $904.8 million, already 98% of the previous year’s record-setting total proceeds with one more remaining auction in 2022. Auction proceeds have increased dramatically in recent years. For example, the auction proceeds of 2022 so far are 73% higher than the total proceeds generated in all 2018 and 2019 auctions combined. This is great news for climate action, the economy, and the growing workforce in energy efficiency and clean energy.  

RGGI Third Program Review Offers an Opportunity to Direct Proceeds Towards Clean Energy Investments that Directly Benefit Environmental Justice Communities  

Since its establishment, RGGI’s priorities have centered around reducing pollution from fossil fuel power plants and achieving climate solutions for RGGI states. Through the sale of CO2 allowances, the market-based program has continued to produce revenue for participating states to invest in clean and renewable energy programs, energy efficiency programs to save energy, bill assistance, and much more. While states continue to report the benefit that RGGI contributes to meeting their climate goals, it is important to ensure that these proceeds are both spent on climate and clean energy and invested in communities that suffer disproportionately from the negative consequences associated with pollution from fossil fuel power generation.  

The Third RGGI Program Review offers a golden opportunity to tailor the program to ensure that environmental justice communities are not left to bear a disproportionate burden and are actively involved in the development of strategies to ensure a smooth, equitable transition to a carbon-free economy. During the program review, it is essential that each RGGI state critically consider equitable investment into communities that face the worst effects of polluting power plants. This ongoing program review provides a chance for states to consider the recent auctions, history of investments across the states, the need to directly address environmental justice communities, and other mechanisms associated with the cap-and-invest program.  

Acadia Center remains closely involved in RGGI policy conversations across the RGGI states and will continue to advocate for program reforms that drive equitable investment and climate action.  

 

OpEd: Hydrogen shouldn’t have a role in heating buildings

NATIONAL GRID New England President Stephen Woerner recently wrote an op-ed noting how Greek architects practiced “a methodical, systematic style that appropriately balanced aspiration with sound architectural order for enduring results.” He compared this approach to National Grid’s planned strategies for injecting hydrogen and “renewable natural gas” (RNG) into our current pipeline system that distributes fossil (natural) gas to homes and businesses. Had the ancient Greek architects utilized such a short-sighted approach, the Parthenon would have long since crumbled to dust.

Far from the safe and successful heating source that National Grid describes, hydrogen is a highly combustible fuel that poses a significant safety risk in the context of residential and commercial buildings.  In fact, the lion’s share of energy flowing through the gas system would still be made up of methane, a greenhouse gas that is more than 84 times as potent as carbon dioxide.

This methane can come in several forms – natural gas, “renewable natural gas,” or “synthetic natural gas” – but they all suffer from a common problem: producing, distributing, and using these fuels results in massive amounts of methane being released directly to the atmosphere. Updates to New York state’s greenhouse gas accounting for natural gas emissions revealed that over 47 percent of total emissions associated with natural gas consumption in New York are the result of methane leaks along the entire gas supply chain. Massachusetts has gas infrastructure that is in similar shape, if not worse.

In “Majority of US Urban Natural Gas Emissions Unaccounted for in Inventories,” a long-term study by Harvard scientists released in 2021, the authors found six times more methane leaking into the air around Boston than reported in the Massachusetts Greenhouse Gas Inventory compiled by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

Of the six cities studied in the analysis, Boston had the highest natural gas leak rate (4.7 percent) from “well pad to urban consumer.” Because of these leak rates, any plan that relies on distributing a significant quantity of methane through the gas distribution system, like National Grid has proposed, will fall well short of the Commonwealth’s net zero target in 2050.

We agree with National Grid that there are industries which are genuinely difficult to decarbonize, such as shipping and aviation, and will require creative solutions that include green hydrogen. However, that is a far cry from utilizing it for home heating, where better choices are available. It’s essentially the equivalent of saying you could heat your home using $20 bills as kindling in your living room fireplace. Sure, you may be able to do it, but is that really the wisest idea?

Green hydrogen is, and will continue to be, an extremely limited resource. Using it in buildings is a low-value use of a high-value resource and will only make it more challenging to decarbonize the hardest-to-electrify sectors of our economy. Massachusetts has already laid out a roadmap for the future of heating that involves electrifying most buildings – the least-cost “All Options” scenario in the Massachusetts 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap calls for electrification of over 90 percent of residential space heating and 95 percent of residential water heating by 2050.

Whole-home electrification via heat pumps can save energy and money, especially when paired with common-sense weatherization improvements like insulation and air sealing. Heat pumps are also efficient and affordable, especially given the many incentives available at Mass Save, as well as the soon-to-be or already available options in the Inflation Reduction Act. All-electric heating is economical, with affordable housing making up 78 percent of all residential net zero and net zero-ready square footage, up from 54 percent in March 2021. Even without the incentives, an average home that fully converts from propane to heat pumps could save $1,650 annually on fuel. The annual fuel savings from converting to a heat pump will pay for the cost of installation in 5-11 years, and rebates from efficiency programs can increase fuel cost savings and reduce the payback period.

Heat pumps, despite their name, also cool homes significantly more efficiently than traditional air conditioning systems and save money on electric bills in the summer by displacing less efficient air conditioning units. And for those concerned about winter weather, heat pump technology has made major advances over the years, with many models heating homes comfortably in the coldest temperatures.

Maine, the coldest state in the Northeast, has installed over 82,000 heat pumps over the last nine years, including over 21,000 in 2021 alone. Vermont, the region’s second coldest state, has installed heat pumps in about 1 percent of its homes every year since 2015. Heat pumps, paired with properly weatherized buildings, can reliably and affordably keep Massachusetts’ residents warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Right now, we have the chance to adopt solutions that truly transform our building, transportation, and power systems. We cannot follow the old models and systems that led us to the climate crisis in the first place. Our Commonwealth can embrace realistic and proven solutions. Saving green hydrogen and “renewable natural gas” for limited purposes in hard-to-electrify sectors, and electrifying buildings quickly with highly efficient systems is that solution.

This OpEd was published in CommonWealth Magazine.

Why electricity prices are rising unevenly across New England

You may have noticed that your most recent electric bill is higher than usual — and if that change hasn’t happened yet, it’s probably coming this fall. These price spikes are occurring across New England, but bills are rising more in some places than others.

Some ratepayers in New Hampshire saw the price of electricity double this summer, resulting in bills up to $70 higher, while many in Massachusetts are only paying an extra $11 per month.

If it seems unfair, blame the energy markets. And if it’s confusing because everyone in New England shares an electricity grid, well, read on.

“We just have a physical constraint of how much gas we can deliver through the pipeline system to New England,” said Ben Butterworth, director of climate, energy & equity analysis at the Acadia Center.

Read the full article at WBUR here.

High bills, blackout risks: Grave winter energy forecasts drawing lines across New England

During a media briefing Tuesday, clean energy advocates targeted perceived longtime messaging from the region’s grid operator ISO-New England that natural gas and reliability go hand in hand, a mindset they feel has kept renewable energy off the grid and ratepayers subject to the volatility of a global commodity.

Ahead of the forum, representatives from Acadia Center, Northeast Clean Energy Council, Slingshot, Conservation Law Foundation and Advanced Energy Economy said more natural gas is not the solution to the region’s reliability issues, and that ISO-New England should stop putting “too many eggs in one basket.”

Melissa Birchard, director of clean energy and grid reform at Acadia Center, said federal energy officials, state leaders and ISO-New England are all worried about keeping the lights on this winter.

 

Read the full article in The Providence Journal here.

 

New England for Offshore Wind Coalition Announces Agreement on Transmission Principles

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 6, 2022

Contact:
Jennifer Delony, New England for Offshore Wind jdelony@ne4osw.org, 603-320-7043
Melissa Birchard, Acadia Center mbirchard@acadiacenter.org, 857-276-6883

New England for Offshore Wind Coalition Announces Agreement on Transmission Principles
Coalition Urges Lawmakers, Developers to Adopt Principles

BOSTON – September 6, 2022 – The New England for Offshore Wind (@NE4OSW) coalition, in collaboration with coalition member Acadia Center, today released a set of Transmission Principles to help advance new transmission investments critically needed for offshore wind. The Transmission Principles establish a shared direction for transmission planning and development to bring offshore wind from New England’s coastal waters to its communities, providing maximum benefit with minimum impact.

The New England for Offshore Wind coalition finds that new electric power infrastructure is essential for decarbonization. To reach the goal of net zero by 2050, some studies have found the U.S. must double if not triple its transmission infrastructure. While the impacts are much less formidable than those of climate change, they must be minimized through effective planning and community engagement that prioritizes environmental justice populations.

The coalition’s Transmission Working Group, led by Melissa Birchard, Director of Clean Energy and Grid Reform at Acadia Center, developed the Transmission Principles to establish shared goals for transmission among diverse coalition members and to advance six core principles that should become the “B.A.S.I.C.S.” for transmission planning and development in the region. The shared goals include building the transmission we need without delay, encouraging coordination between state and regional decision makers, and ensuring holistic and transparent planning processes that further important goals, including environmental justice, environmental protection, and labor standards.

The coalition’s six Transmission Principles are:

  • Benefit impacted communities – Target benefits to affected communities to help offset impacts, such as setting aside protected green space, cleaning up brownfields and investing in the local workforce and economy, in accordance with community input (see further below).
  • Avoid, minimize and mitigate environmental impacts – Minimize the overall amount of new infrastructure needed through optimized, well-planned systems while avoiding or minimizing impacts on ecosystem services, considering cumulative environmental impacts and mitigating unavoidable impacts.
  • Secure environmental justice – Avoid and minimize new impacts on already overburdened and historically disadvantaged communities whenever possible, while strengthening equity in planning processes and weighing the cumulative environmental, economic and health impacts of any new infrastructure proposed in or near environmental justice communities.
  • Inclusive and early stakeholder engagement – Consult stakeholders, including communities in potentially impacted areas, in the early stages of planning when alternatives are still being considered and new alternatives can still be identified.
  • Coordinate on transmission investments – Serve as many needs across the region as possible with each transmission investment in order to increase consensus and reduce overall impacts and costs.
  • Supply local jobs and economic development – Lift up workers and communities by providing high-quality, local union jobs and training via registered apprenticeships and project labor agreements, while driving workforce and supplier diversity and encouraging a domestic supply chain for the expansion and maintenance of our region’s electric grid.

Widespread observance of these fundamental principles will help to ensure the electricity generated from offshore wind can be delivered to New England’s homes and businesses soon and that transmission is developed responsibly to benefit communities.

We urge government agencies and transmission developers to integrate the B.A.S.I.C.S. principles into their planning and decision-making for the common good of the region and its progress to decarbonization.

Susannah Hatch, Environmental League of Massachusetts Director of Clean Energy Policy and New England for Offshore Wind Regional Lead, said: “Expanding our electric transmission system will be critical to our ability to unlock the full potential of offshore wind and combat climate change. These principles demonstrate a vision for transmission development reached by a broad base of organizations that government and developers can adopt to ensure successful and beneficial outcomes. We are proud to demonstrate this consensus on these key principles, particularly in a region where transmission has very recently been a contentious issue. We are thrilled that the states have moved forward with a joint request for information (RFI) for transmission and urge them to ensure these BASICS guide the solicitation process as it unfolds.”

Melissa Birchard, Director for Clean Energy & Grid Reform, Acadia Center, said: “The agreement of dozens of groups on the BASICS principles for transmission planning reflects a growing movement to get serious about transmission. We can’t decarbonize our communities without new transmission lines to carry clean energy to our homes. At the same time, transmission lines need to be planned with more input and more community benefits or they won’t get built. These principles are a step forward – developers and planners should listen up.”

Cindy Luppi, New England Director, Clean Water Action, said: “These principles appropriately assert the need for environmental justice communities to be protected from further harm as the transmission system expands. Low-income communities and communities of color have borne the brunt of health damage from the fossil fuel economy for decades and deserve relief as the offshore wind power era launches.”

Tim Burgess, Assistant Business Manager, IBEW Local 104, said: “IBEW Local 104 constructs and maintains high-voltage electrical infrastructure. Offshore wind as well as any other type of new electrical generating source creates the need for maintenance, improvements and new construction of electrical infrastructure. The new green energy opportunities will help advance our goals of creating long-term careers with great wages and benefits for both current and future members. We are looking forward to being part of this new energy market, showcasing our skills and 120 years of experience building and maintaining the power grid.”

Rebecca Schultz, Senior Advocate for Climate and Clean Energy, Natural Resources Council of Maine, said: “According to Maine statute, electricity is a ‘basic human necessity,’ and as we work to reduce emissions and lower energy costs by electrifying transportation and heating, that fact will be even more palpable. These consensus principles can help set a course for a future in which we design, build and operate this vital public resource transparently and holistically to rationalize costs and benefits, instill public trust and expedite the clean energy transition for our region.”

Charles Rothenberger, Climate and Energy Attorney, Save the Sound, said: “Improving our regional transmission grid is essential for ensuring that we have the infrastructure to support increased renewable energy resources that will be necessary to power an increasingly electrified future, and to move that energy to where it is needed. This effort can only be successful if undertaken in a deliberate, coordinated and collaborative manner by the New England states.”

Sherrie Trefry, Energy Market Leader at VHB, said: “The speed the offshore wind industry can develop is connected, literally and figuratively, to required grid upgrades. Near-term, regionally approved transmission solutions are essential.”

Regional Planning
On Sept. 1, five New England states jointly released a request for information to inform an initiative to integrate offshore wind and other clean resources onto the regional power grid in a cost-effective, reliable and efficient manner.

“New England for Offshore Wind is thrilled that five of the six New England states have come together to issue this request for information and explore investment options for the transmission infrastructure needed to integrate clean resources, including offshore wind, onto the regional power grid,” Hatch said. “The coalition is looking forward to participating in the RFI process. Transmission is a critical challenge that needs to be addressed for us to seize the opportunity offshore wind presents the region.”

In June, 38 organizations from across New England sent a letter to the New England governors urging them to issue the joint RFI for electric transmission solutions for offshore wind. The letter represents the first time this diverse group of organizations has come together to advocate for transmission infrastructure.

 

About

New England for Offshore Wind

New England for Offshore Wind is a broad-based coalition of businesses and associations, environmental and justice organizations, academic institutions, and labor unions committed to combatting climate change by increasing the supply of clean energy to our regional grid through more procurements of responsibly developed offshore wind. We believe that responsibly developed offshore wind is the single biggest lever we can pull to address the climate crisis while also strengthening our regional economy, protecting ratepayers, creating high quality jobs and improving public health by reducing pollution.

Acadia Center

Acadia Center is a non-profit organization with offices across New England that works to advance bold, effective, and equitable clean energy solutions for a livable climate and a stronger, more equitable economy. Acadia Center accomplishes this through technical research, policy advocacy, and partnerships with diverse organizations and communities.

To Avoid Winter Blackouts, New England Must Reduce Dependence on Methane Gas, Ramp Up Clean Energy, Says New Explainer

September 1, 2022

Contact:
Melissa Birchard, mbirchard@acadiacenter.org
Shannon Van Hoesen, shannon.vanhoesen@sierraclub.org

BURLINGTON, VT – A coalition of advocates and energy experts released a new explainer today, titled New England’s Winter Electricity Challenges Call for a Clean Energy Solution, that details how New England’s overreliance on gas creates a risk of blackouts on the electricity system in severe winters. The explainer identifies clean energy solutions as the best way to help reduce the chance of blackouts in upcoming winters and ultimately to solve the problem for good.

Key findings of the explainer are that the region already has clean energy at hand that can help solve electric system reliability problems now, including distributed energy like rooftop solar paired with battery storage, energy efficiency, and the smart management of consumer demand. The explainer also lays out how more wind and solar, together with energy storage and the strategic management of electrification, can create a reliable, lower cost electric system long term. It finds that offshore wind in particular can help substantially reduce reliance on gas during cold winters.

“By deploying clean energy tools we already have on hand to help reduce the chance of blackouts, we can provide more security right now for New England families and lower costs. Our energy leaders need to sit down and make a plan to mobilize clean energy solutions to help keep the lights on,” said Melissa Birchard, one of the lead authors and Acadia Center’s Director of Clean Energy and Grid Reform. “Everyone wants to avoid the small but real chance that the lights could go out during prolonged cold weather – and clean energy can help solve that problem quicker and more cheaply than anything else.”

In recent years New England has drastically increased the amount of gas used to generate electricity – from 15% of the region’s electricity in 2000 to 53% in 2021. Gas is also used to heat many homes. This heavy overreliance on gas creates a risk of blackouts on the electric system when there is not enough gas for all heating and electricity generation at the same time, or when gas power plants or gas supply facilities go offline for other reasons. New England’s overreliance on gas also results in major price risks for New England families and businesses, who are facing unprecedented utility bills due to this overreliance on gas combined with price spikes connected to international instability.

“Energy consumers in New England are paying more for their energy bills despite the fact that there are serious concerns about whether their lights and heat will stay on when winter weather turns extreme,” said Casey Roberts, the other lead author and Sierra Club’s Senior Attorney for the Environmental Law Program. “It doesn’t need to be this way, and there are clear steps that grid operators and state and federal decision makers can take to transition to clean energy sources to ensure New England energy consumers can stay warm during cold, harsh winters and also tackle climate change, which is driving the increase in extreme weather.”

The explainer recommends concrete actions energy leaders can take today and over coming years to make the energy system both clean and reliable, including tailoring clean energy programs that already reduce stress on the electric system in the summer to help meet grid needs in the winter too. The authors recommend swift action to deploy more clean energy to help keep the lights on all winter even during extreme cold spells, and to set the region on a sustainable and cost-effective long-term path.

“Now is the time to roll out near-term and long-term clean energy solutions that benefit our communities, including disadvantaged families who are hurt worst by blackouts, price spikes, and the climate crisis,” Birchard concluded.

The organizations that jointly released today’s energy explainer are Acadia Center, Sierra Club, the Sustainable FERC Project, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Natural Resources Defense Council. It is being released ahead of a New England Winter Gas-Electric Forum convening next week by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Burlington, Vermont to discuss electric system reliability in the region with state and regional energy leaders.

 

Maine court finds part of referendum blocking transmission line to Massachusetts unconstitutional

An embattled transmission corridor considered critical to Massachusetts’ climate effort was given new life Tuesday, after a ruling by Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court seemingly brought it back from the dead.

The project, which would bring hydroelectric energy from Quebec, through the wilds of western Maine and into Massachusetts, is a key piece of how Massachusetts plans to convert its energy grid from fossil fuels to clean energy.

But a vote in Maine last year to block the project left the transmission line on life support, all but dooming a major piece of Massachusetts’ plan to rapidly clean its power grid and likely setting the state’s climate efforts back by years.

The ruling Tuesday is far from a full green light for the project. The judges found that part of the Nov. 2021 referendum was unconstitutional, sending the case back to a lower court to decide its future. It will be up to that court to decide whether enough of the project had been completed prior to the vote that stopping it now would be unconstitutional under Maine law.

But many clean energy advocates were heartened.

“Like everyone, we were waiting with bated breath to see what the court would say, and it wasn’t clear which direction they would go,” said Daniel Sosland, president of the clean energy advocacy group the Acadia Center.

Read the full article in The Boston Globe here.

How to decarbonize your home, with help from the Inflation Reduction Act

Looking to cut your home’s planet-warming pollution? The Inflation Reduction Act, which President Biden signed last week, could make that more affordable.

Decarbonizing your home can be expensive, but you don’t have to do it all at once, and government incentives can help. Massachusetts offers substantial rebates, especially for low-income people, through the Mass Save program.

Where to start?

To begin, consider getting a home energy audit — an assessment of your energy consumption. It’s free through the state’s Mass Save program and also covered by new federal tax incentives. Then seal and insulate your home to reduce the amount of energy it takes to heat and cool it, said Ben Butterworth, senior manager of climate and energy analysis at the Acadia Center, a clean energy advocacy organization.

Read the full article in The Boston Globe here.