New England for Offshore Wind Urges Federal Regulator to Reject ISO-New England Proposal

April 20, 2022Yesterday, the New England for Offshore Wind coalition called on federal regulators at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reject ISO-New England’s (ISO-NE) proposal to delay the elimination of a market rule that disproportionately impacts offshore wind and would increase costs for ratepayers. In a letter to FERC, the coalition underscored the importance of offshore wind to state climate goals, highlighted the momentum of offshore wind policy across the country, and pushed back on ISO-NE’s claims that offshore wind development is uncertain. ISO-NE’s proposal to delay the elimination of the Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR) would prevent the fair participation of clean energy in regional markets and drive up consumer costs by incentivizing the procurement of unnecessary and redundant energy generation capacity in the region.

Offshore wind is our best opportunity for new sources of clean, renewable energy in New England, which boasts the best offshore wind resources in the country. Expanding local, renewable energy is critical to our efforts to prevent the worst impacts of climate change and increase energy security in these times of instability due to the conflict in Ukraine. Developed responsibly, offshore wind has the potential to create tens of thousands of high-quality, family-sustaining jobs; provide health benefits to vulnerable communities through pollution reduction; ensure equity in economic benefits; coexist with existing ocean uses; and protect wildlife and the environment every step of the way.

New England for Offshore Wind is a broad-based coalition of associations, businesses, environmental and justice organizations, 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.

Susannah Hatch, Environmental League of Massachusetts Director of Clean Energy Policy and New England for Offshore Wind Regional Lead, said:
“Responsibly developed offshore wind will be the workhorse of our decarbonization efforts in our region, and it holds enormous potential to grow the economy, meet our energy needs, and create equitable economic benefits for decades to come. ISO-NE should allow that transition to take place instead of hindering states’ ability to achieve their climate goals and burdening ratepayers with unnecessary costs.”

Melissa Birchard, Acadia Center Director for Clean Energy and Grid Reform, said:
“Offshore wind is one of the most promising energy opportunities of this decade and, combined with energy storage, can be a key to addressing climate change and grid reliability in New England. We call on FERC to direct ISO-New England to stop dragging its feet on clean energy and eliminate the backward Minimum Offer Price Rule now – not years down the road – so that the region can meet its climate goals in time to protect communities from danger.”

Launa Zimmaro, League of Women Voters Massachusetts Legislative Specialist, Climate Change and Energy, said:
“Maintaining the MOPR would have real and lasting impacts on the health and well-being of residents in the Commonwealth, as well as our opportunities to grow a clean energy economy in the region.”

Charles Rothenberger, Save the Sound Climate and Energy Attorney and New England for Offshore Wind Connecticut State Lead, said:
“Removing the barriers to clean, renewable energy and supporting state efforts to transition to zero-carbon resources should be fundamental to the operation of our regional energy market. Every year that we delay reforming or eliminating the market rules that disadvantage renewable resources makes it more difficult and more expensive to address the pressing climate and air quality issues we face.”

John Carlson, Ceres Manager of State Policy and New England for Offshore Wind Business Lead said:
“New England states are making informed, considered policy decisions to forge a new clean energy economy in the region. Local, renewable energy resources will drive investment in the region, reduce emissions, create jobs, and insulate us from volatile fossil fuels markets. The continued imposition of the Minimum Offer Price Rule will delay and reduce the ability of states to reap these benefits in the long-term and drive up ratepayer costs in the near term. ISO-NE should eliminate this protectionist rule immediately and embrace the just transition to a clean energy future.”

Logan Malik, Massachusetts Climate Action Network Clean Energy Director, said:
“The rapid deployment of offshore wind is critical for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to meet its 2030, 2040, and 2050 climate goals. ISO-NE’s proposal to delay repealing MOPR by two years will unnecessarily slow our progress towards meeting our emissions reduction targets and extend the life of old and dirty facilities that are polluting our communities. FERC should reject this proposal. In doing so they would be supporting grid reliability, energy security, and the growth of a promising industry that will create thousands of good-paying jobs in New England.”

Jen Benson, The Alliance for Business Leadership President, said:
“In delaying a decision on MOPR, ISO-NE is making it harder for renewables to gain access to the energy market by artificially raising the cost of clean energy to allow more expensive fossil fuels to “compete”. Ultimately this hurts ratepayers, impacts our economy, and potentially reduces New England-based innovation and investment. In order for Massachusetts to reach its own climate goals, we must project a consistent message that renewable energy will be valued fairly in forward capacity markets to ensure that near and long-term investment continues.”

William Sedlack, Maine Conservation Voters Program Manager and New England for Offshore Wind Maine State Lead, said:
“We call on ISO-NE to be a partner with Maine and the rest of New England in the transition to a just clean energy future. Delaying the elimination of the Minimum Offer Price Rule blocks clean energy from being able to fairly compete and participate in the market, burdens taxpayers, and wastes time that we do not have as states in a geographically vulnerable region to climate impacts.”

 

 

 

About Acadia Center 

Acadia Center is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. Acadia Center advocates for an equitable clean energy future for Connecticut, tackling regulatory and legislative energy policy, transportation, energy efficiency, beneficial electrification, utility innovation, and renewable energy. 

 

Media Contacts:

Ellen Macaulay, Environmental League of Massachusetts
emacaulay@environmentalleague.org
617-742-2553

Melissa Birchard, Acadia Center
mbirchard@acadiacenter.org
857-276-6883

Clean Energy and Consumer Groups Call on FERC to Reject ISO New England’s Proposal to Delay Key Energy Market Reform

BOSTON, MA (April 21, 2022) – Today, 11 New England clean energy and consumer advocacy organizations filed a protest urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reject ISO New England’s proposal to delay reforming the Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR) and require an immediate fix to this anti-competitive rule.

The MOPR artificially inflates the cost of clean energy, giving an advantage to more expensive fossil fuel power plants in ISO-NE’s forward capacity market. The rule has extended the life of highly-polluting, uneconomical plants and incentivized continued investment in fossil fuel infrastructure while preventing affordable, clean energy from entering the market. As a result, the MOPR imposes higher electricity costs on customers and perpetuates air pollution in historically impacted fenceline communities across New England. The rule also undercuts New England states’ efforts to address the threat of climate change by decarbonizing the electric grid.

“FERC has an obligation to immediately fix ISO New England’s Minimum Offer Price Rule,” said Hannah Birnbaum, Sierra Club Northeast Deputy Director of Energy Campaigns. “The rule has needlessly increased electricity bills and stifled job growth in clean energy for years. Fenceline communities are facing dirty air and long-term health risks because the MOPR protects uneconomic fossil fuel plants that would have otherwise retired long ago. The economic and health costs of keeping the MOPR in place for two more years are unjustifiable. We can’t allow the fossil fuel industry to get in the way of making responsible and cost-effective improvements to our energy system.”

“New England’s residents are demanding clean energy. So why is the region’s grid operator trying to put up roadblocks and delays to this transition?” said Bruce Ho of the Sustainable FERC Project at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “FERC needs to step in and ensure clean solar and wind power get a chance to compete in New England’s electricity capacity market – and that they get that chance today, not in 2025.”

“ISO New England promised the New England states and the public to eliminate the discriminatory MOPR rule in the next capacity auction and then backed out of that promise at the last moment,” said Melissa Birchard, Director of Clean Energy and Grid Reform at Acadia Center. “FERC should hold ISO New England to its original proposal – vetted by stakeholders over the course of more than 12 meetings – to eliminate the MOPR now, without delay. Every excuse not to reform the markets to let clean energy compete fairly now puts our children and communities at greater risk from pollution and the climate emergency.”

“The climate crisis is threatening our health and safety as we speak. Nearly every New England state has climate laws that require slashing polluting emissions, and clean energy sources like wind and solar are the keys to reaching these goals,” said Conservation Law Foundation Senior Attorney Phelps Turner. “But ISO New England’s attempt to keep the Minimum Offer Price Rule on the books prevents electricity from these sources from being delivered into our homes. ISO’s decision to keep this rule alive for two more years allows polluting fossil fuel plants to keep running, costs electricity customers millions of dollars, and creates a major roadblock to safeguarding a livable world in the face of climate change. The rule cannot be allowed to stand.”

“”The latest IPCC report warns that we are running out of time to prevent the worst of the climate crisis. New England’s grid operator is making it harder for the region to power our homes, businesses, and transportation with clean energy. We’re asking FERC to stand up for what New England residents have already demanded: a clean grid powered by renewable solar and wind and freedom from polluting fossil fuels,” said Danielle Fidler, Earthjustice Senior Attorney.

“ISO’s administratively set pricing floor creates a bias in favor of existing resources and is slowing the transition to a cleaner grid at great expense to consumers. The ISO has simply not justified its proposal to delay the elimination of this artificial barrier,” said Francis Pullaro, Executive Director of RENEW Northeast.

​​“Competitive energy markets are essential to ensuring cost-effective and reliable electricity,” said Jolette Westbrook, Director and Senior Attorney, Energy Markets & Regulation at Environmental Defense Fund. “Unfortunately, ISO New England’s proposal moves the region in the wrong direction, accomplishing little to improve reliability, delaying the deployment of renewable energy and increasing costs for electricity customers. Market barriers must be eliminated for New England to get the reliable, affordable and clean electricity it deserves.”

 

 

About Acadia Center 

Acadia Center is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. Acadia Center advocates for an equitable clean energy future for Connecticut, tackling regulatory and legislative energy policy, transportation, energy efficiency, beneficial electrification, utility innovation, and renewable energy. 

 

Media Contacts:

Adil Trehan, Sierra Club
adil.trehan@sierraclub.org
202-630-7275

Melissa Birchard, Acadia Center
mbirchard@acadiacenter.org
857-276-6883

Phelps Turner, Conservation Law Foundation
pturner@clf.org
207-210-6439

Mark Drajem, NRDC
mdrajem@nrdc.org
202-297-5444

New report from Acadia Center: New Jersyans Can Achieve 50% Reduction in Energy Bills

A new report by Acadia Center confirms that electrifying the building sector and weatherizing homes is beneficial to all New Jerseyans. It makes buildings healthier and safer while greatly reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state and saving money on energy bills. Commissioned by New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the report, titled “The Future is Electric,” outlines the fact that while New Jersey is making strides toward clean energy, much more is possible. “The Future is Electric,” authored by Director of Policy, Amy Boyd, and Ben Butterworth, Senior Manager, Climate and Energy Analysis shows that, when combined with weatherization, New Jerseyans will save money and improve local health by electrifying their homes.

Read the Report

ISO-NE Decision Will Hold Back Clean Energy Throughout the Region

Boston, MA. — If approved by its regulator, a decision made Thursday by New England’s power grid operator, ISO-NE, along with a majority of its stakeholders, will slow New England’s ability to meet state climate goals, exacerbate the climate pollution impacting our communities and our economy, and cost consumers extra money they can ill afford.

Yesterday afternoon, ISO-NE and a majority of its stakeholders, which are mostly energy companies, decided to push back by two more years the elimination of a major barrier to clean energy in the region. The Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR), which pays gas power plant generators extra on the ratepayer’s dime to stay in the market, was on its way out. But now ISO-NE is delaying implementation of an improved approach and keeping clean energy from competing fairly in the regional capacity market for two additional years.

According to Melissa Birchard, Senior Regulatory Attorney and Director for Power Grid Reform at Acadia Center, after originally proposing in May of 2021 to eliminate the harmful MOPR rule in 2023, ISO-NE changed its position at the 11th hour. “ISO-NE has let the region down by choosing to cut clean energy out of the capacity market for two more years. This decision throws an unnecessary lifeline to gas generators that could otherwise be priced out of the market by cost-effective clean energy,” says Birchard. “Despite pushing for quicker market reforms in the recent New England Governors Energy Vision Statement process, the states appeared to back the delay. This is a disappointing failure of leadership,” said Birchard.

The New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE), which represents the states, recently announced they did not oppose the two-year delay. This position appeared to sway many previously opposed parties, contributing to majority support for the delay. Acadia Center and its partners, as well as renewable energy companies and a number of other stakeholders, strongly opposed the delay, which would keep in place barriers to clean energy participation in the ISO-NE capacity market until the 2025 auction, which commits resources for the period beginning in 2028.

“This outcome comes at a cost for New England’s climate goals and damages the communities that will suffer higher bills and more pollution in their neighborhoods,” said Acadia Center’s Birchard. “The region has waited too long already for these overdue market reforms.”

Acadia Center calls on the New England states to stand behind important climate and clean energy reforms and demand that ISO-NE increase its accountability to consumers and communities, to avoid these failures in the future.

 

Media Contacts:

Melissa Birchard
Clean Energy Program Director
mbirchard@acadiacenter.org
617-742-0054 x103

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Acadia Center is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. Acadia Center advocates for an equitable clean energy future for Connecticut, tackling regulatory and legislative energy policy, transportation, energy efficiency, beneficial electrification, utility innovation, and renewable energy.

Holding Public Utilities Accountable

Today Maine’s Governor Janet Mills announced the Utility Accountability Bill, the Governor’s initiative authorizing the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to set minimum service standards to ensure electricity consumers receive adequate service at just and reasonable rates. 

If the state is going to transform buildings, transportation, and the electricity grid to better serve Maine’s energy consumers and respond to the climate crisis, it needs to start with utility regulatory reforms that give the PUC the tools to regulate utilities with Maine people in mind. Acadia Center commends Governor Mills for taking these necessary steps to best leverage ratepayer dollars to ensure reliability and affordability while simultaneously planning across all state agencies for climate and equity benefits for all Mainers.  

If our electric utilities fail consistently on any of the standards, they will face financial penalties. By establishing a “report card” on utilities’ performance, with repercussions for poor performance, we expect to see demonstrable improvements on reliability, bill accuracy, storm recovery, and renewable interconnection issues, all problems that have plagued Central Maine Power (CMP) and placed them dead last on national utility customer satisfaction lists. In addition to its audit, climate adaptation, and whistleblower provisions, the bill provides more direction on options available if utilities are not fit to serve Maine’s consumers. 

Further, Maine’s investor-owned utilities have a monopoly franchise, and often charge ratepayers at returns that far exceed interest rates while building bigger projects that may not benefit energy consumers accordingly. While Acadia Center thinks utility regulatory reform can go further to relieve energy burdens on underserved and overburdened consumers, the Governor’s bill is a good first step in holding CMP and Versant Power accountable for their performance on affordability and reliability.

Acadia Center supports the Governor’s utility regulation bill and urges the Governor and Legislature to make deeper reforms to ensure utilities serve energy consumers in the transition to a clean energy economy – what we call RESPECT (Reforming Energy System Planning for Equity and Climate Transformation). These two significant reforms in utility planning will overcome the dysfunctions caused by siloed decision-making, unbalanced utility incentives, and the current market indifference to climate and equity: 

  1. Conduct “all-in” energy system planning that considers supply and demand-side resources; customers’ energy, capacity, and thermal needs; and climate requirements and environmental justice impacts for all fuels across the state.
  2. Create a statewide planning entity that can look for solutions beyond utility boundaries and across fuels, leaving traditional utilities free to focus their efforts on business development in alignment with climate and equity mandates.

RESPECT proposes a modernized framework for how utilities make investments and decisions, so that we can build the energy systems necessary at the speed required to address the climate crisis. RESPECT addresses three problems with current planning and regulatory oversight: (1) planning is siloed between electric and gas utilities, which causes overspending, reduced reliability and resilience, and more climate pollution; (2) current planning processes ignore equity and environmental justice; and (3) utilities will not plan against their financial interests, even with performance incentives. 

Until these reforms are in place, we believe the Governor’s bill is a powerful opening shot to create greater accountability of transmission and distribution utilities to Maine ratepayers and resolve performance issues that are not improving under current law and regulation. 

 

For more information:

Jeff Marks
Maine Director & Senior Policy Advocate
jmarks@acadiacenter.org
Mobile: 207-956-1970
 

We Are Grateful to You!

The Acadia Center team is deeply thankful to all who support our efforts and partner with us on tackling the challenges of the climate crisis. Here are just a few highlights of all we were able to achieve in 2021 because of your support. Because of you, we can continue this important work in 2022 and beyond.

Fuel Oil Associations Issue Misleading Claims

Rockport, ME. — Oil and gas dealer associations initiated a media campaign today calling on the region’s governors to cease support for clean, consumer friendly electric heat pump options. In fact, heat pump rebates are already insulating consumers from volatile heating oil price spikes while improving indoor air quality, reducing pollution, and providing efficient, comfortable heat.

“Energy marketers misleadingly claim that concerns ISO-NE [the regional power grid operator] recently flagged about pandemic-related fuel supply constraints require this backward response, but their claim is meritless,” said Melissa Birchard, Senior Regulatory Attorney and Director, Clean Energy Program at Acadia Center. “Pandemic supply chains and fuel demands in other countries are contributing to price volatility and making fossil fuels harder to come by,” noted Birchard.  “The short- and long-term answer is to help residents shift from reliance on volatile fossil fuels to electric alternatives that are cleaner, safer and equally comfortable.”

“Calls to cancel heat pump rebates are a sad example of the fossil fuel industry once again fighting the clean energy solutions that will keep our communities, safe, warm, and healthy,” said Matt Rusteika, Senior Policy Analyst at Acadia Center. “Many fuel oil dealers already recognize this and are providing a full array of heating choices to their customers, including air source heat pump conversions.”

According to press reports, ISO-NE’s Gordon van Welie has raised concerns about supplies of home heating oil, citing pandemic-related shortages of truck drivers that could affect deliveries.  Given that the supply chain for heating oil, gas, and other fossil fuels has been disturbed by the pandemic, increasing reliance on those fuels makes zero sense. As European gas prices soar, U.S. gas companies are exporting gas for greater profits, leaving domestic customers exposed to even more price volatility.

“Heat pump rebates help families and businesses control costs, insulate household budgets from fossil fuel price spikes, and increase the overall efficiency of the region’s energy use,” said Rusteika. “Energy marketer attempts to sow doubt about heat pumps are sadly self-serving. Heat pump rebates are unlikely to influence fuel supply constraints either way. And many heat pumps installed each year displace electric resistance heat—which reduces strain on the grid.”

“Long-term,” says Birchard, “the region needs to expand its electric transmission grid and clean energy supply to help solve constraints and ensure reliability.  Heat pumps are a key part of the solution, as controllable heat pumps can provide a flexible resource for the electric grid.”

Acadia Center calls on the governors to reject the misleading assertions and backward-looking position of the fuel dealers associations.

 

 

Media Contacts:

Melissa Birchard
Clean Energy Program Director
mbirchard@acadiacenter.org

617-742-0054 x103

Matt Rusteika
Senior Policy Analyst & Buildings Lead
mrusteika@acadiacenter.org
617-742-0054 x108

 

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Acadia Center is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. Acadia Center advocates for an equitable clean energy future for Connecticut, tackling regulatory and legislative energy policy, transportation, energy efficiency, beneficial electrification, utility innovation, and renewable energy.

RGGI auction sets new highs, demonstrates need for climate and justice reforms

BOSTON, MA- Today, the states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) announced the results of the program’s record-setting 54th auction. Emissions allowances were sold for $13.00 each, generating $351 million in proceeds for investment in the clean energy economy. Both the allowance price and the auction proceeds establish new record highs for the RGGI program, which has now been in operation for 13 years. Auction 54 also resulted in the release of additional allowances from the Cost Containment Reserve (CCR), undermining the program’s environmental integrity.

 

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

The auction clearing price of $13.00 is 39% higher than the clearing price from the previous auction in September, and 75% higher than the clearing 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 recent increase in allowance prices means the RGGI program is sending a stronger incentive to produce electricity from carbon-free sources, like wind and solar.

The record-high amount of proceeds generated from Auction 54 is also a boon for the clean energy economy. Since the program launched, the vast majority of RGGI proceeds have been invested in energy efficiency and clean energy projects. Today’s announcement that participating states will be receiving $351 million from the latest auction (bringing the annual total to $926 million) is great news for climate action, the economy, and the growing workforce in energy efficiency and clean energy.

 

Necessary RGGI Reforms for Environmental Integrity and Justice

Today’s auction results also reveal serious problems that the RGGI states must address with urgency.

Today’s auction clearing price of $13.00 met the Cost Containment Reserve (CCR) trigger price of $13.00, resulting in the addition of 3.9 million allowances to an already oversupplied market, allowing increased emissions from the region’s power plants. Given the desperate need of the RGGI states—many of which are struggling to meet their climate targets—to reduce power sector pollution, allowing additional emissions beyond the cap is unacceptable. Acadia Center and our partners have opposed the use of a CCR and its design since its introduction. As a reiteration of recommendations Acadia Center has made in both of the previous RGGI Program Reviews to preserve the program’s effectiveness and environmental integrity, the RGGI states must either eliminate the CCR or reform it by: 1) significantly increasing the price trigger and 2) withdrawing allowances from future supply, rather than minting new allowances.

Even more importantly, today’s auction results demonstrate the critical and overdue need to ensure that RGGI auction proceeds are invested equitably. The RGGI program imposes no requirements on participating states to guarantee equitable investment, and most of the participating states lack processes to ensure RGGI-funded investments deliver meaningful and proportional benefits in overburdened and underserved communities. As a result, many states invest RGGI proceeds into clean energy projects that, while effective in reducing climate pollution, fail to address the inequities in the clean energy transition. In other cases, RGGI funds are used to fill budget gaps, addressing neither climate nor justice imperatives. At a minimum, the RGGI states must adopt requirements for equitable investment that are consistent with the Jusitce40 Initiative, developed by the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. If the RGGI states applied this framework to the investment of RGGI proceeds from 2021, they would be investing at least $370 million in disadvantaged communities in one year alone.

The RGGI states are currently in the midst of the Third RGGI Program Review. This presents an ideal opportunity for the states to commit to the reforms described above, along with a suite of additional measures (like a dramatically reduced emissions cap and more inclusive processes) to ensure the program supports a just transition to a carbon-free future. For more information on the Third Program Review and to participate in upcoming meetings, see: https://www.rggi.org/program-overview-and-design/program-review.

 

Media Contacts:

Jordan Stutt, Carbon Programs Director
jstutt@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x105
198 Tremont Street, Suite 415Boston, MA 02111 

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Acadia Center is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. Acadia Center advocates for an equitable clean energy future for Connecticut, tackling regulatory and legislative energy policy, transportation, energy efficiency, beneficial electrification, utility innovation, and renewable energy.

Massachusetts Needs Innovation and Efficiency – So Why Did The DPU Just Kill One of The Best Ideas?

One of the most forward-looking pieces of the Massachusetts 2022-2024 three-year energy efficiency plan now filed at the Department of Public Utilities is the brainchild of the Cape Light Compact – the proposed Cape and Vineyard Electrification Offering (CVEO). The CVEO would result in retrofitted low-income housing that is all-electric, powered by solar panels, and resilient in storms thanks to onsite storage. It’s exactly the sort of thinking that we need to be doing more of – how to make homes healthier and safer, lower carbon pollution, and make communities more resilient. Plus it’s targeted at the households that still have the least access to heat pumps, solar and storage, even with all the programs we have in those areas. So why did the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) just kill it? On November 5, the DPU requested that it be removed from the programs before it can even be considered. 

Cape Light Compact (CLC) is a municipal aggregator that provides energy to the citizens of towns on the Cape and Vineyard, as well as administering their electric energy efficiency programs. As a municipal aggregator, CLC is different from the other utility program administrators – and often provides more customized offerings to its customers, including higher incentives (though still cost-effective) that drive, not surprisingly, higher customer participation rates. 

Acadia Center has enthusiastically supported CLC’s proposed CVEO since it was first presented to the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council in 2018. It’s exactly what the efficiency programs should be doing to address the intersectional crises of climate, affordable housing, spiking fossil fuel prices, resiliency, and the fact that low- and moderate-income customers aren’t reaping the benefits of solar and storage, despite the SMART program’s best intentions. But the DPU decided on November 5th that it’s just not possible under existing law. Why? 

Through the CVEO, CLC proposed to weatherize and install heat pumps, solar PV, and energy storage in 250 low- and moderate-income homes, heated with oil, propane, or electric resistance heat. The offering combined the existing statewide incentives for weatherization, heat pumps with controls, and demand response through thermostats, with an innovative way to pre-pay existing incentives for energy storage and a third-party ownership model for storage and PV that leverages outside incentive funding to offset the overall ratepayer impact. In other words, it takes the programs the Department has already approved and stretches them farther and deeper to truly serve the best interests of customers of the Cape and Vineyard. Homes would be warm, free of combustion byproducts, cheaper for residents to operate, and resilient in the face of increasing storms and outages – all within the cost-effectiveness screening of the efficiency programs.  

The DPU has already approved incentives for use of energy storage for demand reduction, including allowing 5-year contracts for daily dispatch incentives (i.e., beyond the length of the 3-year plans). But the CVEO’s twist on this idea to pre-pay 10 years of incentives to enable the purchase of a new energy storage system (which would also provide resiliency benefits to the residents) went too far for the DPU – mostly because resiliency benefits are outside the scope of the energy efficiency plans.  

The Green Communities Act was amended in 2018 to include “programs that result in customers switching to renewable energy sources or other clean energy technologies;” as one of the types of offerings that could be included in the 3-year plans. Despite that amendment, the DPU held that energy efficiency funds cannot be used to pay for solar. Because the CVEO proposed to use energy efficiency funds to essentially operate a power purchase agreement with the 3rd party solar developer, the DPU determined that it was just too close to using EE dollars to fund solar panels for its comfort. But what about the comfort of the residents who would benefit from this program? What about the benefit to communities by lowering of emissions with the switch to clean energy sources? What about the recently changed DPU mandate requiring them to factor equity and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their decisions? 

The DPU’s statement that “[it] agrees that facilitating low-income customer access to solar PV while electrifying heating is consistent with Commonwealth policy but doing so requires the intersection of multiple programs” is fairly telling. At the moment, our regulatory system just wasn’t set up to allow this kind of innovation. There are too many silos for money – efficiency, SMART tariff, net metering, demand response, developer funds, and investment tax credits – where the streams cannot be combined. Even though all the money comes from the same place and goes to fund programs that help the same people – Massachusetts ratepayers.  

That’s a problem. But Acadia Center has a solution.  

Acadia Center’s new report Reforming Energy System Planning for Equity and Climate Transformation (RESPECT) takes on some of these regulatory silos and proposes a new way of looking at planning for the future of our grid and consumers. Under RESPECT, regulators could encourage innovative solutions that take on multiple problems and make something even greater than its component parts for the ratepayers. Rather than being bound by the solutions of the past, innovative programs like CVEO could become a guiding example for how to think differently.  

We need to do better for the ratepayers of Massachusetts. We need to be able to use programs that we have, bend them slightly, and feed two birds with one scone. Otherwise, we have no hope of being able to take on the climate crisis with all we’ve got. 

Governor Baker balks at transportation and climate program

BOSTON, MA – Today, Governor Baker announced that Massachusetts would no longer be pursuing participation in the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) program. The program, which would place a declining limit on vehicle pollution and direct proceeds to an array of clean transportation investments, had become a central component of Massachusetts’ strategy to rein in transportation pollution. Now, without that program on the horizon, the Commonwealth will have an even steeper hill to climb as it seeks to achieve its legally binding emissions targets.  

While the reversal on TCI is frustrating, stakeholder input on the program should continue to inform the Commonwealth’s next steps. For example, advocates and legislators called on the Baker administration to invest at least 70% of the TCI proceeds in overburdened and underserved communities, with representatives from those communities empowered to influence investment decisions. That commitment to equitable investment in our transportation system must be incorporated into the Baker administration’s planning. Similarly, Massachusetts committed through the TCI process to work with environmental justice communities to advance air quality monitoring programs; that vital work must go on, and the Commonwealth must find a new source of adequate funding. 

The TCI program was never intended to be a comprehensive solution to the Commonwealth’s long list of transportation woes. Stubbornly high tailpipe emissions, congested roads, underfunded public transit, and cities with dangerously poor air quality can’t be solved by any single policy. But TCI would have provided a much needed shot in the arm.  Now, Massachusetts has one less tool in its bag to meet its climate targets and deliver the clean air and equitable transportation system that the Commonwealth’s residents deserve. 

Media Contacts:

Jordan Stutt, Carbon Programs Director
jstutt@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x105
198 Tremont Street, Suite 415Boston, MA 02111 

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Acadia Center is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. Acadia Center advocates for an equitable clean energy future for Connecticut, tackling regulatory and legislative energy policy, transportation, energy efficiency, beneficial electrification, utility innovation, and renewable energy.