NE Stakeholders Support Developing Time-varying Rates
STOWE, Vt. — As New England plans how to cope with peak winter electricity demand with a growing reliance on renewables, energy leaders in the region are calling on the states to look at developing time-varying rates to reduce costs and environmental burdens.
Speakers at the 75th New England Conference of Public Utilities Commissioners Symposium generally agreed on the need to develop rate structures that would better allow customers to respond to market signals, incentivizing them to reduce energy consumption during periods of limited energy supply. The vast majority of customers in the region currently pay flat rates, regardless of the amount of stress on the grid.
In order to accommodate customers with special needs or limited energy-use flexibility, the speakers agreed that if time-varying rates do become the default, customers need to have other options.
“We absolutely have to have an opt-out program where people can opt out if the rates are not working for them,” said Amy Boyd, vice president of climate and clean energy policy at Acadia Center.
To read the full article, click here.
Utility Bills: New Proposal To ‘Eliminate Price Surging’ Gains Momentum — How Much Could You Save?
Utility bills could soon be easier to pay for many New Yorkers. State lawmakers pushed a package of bills through the Senate to address increased costs for ratepayers. Spectrum News NY1 reported that this new measure came from a legislative review by the Senate Investigations Committee into utility price increases over the last year.
State legislatures also want to create minimum standards for payment plans for eligible customers and lower fixed charges from utility companies in New York. According to a report by Acadia Center, New Yorkers pay three times as much in fixed charges as they charge residents in nearby states, per Senate Bill S1303. Fixed charges are flat monthly fees that people pay on their utility bills regardless of the energy they use.
To read the full article, read here.
Lawmakers Eye Raising Offshore Wind Target to Achieve Climate Goals
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MAY 18, 2023…..With the ball starting to roll on offshore wind development, lawmakers are looking this session to accelerate additional renewable energy capacity and environmental advocates warn they’ll need to pick up the pace to meet the state’s ambitious climate goals.
A handful of bills before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy would allow the state to increase its capacity to bring thousands of megawatts of offshore wind energy onto the grid, coming at a time when Gov. Maura Healey has shown an appetite for significant new development.
The Healey administration announced earlier this month that they want to add up to 3,600 more megawatts to the collection of in-development or under-contract offshore wind projects in the pipeline. That maximum amount would be more than twice as large as the 1,600 megawatts selected in the last procurement round two years ago, according to the Healey administration, on its own would meet about a quarter of the state’s annual electricity demand. However, the upcoming round might backfill some prior wind capacity if some previously approved projects fall through now that developers are warning about changing economic conditions.
“If all goes according to plan with our current set of procurement commitments, which is an open question, Massachusetts will have 3.2 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by around 2030. That means we will have around 20 years to develop and bring online 19.8 gigawatts of offshore wind power,” said Kyle Murray, senior advocate and Massachusetts program director at environmental nonprofit Acadia Center, during a Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy public hearing on Thursday.
“Therefore, it is crucial for our commonwealth to display a commitment to large and long-term clean energy requirements to continue to send a signal to developers that Massachusetts will be a leader in offshore wind,” Murray said.
The offshore wind bill would also remove remuneration to utility companies such as National Grid, which receive up to 2.25 percent of an offshore wind project bid. The payments are intended to offset the risk that utility companies take working with a nascent industry.
“Offshore wind is no longer a far-off proposition here in Massachusetts. Our first wind farm should be operational by the end of this year. Offshore wind will be a large reality in our energy mix going forward,” Murray said. “Therefore, the utilities no longer need this incentive, which is around $168 million for the Vineyard Wind project, simply to bring these contracts onto the books.”
To read the full article from the State House News Service, click here.
Jumpstarting the Clean Heat Standard Process
Clean Heat Standard Momentum
In the past few years, discussion about implementing a Clean Heat Standard (CHS) has quickly gained steam around the country. In 2021 Colorado passed legislation requiring the development of Clean Heat Plans. Just this week, the Vermont Senate overrode Governor Phil Scott’s veto of a CHS bill, and the House appears to be poised to do the same. In Massachusetts, a CHS was first seriously considered several years ago as the state developed its clean energy and climate plans for 2025 and 2030. Later, as part of its Final Report, the Massachusetts Commission on Clean Heat endorsed developing a CHS. The Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2050 later adopted the CHS framework outlined in the Clean Heat Commission’s report. With all this momentum in place, you may be left with one question: what exactly is a Clean Heat Standard?
What is a Clean Heat Standard?
As identified by the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) in a paper prepared for the Massachusetts CECP, a CHS is a “credit-based performance standard that would be applied to suppliers of heating energy in Massachusetts, notably gas utilities and providers of heating oil and propane, and possibly electricity suppliers.” These parties would then be obligated to provide gradually increasing amounts of low- or zero-emissions fuel to consumers. The concept is similar to a Renewable Portfolio Standard. In Massachusetts, the goal would be to decarbonize the building sector at the speed and scale necessary to support the state in achieving its building sector emissions reduction target of 47% below 1990 emission levels by 2030 and 93% by 2050.
However, while the basic concepts are simple enough, the actual details of such a program and its implementation are a bit trickier. If properly designed, a CHS could serve as another valuable decarbonization policy tool for cost-effectively electrifying and improving the efficiency of buildings in a state without driving up costs to electric ratepayers. However, if poorly implemented, a CHS could serve to potentially undermine decarbonization goals. One critical area to get right is understanding the actual lifecycle emissions of certain alternative heating fuels, such as biofuels. Vermont’s proposed CHS is extremely friendly to biofuels, but biofuels can produce significant emissions. Another key issue surrounds the future of fossil gas as a heating fuel. Neither the RAP report nor the Massachusetts Clean Heat Commission report for example provide detailed recommendations on how the most complicated (and important) elements of a CHS should be designed. For example, what is the long-term vision to phasing out fossil gas for heating and for the future of the natural gas distribution system? How can a CHS be designed to support achieving that vision? Further, if certain biofuels are deemed eligible within the CHS, what specific methodology should the Commonwealth use to accurately account for lifecycle emissions from these fuels? These are the types of make or break decisions that can cause the policy to sink or swim. Therefore, it is absolutely crucial that states looking to adopt a CHS get the details of its proposal correct.
Acadia Center and Colleague Input
In Massachusetts, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEP) initiated a stakeholder process in April 2023 regarding the development of a CHS for Massachusetts, to little fanfare or attention. This process included a stakeholder discussion document in which DEP requested information on program design input, recommendations for further input, and suggested topics, locations, and formats for stakeholder meetings and hearings. In response, Acadia Center worked with a number of stakeholders, including Conservation Law Foundation, Green Energy Consumers Alliance, Home Energy Efficiency Team, and Pipe Line Awareness for the Northeast to develop a response document on to which over 35 organizations signed. Acadia Center with our colleagues produced a comprehensive 22-page document responding to the DEP’s questions and outlined our vision for a successful CHS for Massachusetts. These top priorities include a CHS that ensures adequate equity protections and an electrification-only compliance program, particularly for gas utilities.
On equity and energy justice, the document asks DEP to design the program to focus direct and indirect benefits on customers with the highest energy burdens. We also ask DEP to coordinate closely with the Department of Energy Resources and the Department of Public Utilities on complimentary strategies, including rate design, the Alternative Portfolio Standard, and a managed transition off gas.
Acadia Center and its colleagues further ask DEP to design the CHS in a manner that best supports the most cost-effective long-term emissions reduction pathway. This concept centers around focusing compliance pathways on non-combustion technologies rather than biofuels or hydrogen blending, particularly for gas. The document asks DEP to utilize the 2025/2030 CECP’s High Electrification Scenario as opposed to the Phased Scenario, as the High Electrification Scenario emphasizes higher levels of near-term full-building electrification and a more rapid phase down of gas heating systems, better positioning the state to achieve 2050 climate goals at similar costs.
On stakeholder input, we urge DEP to balance different tracks of stakeholder processes for different types of stakeholders. We also urge the development of technical sessions on key design topics, such as coordination with the Mass Save energy efficiency programs, hybrid heating system credits, and calculation of credits by technology.
While many details remain to be worked out, Acadia Center is encouraged by the positive first steps taken by the Commonwealth. We look forward to working with the Administration as these proposals move forward.
For more information:
Kyle Murray, firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-742-0054 ext. 106
The Race for a Renewable Future: How the EU and US Are Tackling Clean Energy
States have long filled a climate gap in the United States and served as leaders in establishing clean energy and emissions goals. Over 30 states and the District of Columbia have clean energy standards in place. Clean energy goals set mandates for clean energy, usually called Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) or Clean Energy Targets, typically imposed on electricity providers. States differ in what clean energy technologies qualify under their laws. Climate goals, or Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets, set goals for the overall emissions in a state – including energy, transportation, and other sectors.
Northeast states were early leaders in this trend. Connecticut, for example, was one of the first states in the country to set a goal of 80% emissions reductions by 2050 in legislation. Acadia Center monitors the northeast and mid-Atlantic region and has found the following:
By the end of 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reports that 67% of electricity retail sales in the U.S. States fall under legally binding RPSs.
At the federal level, there is no specific statute setting a national U.S. clean energy standard or climate goal, although legislation passed last year – the Inflation Reduction Act – and nonbinding national targets are designed to produce emission reductions 40-50% below 2005 levels by 2030, in line with aggressive state climate goals. Federal policy is intended to reach commitments in the Paris Climate Accords.
How do these efforts at the state and federal levels compare to other countries?
The European Union (EU) and the United States are both taking steps to transition towards cleaner energy sources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. However, there are some notable differences in their approaches.
The goal set by the EU would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. To achieve this, the EU has implemented a variety of policies and initiatives to support renewable energy, such as the Renewable Energy Directive, which sets binding targets for renewable energy use, and the European Green Deal, which aims to make the EU’s economy sustainable. The EU also has a carbon pricing system in place, the Emissions Trading System (ETS), which covers energy and industrial sectors and provides a financial incentive for companies to reduce their emissions.
In March 2023, the European Union agreed to double its renewable energy targets by 2030, a significant increase from its previous target of 32%. The new goal is for 65% of the EU’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030, with further targets for energy efficiency and electrification of transport.
The US federal government has also recently made progress on climate policy. President Biden’s American Jobs Plan includes significant funding for clean energy and infrastructure, and he has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, similar to the EU 2030 goal. The Biden administration has also rejoined the Paris Agreement and has set emissions reduction targets for the US.
However, there are still significant challenges facing both the EU and the US in their clean energy transitions. In the EU, some member states remain heavily reliant on fossil fuels, and there is resistance to phasing out these industries. In the US, there is political polarization on climate policy, with some states and industries opposing regulations and incentives for clean energy.
Overall, while there are differences in the approaches taken by the EU and the US, both are making progress in transitioning to cleaner energy sources. The EU’s ambitious targets and policy framework provide a solid foundation for its efforts, while the US has made considerable progress at the state level and is now beginning to pursue more ambitious national policies. By continuing to work towards their goals, both the EU and the US can make significant contributions to global efforts to combat climate change.
NESEA 2023 Building Energy Boston: Scalable Climate Solutions in Built Environment
Acadia Center recently participated in the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA)’s annual BuildingEnergy Boston Conference that occurred on March 28 – 29, 2023. With over 45 presentations from experts across the fields, the NESEA BuildingEnergy Boston conference has again drawn attention to the climate and clean energy implications in the design and construction sector in buildings. Our Environmental Justice & Outreach Manager, Joy Yakie served as a member of the 2023 Content Committee and curated two of the presentations at the conference. She found that the highlight of the conference was summarized by the two keynote addresses on the Net-Zero Building Revolution and Why We Stopped Doing Deep Energy Retrofits. The conference opened more dialogue on how solutions can be scaled up to ensure sustainable practices in the design and construction space.
Dividing her time at the conference, Joy supported two of the presentations she reviewed weeks leading up to the conference. Both presentations, Commitment to Learning: A Case Study of Three Public Schools and Addressing Racism and Subtle Acts of Exclusion in the Workplace, shared broader knowledge on sustainable practices in building public schools and how to handle microaggressions in the design and construction workplace respectively. The Case Study of Three Public Schools was presented by architects from HMFH, a leading design firm in the design and construction space that champions sustainability in their building design and construction. The buildings used for the case study on public schools were situated in Taunton, Westborough, and Dighton MA.
Joy also supported the presentation by the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Director, Fatou Nije-Jallow, MHA, from The New England Center for Children, expounding on subtle acts of exclusion in the workplace and the examples of well-crafted responses that foster inclusivity in the workplace.
Acadia Center is proud to work with our partners and other stakeholders in the building sector. We are a part of the ongoing conversations and will ensure that the success of our work reflects net-zero emissions from this sector in the near decade.
NESEA is planning its Building Energy NYC conference scheduled for October 12, 2023. Visit https://nesea.org/conference/buildingenergy-nyc for more information to participate and support.
For more information:
Joy Yakie, Environmental Justice & Outreach Manager, email@example.com, 617-742-0054 x110
Massachusetts prepares to launch new electric vehicle rebates early this summer
New electric vehicle rebates are expected to become available in Massachusetts in early summer, some nine months after lawmakers passed a bill calling for the incentives’ immediate implementation.
The state has said funding and logistical obstacles have delayed the launch of the new provisions, which will add higher incentives for low-income car buyers, create a rebate for the purchase of used electric vehicles, and establish a system for providing rebates at the point of sale, lowering the upfront cost of the vehicle.
Advocates have been understanding of the complications with rolling out these provisions but are eager for the new components to take effect.
“I am sympathetic, but if we want to hit not our climate goals — our climate requirements — we really need these coming online as soon as possible,” said Kyle Murray, Massachusetts program director at climate nonprofit the Acadia Center.
Though the law authorizing the program was passed in August 2022, the legislature didn’t provide any additional funding until November.
“The administration was a bit handcuffed in that they couldn’t set up a program they weren’t sure they’d have the money for,” Murray said.
Still, Murray is confident that the combination of public sentiment, state incentives, and federal tax credits will soon make a measurable difference.
“We’re definitely going to see it really start to tick up,” he said.
To read the full article from Energy News Network, click here.
OP-ED | We Don’t Talk About E-Bikes
April, when the world emerges from hibernation, is the top month for bike sales, according to BiCi Co., a bicycle shop in Hartford. May is National Bike Month. We are approaching the one-year anniversary of Gov. Ned Lamont signing the Connecticut Clean Air Act. Our state’s e-bike rebate program has yet to roll out.
Last week, DEEP published its 1990-2021 Connecticut Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, with Commissioner Dykes saying how the “transportation sector continues to be by far the largest source of our emissions.”
If only DEEP, the agency tasked with creating and administering the program providing rebates to state residents who buy e-bikes could do something about that.
The program could have begun as early as last July, but we have seen a series of adjusted deadlines. I had questions about this; DEEP did not respond ahead of a generous deadline for comment.
“Targeting rebates to people in more urban settings who don’t have a car, don’t want a car, don’t have a place to put a car,” is a strategic approach to ensuring that green transportation is equitable says the Acadia Center’s Amy Boyd, Vice President, Climate and Clean Energy Policy.
We are in a time to rethink how we want our world to be, how we want our society to operate. Boyd explains that “in decarbonizing transportation we’re hoping to not just shift vehicles from being fossil fuel-powered to being electrified, but also shift how people move around.”
To read the full op-ed, click here.
Maine jury clears Avangrid’s 145-mile transmission line, reversing ballot vote that blocked project
- A Maine jury ruled Thursday that Avangrid had the right to build a 145-mile transmission line when state voters in 2021 approved a ballot measure that interrupted construction of the New England Clean Energy Connect, NECEC, project.
- The 9-0 decision in the Maine Business and Consumer Court in Portland turns aside the referendum and allows work to resume on the $1 billion project to deliver Canadian hydropower to the New England grid. Massachusetts ratepayers would be the primary beneficiaries and bear the costs.
- Backers of the project say the transmission line through western Maine will combat climate change by supplying up to 1,200 MW of hydropower, or enough electricity for about 1 million homes. Critics say it will damage woodlands along a portion of the route, but NECEC said the area has been logged for years.
Amy Boyd, vice president for climate and clean energy policy at the Acadia Center, said the transmission line is a “big deal” because hydropower-generated energy will help Massachusetts meet its 2030 climate goals. The state has set in law a 33% limit of greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2025 and 50% below 1990 levels by 2030.
Sources of clean energy, such as hydropower from Quebec, are often distant from population centers and require transmission, she said in an interview Thursday. Costly legal battles with “too much drama” make it difficult to move forward on projects delivering clean energy, Boyd said.
“If there’s this much of a fight for all involved, it’s not going to be possible,” she said.
To read the full article from Utility Dive, click here.
Maine jury rules $1 billion clean energy transmission line from Canada to New England can proceed
A Maine jury ruled Thursday that construction can proceed on a transmission line that will carry clean, hydropower from Quebec to Massachusetts through the region’s power grid — bolstering efforts to shift the state’s electricity consumption away from carbon-emitting fossil fuels.
The decision in favor of Avangrid, the Connecticut company building the transmission line, overturns the result of a 2021 ballot initiative in Maine, which sought to terminate the $1 billion project and passed with the support of nearly 60 percent of voters.
The ballot initiative’s backers included environmental groups that argued the project would damage the forests of Western Maine and energy companies with substantial natural gas interests that will face increased competition if the transmission line is completed.
Amy Boyd, a vice president at Acadia Center, a Maine clean energy advocacy nonprofit, described that amount of power as “freakin’ huge” for a single project. It could account for between 2 percent and 10 percent of New England’s energy consumption at any given moment, she said.
You can read the full article in the Boston Globe here.