Partisanship, Oil Interests Kill Life-Saving Clean Cars and Trucks Standards by Politicizing Bipartisan Regulatory Process
Hartford — Tomorrow, the Lamont administration is expected to announce that the proposed Advanced Clean Cars II (ACCII), Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT), and Heavy-Duty Omnibus (HDO) programs will be withdrawn from consideration by the state’s Regulation Review Committee.
By setting gradually increasing sales targets for low- and zero-emissions vehicles, and requiring heavy-duty vehicles to emit less toxic nitrous oxides (NOx), these regulations would have saved consumers money at the pump while protecting public health against the dangerous effects of air pollution. Rates of air pollution-linked death are higher in Connecticut than in any other New England state.
“In a state with immense vehicle miles traveled from passenger and heavy-duty vehicles, Connecticut now falls farther behind in its clean transportation goals without adopting the full suite of proposed vehicle emissions standards,” said Jayson Velazquez, Climate and Energy Justice Policy Associate at Acadia Center. “Connecticut should be the solidifying piece in the Tri-State Area critical to the regional auto market and transportation corridor. For existing and future generations of Connecticut residents, clean air, climate, health, and equity are deferred. Unfortunately, disinformation campaigns stifled opportunities for innovation, equitable outreach, engagement, workforce opportunities, education, and the economy. Connecticut now misses the mark in joining regional leaders and partners as the sole outlier in the clean vehicle transition that is underway.”
To read the full press release from Clean Car States, click here.
Dem governor withdraws electric vehicle mandate in stunning blow to environmentalists
Democratic Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is withdrawing his plan to mandate future electric vehicle (EV) purchases after the proposal received bipartisan pushback from lawmakers on a key legislative panel.
Lamont ultimately pulled the proposal just four months after unveiling it and characterizing it as “decisive action to meet our climate pollution reduction targets.” In July, Lamont unveiled the proposal, tethering Connecticut’s emissions standards to those set in California, which mandates that every passenger vehicle sold is electric by 2035, the most aggressive target of its kind nationwide.
The Sierra Club Connecticut, Conservation Law Foundation, Acadia Center, Union of Concerned Scientists, Nature Conservancy, Environment Connecticut and Connecticut League of Conservation Voters also ripped Lamont’s action Tuesday.
To read the full article from Fox News, click here.
Climate advocates call on New Jersey leaders to pass legislation to deliver economic, health and climate benefits of clean energy
Trenton, NJ —- Today members of Clean Energy Action Now (CLEAN) came together to support legislation to increase affordability, deliver cleaner air, and accelerate the Garden State’s climate goals. The Clean Energy Act of 2023 (S2978), sponsored by Sen. Bob Smith, would accelerate New Jersey’s clean energy transition by ensuring New Jersey utilities deliver 100% clean electricity by 2035 with minimal impacts to New Jersey energy bills, further reducing the state’s reliance on fossil fuels in the next decade.
Ben Butterworth, Director: Climate, Energy & Equity Analysis, Acadia Center:
“New Jerseyans have already paid dearly for the cost of climate change, from hotter, more deadly summers to more frequent, more intense natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy that damaged hundreds of thousands of homes across the state. Today’s legislation to achieve 100% clean electricity by 2035 takes a massive step toward reducing New Jersey’s climate-warming emissions, but more must be done to ensure that residents can access the health, economic, and climate benefits of pollution-free homes.”
To read the full press release on Insider NJ, click here.
RIDOT presents revised Carbon Reduction Strategy plan
On Nov. 15, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation submitted a revised version of its Carbon Reduction Strategy to the Federal Highway Administration. If the plan is approved, RIDOT is eligible to receive an estimated $35.7 million from the federal government to spend on carbon reduction projects over four years.
While representatives from both the Acadia Center, a non-profit dedicated to climate solutions, and Grow Smart R.I., an organization focused on “neighborhood revitalization, environmental stewardship and economic opportunity,” believe the new plan is more effective, they still share concerns about its ability to help the state meet the goals outlined in the 2021 R.I. Act on Climate.
“Overall, I’m glad to see that RIDOT responded to the public’s demand for more investment in non-car infrastructure,” said Emily Koo ’13, senior policy advocate and R.I. program director of the Acadia Center. “But the core issues of not meeting the Act on Climate targets, nor measuring project level emissions reductions, remain.”
While Acadia was “glad to see that there’s significantly more funding for bike paths, it is still for resurfacing and preservation and maintenance of existing bike paths and not (establishing) new bike infrastructure,” Koo said.
For Koo, RIDOT is “putting the onus of the transportation sector planning and analysis on the state’s 2025 climate strategy.”
To read the entire article from the Brown Daily Herald, click here.
Building Power: Breaking down Rhode Island’s new community electricity programs
This summer, during the hottest July on record, over 1,000 Rhode Islanders had their electricity service shut off. These residents—unable to pay bills 25 percent higher than last summer—were left without AC or electricity for days of extreme heat, causing heat-related illnesses and exacerbating existing health conditions. Facing longer and hotter summers due to climate change, Rhode Islanders, especially those with underlying health conditions, have a dire need for air conditioning. But more AC usage alongside ongoing energy rate hikes means higher bills, and with higher bills comes the risk of shut-offs, leaving vulnerable Rhode Islanders without electricity when it is most critical.
Emily Koo, who was Providence’s Director of Sustainability during much of the development of the PCE program, pointed to the importance of taking control back from the utility:
“Communities are in the driver’s seat here and will continue to pursue the dual goal of lower cost, higher renewables for its customers in its electricity procurement,” she said. “This separation of supply is a great example of removing a responsibility from the utility so that it better aligns with state and community goals to address climate pollution and lower consumer costs.”
Many residents are concerned by the dissonance between the dirty tricks and the purported clean energy goals of the biggest renewable supplier in the country, their potential future supplier. So how and why was such a company chosen? And should it change how we understand municipal aggregation in Rhode Island?
The first question is simpler to answer. Koo put it bluntly: there wasn’t much of a choice. The buying group of municipalities put out a Request for Proposal (RFP), inviting any energy suppliers licensed to work in the region to bid to procure energy for the program; after initial vetting by Good Energy on the financial viability of the proposed suppliers, they were left with bids from two companies. One was NextEra; the other remains confidential.
Ultimately, Jamie Rhodes explains, it came down to a decision between two fundamentally different pricing models. Given the needs of the program—the necessary balance of lower prices and renewable options—Koo told the Indy that the buying group of municipalities decided that, of the two, NextEra best balanced these factors.
Municipal aggregation in Rhode Island is a truly important shift, a step toward enabling Rhode Islanders to have more agency over their energy system, toward acknowledging the power in collectivity. With NextEra in the mix, this program is far from ideal. But it’s what we have, and it’s better than what we had before. The development of local renewables is real and important; the costs of energy remain lower than RI Energy and will hopefully continue to drop.
And as Emily Koo said, these large energy companies, even involved as they are in dirty nationwide politics, “can also be driven to serve the needs of certain communities.”
To read the full article from the Indy, click here.
Clean Energy, Climate, Consumers, and the Future of the Electric Utility: Where Does Maine Go from Here?
A recent highly publicized ballot initiative in Maine focused on the importance of getting the utilities’ role right in the clean energy transition. The ballot initiative asked Maine voters to approve a process to transition the state’s two for-profit electric utilities, Central Maine Power and Versant, into a new consumer-owned utility to be called Pine Tree Power. The referendum proposed to have Pine Tree Power governed by a board of 13 elected members, seven of whom would be elected in statewide public elections, and the remaining six appointed by the elected members. On November 7, 2023, Maine voters overwhelmingly voted not to proceed with Pine Tree Power.
The referendum’s defeat is not an ending, but instead an opportunity for a new beginning. Maine’s utility regulators must ensure that the state’s utility policies are aligned with climate, consumer, and equity priorities—regardless of whether its utilities are publicly or privately owned. By doing so, Maine can motivate its utilities to be full partners in fighting climate change, accelerating the clean energy transition, protecting consumer interests, and promoting environmental justice.
However, it should be noted that utilities in Maine caused consumers to rebel. Legitimate complaints about customer service, reliability, and billing abound. Maine’s utilities have reacted to complaints defensively and have been slow to respond to the urgent demands of climate change and creating a clean energy future.
Second, the utility regulatory structure in Maine must change regardless of the outcome of the referendum. Maine, like most states, continues to rely on a utility monopoly structure that was developed decades ago in very different times. Utility monopolies were created to streamline bringing electric service to all. The impetus for creating monopoly utilities like Central Maine Power was to optimize the growth of electric service by connecting electric generating plants to a single distribution system of wires and poles that reached rural and urban communities alike.
But that was decades ago, and times have changed. Today, the role of electricity in our economy and lives is far different. Reliable electric service is not a luxury but essential to modern life’s functioning and safety. We need electricity to power almost all aspects of our lives, from heating systems to refrigeration and almost everything in between. Moreover, electrification is critical to today’s climate goals. New clean, electric technologies can provide greater comfort at lower costs and lower emissions. But the way Maine regulates its utilities must change to make this a reality. The return on investment for a utility shareholder should not matter more than providing utility customers with the best possible energy options at the lowest price. Under existing utility policies, investor-owned utilities are driven by one mantra: to provide the highest possible return on investment to shareholders, while customers and climate goals take a back seat. That system imposes conflicting incentives on the utility’s decision making.
There is a better way!
Acadia Center is actively engaged in efforts to advance policies that will reshape the role of Maine’s utilities as proactive players in the clean energy transition. For example, we are calling for regulators to ensure that metrics for utility success and performance are meaningfully tied to the right policy priorities and that utilities are held accountable for their performance. Acadia Center advocates for performance-based metrics and incentives for utilities that tie utility compensation to performance, including lowering bills and increasing customer satisfaction ratings. For any normal business, competitive pressure would force it to reduce costs, but in a monopolistic system, while Maine utilities receive a guaranteed high rate of return, they are not subject to similar competitive pressures.
Acadia Center is further advancing reforms to improve and modernize state utility planning oversight. Utility planning processes should eliminate barriers to clean distributed energy resources and non-wires alternatives, but today, that is not the case. Acadia Center has offered a new, updated framework for utility oversight and energy system planned called RESPECT: Reforming Energy System Planning for Equity and Climate Transformation. RESPECT recommends a modernized framework for how utilities should make long-term investment decisions to ensure energy systems are aligned with state goals to address climate pollution, further environmental justice, and lower consumer costs. For example, currently, utilities both plan and make decisions on which energy options they should invest in. Often these decisions are informed by the financial return for the company. Critically, RESPECT contains approaches to remove these competing financial and planning incentives on the utility by offering a new approach for independent system planning. Acadia Center advocates for more comprehensive utility planning efforts, such as the Maine PUC’s Integrated Grid Planning (which Acadia Center was instrumental in getting written into law). These efforts will require active participation and clear buy-in by the utilities and the Maine Public Utility Commission.
These are just several examples of the many important policy changes needed. But despite the complexity of utility reform, Maine does not have to look far for notable models of better practices. In Vermont, for example, Green Mountain Power (GMP) offers multiple programs that treat customers as partners and looks for ways to provide them relief, not just to collect their bills. For example, GMP provides direct incentives to its customers that are not mere tokens: customers can receive up to $10,500 for the installation of home batteries, free at-home EV chargers (and a lower EV charging rate) as well as generous rebates and incentives for heat pumps, induction stoves, electric yard equipment, and a host of other electric devices. The kinds of innovative programs that utilities like Green Mountain Power offer could provide a roadmap for Maine’s utilities – and greatly benefit Maine families by offering a full array of new options to control costs.
Now is a critical time for ensuring that Maine’s electrical system works for the benefit of consumers and communities in Maine, and not distant shareholders whose focus is return on investment. Look for Acadia Center to dive into these issues in more detail and offer specific recommendations in the coming months.
Myth Busting: Electric Vehicle Charging and Reliability
EVs don’t work in the cold weather, and the car heater kills the battery!
While older EVs do experience reduced efficiency in their battery life below 30° Fahrenheit, traditional gas-powered vehicles experience the same issue. In newer EV models this issue is reduced and the extreme cold usually affects the battery by about 15-30%. Newer EVs have also found a solution to the problem of heater use reducing the battery level, equipping their models with heat pumps that heat the car and do not reduce the battery capacity by any significant percentage when in use.
EVs are expensive; it’s cheaper to stick with gas vehicles.
In very recent years, both new and used car prices have dramatically escalated. But the price for many EV models has come down, and there are financial incentives available for many makes of cars from federal and state programs that make EVs competitive with the price of new gasoline and hybrid vehicles. You can check the IRS website to see financial incentives that may be applicable to your situation. The incentives can be substantial, depending on where the car was built, and the battery materials were mined. Lower price EVs include the Kia Niro, Chevrolet Bolt, and Tesla Model 3 (base model).
The range thing freaks me out; I could get stranded!
Most late-model EVs have an achievable range of about 200-250 miles, and several have more than 300 miles, far above the range of the average daily driver. Charging stations exist throughout the region for longer trips, with new programs promoting additional charging station locations. Plus, it’s important to remember that if you have a home charger, you can fully charge your EV and need fewer breaks at charging stations on the road.
Charging an EV is complicated; how do people figure it out?
Charging an EV is similar in many ways to charging a mobile phone. You can charge your EV in at least three ways. Here are your options:
- Plug it into a wall socket! A typical home socket is 110V, known as a Level 1 charger. This method of charging can be slow, taking about 8-10 hours to charge the battery fully. Few people prefer this method because it takes so long.
- Install a Level 2 charger at home that can “fill the tank” in about 2-4 hours. This charger uses 240 volts, typically charging four times faster than Level 1. Many states or consumer groups have incentives to install home chargers, and they’re as simple to use as plugging in your car and removing the plug once it’s full. Here’s a picture of a home charger in my garage. I have two lines for two EVs.
- Charge on the road with a “Supercharger” in about 20-30 minutes. See below for more on the Supercharger.
Wait, I can charge at home, but what about out on the road? I’m going to get stranded again!
There are chargers throughout the U.S. and Canada. In Maine, where I live, there are approximately 216 high-speed chargers available on the roads, with 708 slower community chargers. Of course, there are fewer chargers in rural areas, and some planning is required. It is a little more complicated than charging at home, but not much, and there are phone apps that can help you navigate to the nearest charger. On the road, many chargers are so-called “Superchargers” or Level 3 chargers that can charge your car fully in about 20-30 minutes. A new fleet of even faster Level 4 chargers is being installed in the United States. You can easily download many apps on your phone, such as Plugshare and ABRP, which show you where the chargers are located, whether they are working or occupied. Once you find one on the map, you touch the screen on the pin, and it gives you directions to the Supercharger! These apps also allow you to plan your journey so that you are sure chargers will be available along the way.
For questions, please email Senior Policy Advocate and Maine Program Director Pete LaFond at email@example.com, and he will endeavor to answer your questions.
Boston no longer pursuing inclusion in program to ban fossil fuels in new construction
The city of Boston will no longer be pursuing inclusion in a program that would allow it to ban fossil fuels from new construction.
The program was open to 10 Massachusetts municipalities, and nine of those spots have already been taken. Mayor Michelle Wu told The Boston Globe last week that she had received “clear indications that Boston would not be chosen for the one available spot,” and that it “breaks [her] heart.”
Boston was unlikely to be accepted because it is “electrically similar” to a few other communities that have already been selected, such as Cambridge, Brookline, and Arlington, a spokesperson for the state Department of Energy Resources told the Globe. This means that their infrastructures are of a similar age and face similar demands. The pilot program was designed to collect data from a diverse group of municipalities.
Kyle Murray, Massachusetts program director at the clean energy advocacy group Acadia Center, told the Globe that Boston’s new building code already does a lot to prevent fossil fuel usage in new buildings.
“[The code is] strong and will really help drive down emissions,” he told the paper. “So I still think Boston is going to do some amazing things, but still — I’m a little disappointed.”
To read the full article from Boston.com, click here.
Boston’s plan to ban fossil fuels in new buildings goes up in smoke
More than three years after introducing her Green New Deal plan for Boston as a mayoral candidate, Mayor Michelle Wu said in an interview last week that the city will not be participating in a state program that will allow 10 communities to ban developers from including fossil fuels in new buildings. The pilot program is the only way for Massachusetts communities to take this step without violating state regulations.
Wu’s decision not to apply for the program came as a surprise to environmental advocates and legislators who have been trying to move the state away from heating and cooling new structures with fossil fuels. Constructing buildings that are only powered by electricity is considered among the low-hanging fruit of plans to decarbonize. Buildings account for roughly 70 percent of Boston’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The adoption of Boston’s new building code already goes a long way toward getting fossil fuels out of new buildings, said Kyle Murray, Massachusetts program director at the clean energy advocacy group Acadia Center.
The code is “strong and will really help drive down emissions,” he said. “So I still think Boston is going to do some amazing things, but still — I’m a little disappointed.”
To read the full article from the Boston Globe, click here.
What the Failed Pine Tree Power Proposal in Maine Could Have Accomplished
Maine voters had the chance to make history Tuesday, but instead rejected the contentious Pine Tree Power proposal which, advocates say, had big implications for the rates that Maine electric customers pay and how fast the state transitions to renewable energy sources.
If it had passed, the vote would have replaced the state’s investor-owned electric utilities, Central Maine Power and Versant Power, with a publicly owned alternative named Pine Tree Power, the first of its kind in the US. The move also could have set the stage for other states to follow suit.
The ballot question created a fiery debate, with even environmental nonprofits disagreeing on which option was better.
LaFond, who did not endorse either side, believes the ballot initiative was more of “an indication that change is needed.”
The Pine Tree Power proposal surfaced after strong criticism of Central Maine Power, a corporate-owned utility that consumers say has a history of slow response time to outages and poor billing experiences.
Supporters of the Pine Tree Power initiative said CMP caused roadblocks to renewable power projects. “Things need to be governed differently to move forward into a green energy future that both reduces energy costs and reduces the carbon footprint,” LaFond said.
But the vote isn’t where this issue ends. Residents will still need to remain involved if they want their voice to be heard in the future of Maine’s energy decisions.
“Regardless of the outcome of the vote, things need to change,” LaFond said. “If we’re going to meet consumer, climate and energy goals, we have to move forward with a utility system that’s responsive to those.”
To read the full article from CNET, click here.