Is your air conditioning working? Thank a solar panel.

When the forecast calls for record-breaking temperatures, the kind that turn the weather app warnings deep red and push the limits of what a window unit air conditioner can do, those in the know brace themselves.

Extreme heat means extreme electricity demand, and that can lead to rolling blackouts or outages that leave thousands without electricity.

But even amid record high temperatures, that has not been the story this week.

But with thousands of small solar arrays distributed across the region,

“if one of these solar arrays goes down, it’ll be immaterial,” said Joe LaRusso, manager of the Clean Grid Initiative at the Acadia Center.

Beyond the solar that helped power the grid through the heat wave, traditional resources, such as natural gas and nuclear power, held up reliably.

A small amount of oil-fired electricity was also powering the grid — an increasingly rare occurrence as the region weans itself off the dirtiest sources. But because oil power plants can take longer to fire up, keeping some operating at a low level during a heat wave is a precautionary measure, LaRusso said, so they can quickly ramp up if something goes wrong at another power plant or demand suddenly spikes.

To read the full article from the Boston Globe, click here.

EV drivers could get a charge from proposed climate law

The Massachusetts Senate’s proposed climate law is packed with good news for current and future electric vehicle drivers.

The draft proposal would provide millions of dollars annually for rebates on EV purchases, legalize and promote lower-cost EV chargers mounted to utility poles, and make it easier to install chargers in many residential locations.

Environmental advocates welcomed the EV provisions in the bill; shifting almost 1 million drivers away from gas-powered vehicles by 2030 is a key part of the state’s plan to reduce carbon emissions. The transportation sector is responsible for 37 percent of emissions, the most of any sector in the state economy.

The bill is “another strong step forward … to comprehensively develop and implement a network of electric vehicle chargers and infrastructure that touches all parts of Massachusetts,” said Kyle Murray, Massachusetts program director at the nonprofit Acadia Center in Boston.

To read the full article from the Boston Globe, click here.

As Mass Save program approaches record $5 billion, qualms over who foots the bill

For Kyle Murray, an energy efficiency advisor to the state, the proposed $5 billion price tag for the next three-year Mass Save plan is both too much and not enough.

Mass Save, the utility company-run energy efficiency program central to Massachusetts’ ambitious climate goals, has helped the state become a top energy saver in the country — money well spent, Murray feels.

But it’s utility ratepayers primarily footing the bill, the same ones who have stared down sky-high electricity and gas increases in recent years.

“The (Mass Save) programs need to be ambitious, they need to probably go further, but we can’t continue to put that on ratepayers,” said Murray. “If we’re going to be a leader and continue to be ambitious, we need to find other ways of financing these programs that aren’t solely on the backs of ratepayers.”

Those concerns reflect sentiments from Murray, the Massachusetts program director for the Acadia Center who serves on the state’s Energy Efficiency Advisory Council, which helps design the Mass Save plan every three years.

Murray said some have advocated unsuccessfully for the use of federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars as supplemental Mass Save funding. He noted the state is currently working on a Clean Heat Standard that would bring in revenue by incentivizing electric heating systems and disincentivizing other polluting fuel types.

“There’s a lot of ways the state could get creative to help deliver on its ambitions,” Murray said.

Creativity is desperately needed, he contends, especially when some talk about pushing the budget even higher to achieve greater climate outcomes, something he’s heard during the ongoing input process for the 2025-2027 plan.

Still, Murray hailed the benefits expected to be generated by the proposal: approximately $13.8 billion, about $3 billion more than the inflation equivalent from the 2022-2024 plan.

“I think it does show that our priorities match up with our ambitions,” Murray said. “We want to be a leader on climate in the Northeast and through the U.S., and we are a leader. These programs all have to be cost-effective, at least deliver a 1-to-1 return for the state. Not only that, we’re going well beyond. We’re expected to get over $13 billion in benefits.”

To read the full article from Mass Live, click here.

Planet-warming greenhouse gases rebounded in RI in 2021. Here’s what drove the increase.

PROVIDENCE – Greenhouse gas emissions in Rhode Island from things like tailpipe pollution and generation of electricity rebounded in 2021 after two years of reductions, according to an assessment released Monday by the Department of Environmental Management.

Modeling released late last year by the Acadia Center and the Rocky Mountain Institute, clean energy groups that have been working with the state, projected that Rhode Island would fall just short of the 2030 Act on Climate target. Their projections are based on a plan for continuing emissions cuts that was approved last year by the Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council.

Gray told legislators in January that the modeling done by the Acadia Center and the Rocky Mountain Institute was “very preliminary” and that a more precise assessment would be conducted as part of a climate action strategy for the state due by the end of next year.

To read the full article from the Providence Journal, click here.

RGGI 64th Auction: An Additional $337 Million Raised for Clean Energy

BOSTON, MA – On Wednesday, June 5, 2024, the ten states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) released the results of the 64th auction 2024. Emissions allowances were sold for $21.03 each, generating $337 million for clean energy investments in participating states.

“The record-setting price in the 64th RGGI auction speaks volumes, it’s a reflection of the growing value in the collective effort to reduce carbon emissions —$337 million raised brings RGGI’s cumulative total to a staggering $7.8 billion since the inception of the program, and these newly generated funds will continue to invest in sustainable solutions and support the transition to a cleaner, more equitable energy future,” stated Paola Tamayo, Policy Analyst at Acadia Center and co-author of the organization’s RGGI Third Program Review Report.

The allowance price of $21.03 is the highest price observed historically since the RGGI program’s inception. RGGI auctions stand as a crucial mechanism for curbing carbon emissions and charging power plants for their climate pollution. Among the various instruments within RGGI auctions, the Cost Containment Reserve (“CCR”) – a market mechanism that releases extra allowances beyond the cap to be sold if prices exceed predetermined levels – was triggered for the second time in 2024. Since the CCR was triggered during the 63rd auction, all the CCR allowances for the 2024 calendar year have been released, so despite the 64th auction price meeting the threshold for triggering the CCR, there were no additional allowances released.

The CCR was initially conceived to be a safeguard, only to be triggered in times of extraordinary circumstances. Recent trends have shown a worrisome pattern: in the latest auction, the CCR was triggered for the third consecutive time. This pattern highlights the importance of reassessing the CRR trigger price in this Program Review. By raising the CCR cost, more breathing room is created for auction prices to rise, ensuring the effectiveness of the RGGI cap in reducing emissions.

Furthermore, the Emissions Containment Reserve (ECR) retains allowances for additional emissions reductions if prices fall below the trigger price of $7.35 in 2024. Notably, the ECR remains well below the auction price and has historically not been triggered. That means that the auction price is almost three times higher than the trigger price, signaling a significant deviation from the original intent of this program mechanism. For the ECR to maintain its effectiveness as a market stabilizer, it should show a more dynamic response to fluctuations in auction prices. While the ECR serves as a vital safety net, its rigid structure makes the effect of this mechanism negligible in the face of rising auction prices. As stakeholders engage in discussions surrounding the third program review, there’s a pressing need to reevaluate the mechanisms governing the ECR. By introducing greater flexibility and adaptability into its design, the ECR can better fulfill its role in ensuring the stability and integrity of the RGGI market, ultimately driving progress towards a more sustainable future.

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

The clearing price of $21.03 for the first auction of 2024 marks a continuation of the upward trend observed in recent years. This clearing price represents a 65% increase from the clearing price in Q2 of 2023 and a 31% increase from the last auction. The positive trajectory witnessed in the 2023 and 2024 auctions holds promising implications for the RGGI program. Higher observed allowance means that the RGGI program is sending a stronger incentive to reduce fossil fuel emissions and produce electricity from carbon-free sources, like wind and solar.

Since the program launched, the vast majority of RGGI proceeds have been invested in energy efficiency and clean energy projects, as detailed in the most recent report on RGGI investments in 2021, released in June of  last year. We are also hoping for a more timely and transparent reporting system on proceeds investments. As the auctions generate significant revenue, it’s crucial to ensure that these funds are allocated efficiently and effectively towards clean energy and energy efficiency initiatives.

The $337.5 million in proceeds generated in this auction brings the cumulative to-date total to $7.89 billion. The 2023 and 2024 auction results underscore RGGI’s significance as more than a regulatory framework, emphasizing its influence on the shift towards sustainable energy. RGGI states show the practicality of a collaborative, market-driven strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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. Every five years or so, RGGI undergoes a program review, giving the participating states the opportunity to consider the program’s performance and make various changes, including the equitable disbursement of the program’s proceeds. RGGI’s Third Program Review is happening now, and we are still waiting for more information on what to expect from them this year. Especially since it was expected to conclude at the end of last year. In 2023, RGGI held two public meetings and two public comment periods to discuss and seek feedback on various aspects of the program. Acadia Center, other stakeholders, and the public at large await any responses from the states to public input on setting the cap and improving overall program design and operation.

As discussed in more detail in Acadia Center’s most recent RGGI Report, there are many different ways in which RGGI can ensure that environmental justice communities are heard and are actively involved in the development of strategies for an equitable transition to a carbon-free economy. Regardless of how strongly the Third Program Review does or does not prioritize environmental justice, it should remain a priority for individual states to consider the recent auctions, the history of investments across the states, the need to benefit environmental justice communities directly, 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.


Media Contacts:

Paola Moncada Tamayo, Policy Analyst, 860-246-7121 x204

Ben Butterworth, Director: Climate, Energy, and Equity Analysis, 617-742-0054 x111

Navigating Home Weatherization with Acadia Center

We all want our homes to be safe and temperature-controlled, and for our energy bills to be lower. However, making your home more energy efficient can feel like a complicated – and expensive – undertaking. As a first-time homeowner, I felt intimidated when I set out to make my 1950s Cape more energy efficient, but I found a place to begin that was easy, effective, and didn’t break the bank thanks to my state’s incentives – weatherization.

Weatherization includes multiple efforts to make homes more energy efficient by preventing air leakage to reduce energy consumption and optimize energy efficiency. Everything from insulation to replacing windows and doors, to utilizing caulk to better seal air leaks around vents can fall under the umbrella of weatherization. According to Energy Star, air leakage accounts for between 25 percent and 40 percent of the energy used for heating and cooling in a typical residence. By plugging up those leaks, our heating and cooling systems have an easier time keeping our homes comfortable, and our energy bills reasonable throughout temperature spikes and drops.

The first step I took to weatherize my home was looking into any incentives given by the state that could help me foot the bill for the cost. As a resident of Massachusetts, a small part of energy bills are already going towards a program called MassSAVE, a collaboration of Massachusetts’ electric and natural gas utilities and energy efficiency service providers. MassSAVE can give residents who pay in (as most do who don’t live in municipal light plant areas) discounts and rebates on energy efficiency upgrades made to homes through a pool of money provided by utility bill payers. I had already been paying into MassSAVE since I had started paying for the electricity in my first apartment, and I was now able to use those funds in my first home.

Through MassSAVE I had an approved contractor come to my home to give a free energy assessment. He told me that my home contained next to no insulation, which was part of the reason my second floor was so much hotter than my first. He recommended insulation throughout the home, in addition to new weather stripping on our exterior doors. He estimated that these efforts would cost around $5,000 total, but with MassSAVE’s help, we’d only be paying about $1,000 out of pocket. We jumped on the deal immediately and the next week, our insulation was being installed.

The insulation process took about a day, and for the vast majority of the time the contractors were working either on the exterior of the house or in the basement. They were able to remove our siding and install insulation for the exterior of the home, although they warned that not all homes have this option. They did have to drill some holes in our front walls to ensure we were properly insulated, but they patched the holes and cleaned the dust before leaving. In total, the project cost $5,161, and MassSAVE paid for $3,983, meaning we paid only $1,178 out of pocket for a home that uses significantly less energy – and a noticeably cooler upstairs too.

MassSAVE incentives are also available for renters. Renters are eligible to receive rebates for energy-saving appliances and products, like room air conditioners, room air purifiers, advanced power strips, dehumidifiers, and more. Renters may also coordinate with their landlords to use MassSAVE incentives to make larger upgrades throughout their buildings.

And for non-Massachusetts residents, weatherization is also within your grasp! Most states have some kind of energy efficiency incentive program, such as Efficiency Maine or Energize Connecticut. In Rhode Island, the State Office of Energy Resources provides rebates and incentives for processes like what I did in my home.

There are many steps one can take on the road to energy efficiency – next on my path might be heat pumps or solar panels – but weatherization efforts are an important and often necessary first step. Even purchasing caulk and weatherization strips to install yourself can go a long way toward making your home more comfortable while driving your energy bill lower. The most important lesson I learned from this experience is that there are resources out there to make this process simpler! Don’t let the potentially complicated world of efficiency stop you from taking the first step.

If you are looking to do energy efficiency work in your home, you can always consider Acadia Center to be a resource. We would be happy to provide you with more information and insights into the processes of weatherization and electrification.

War of Words Heats Up Over Once-in-a-Century Energy Regulations

Utilities and regulators in Connecticut are wrestling over perhaps the biggest change in how electric rates are set in more than a century.

The debate pits United Illuminating and Eversource, the state’s largest utilities, against the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, or PURA, which is overseeing the changeover from a traditional cost of service model to performance-based regulation, or PBR.

Oliver Tully, director of utility innovation and accountability at the Acadia Center, a clean energy advocacy group, claimed in an interview with CT Examiner that the evidence from other states does not support the idea that reducing the rate of return would impede companies from raising capital to invest in the grid.

“The interest paid may be higher and the share price may go down in situations like that, but access to capital has not been an issue,” Tully said. “A lower share price has not automatically increased costs for clients.”

Tully mentioned the example of Hawaii, where PBR framework adoption led to regulatory certainty and Fitch upgrading the state’s credit rating.

To read the full article from CT Examiner, click here.

States, renewable energy groups press FERC to approve ISO-NE long-range transmission process

ISO-NE and its stakeholders have developed planned reforms to the grid operator’s transmission process in two stages. Under the first stage approved by FERC in February 2022, ISO-NE will perform state-requested, scenario-based and forward-looking transmission analyses.

ISO-NE and its stakeholders can build on the proposal to meet the requirements of FERC’s new transmission planning and cost allocation rules, according to joint comments filed by the Acadia Center, Conservation Law Foundation, Earthjustice, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sustainable FERC Project, Sierra Club and Union of Concerned Scientists.

To read the full article from Utility Dive, click here.

New England’s largest fossil fuel electric plant is shutting down

The Mystic Generating Station in Everett is set to shut down Friday.

As New England’s largest fossil fuel-powered electric plant, its closure represents a significant shift in energy production for the region.

Joseph LaRusso, a senior advocate and manager of the clean grid initiative at the Acadia Center, says shuttering the plant shows the era of burning fossil fuels for electricity may have peaked, at least in New England.

“Not very many gas plants are going to be built in the future, right? It’s going to be wind, solar, hydro, battery storage and so on,” he said. “So its closure is significant.”

To read the full article from wbur, click here.

Massachusetts to recharge solar programs for low-income residents with $156M federal grant

A $156 million federal grant is expected to fund a transformative investment in residential solar for low-income households in Massachusetts, advocates and officials say.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Solar for All program awarded Massachusetts the money for its plans to provide zero-interest loans, financial subsidies, and technical assistance to solar projects benefiting low-income households and public housing facilities. The state’s proposal was largely designed to take advantage of existing programs and resources to maximize the impact of federal funding.

Massachusetts’ proposal is structured around initiatives in three program areas: small residential buildings, multi-family housing, and community solar. The programs will be administered by a coalition of agencies including the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the Boston Housing Authority, and MassHousing.

“They got a really strong coalition of major players involved,” said Kyle Murray, Massachusetts program director for climate nonprofit the Acadia Center. “While it’s disappointing that we did not get the full award, I cannot stress enough how much this money is going to be a game-changer for getting solar to low-income and disadvantaged communities.”

To read the full article from Energy News Network, click here.