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.

Pay what you can for electricity and gas? Why RI advocates are pushing for such a plan

PROVIDENCE – Advocates are again calling on the General Assembly to pass legislation that would allow low-income Rhode Islanders to pay only what they can afford for their utility bills.

What’s also new is support from green energy advocates, who say that high electric rates are an impediment to people switching from fossil fuel-burning furnaces to cleaner electric heat pumps.

Emily Koo, Rhode Island program director for the Acadia Center, said that transitioning buildings away from fossil fuels is key to reducing planet-warming greenhouse gases associated with buildings, which account for about a third of total emissions in the state.

Without addressing the building sector, she said, Rhode Island won’t reach net-zero emissions by 2050 as required by the Act on Climate, a state law enacted three years ago.

She also said any concerns that lower rates might encourage people to use more energy could be addressed by capping the annual benefit or limiting lower rates to typical energy usage.

“Progress on both affordability and decarbonization must be made simultaneously and with haste,” she said in written testimony.

The Conservation Law Foundation supports a PIPP for similar reasons, as does the City of Providence’s Department of Sustainability.

State regulators with the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers and the Public Utilities Commission raised no objections to the legislation.

Members of the Rhode Island Business Coalition, including the East Greenwich and Greater Newport chambers of commerce, are opposed because of the prospect that the program would shift costs to other ratepayers and increase their bills.

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

Virginia is out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is officially over. At least for now. Gov. Glenn Youngkin pulled us from the partnership Dec. 31, and the program did not appear in the state budget passed earlier this month.

Democrats were largely in favor of the plan. It funded multiple local programs. Locally, Charlottesville and Albemarle County received nearly $650,000 to address flooding and nearly $10 million for housing projects. In the first 10 years of its existence, the initial nine states that joined RGGI decreased their carbon emissions from power plants by nearly half, according to a study by the environmental advocacy group Acadia Center. Virginia appeared to be on that trajectory, dropping its emissions by 16.8% in two years, according to a lawsuit filed by conservation groups suing to force Virginia back into the RGGI partnership.

To read the full article from Charlottesville Tomorrow, click here.

Massachusetts DPU Approves Everett LNG Contracts

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities has approved agreements between Constellation Energy and the state’s investor-owned gas utilities to keep the Everett LNG import facility operating through May 2030. 

The Everett Marine Terminal (EMT) is the only facility in the state that can import and directly inject LNG into the gas network, but it has faced an uncertain future, with Constellation’s cost-of-service agreement with ISO-NE expiring at the end of this month. Constellation owns both Everett and the Mystic Generating Station, Everett’s anchor customer, which is set to retire at the same time. 

Joe LaRusso, senior advocate at the Acadia Center, said the DPU’s approval of the contracts is “potentially in conflict with Order 20-80,” particularly if the contract timelines are intended to align with Enbridge’s pipeline expansion effort. 

He said the reporting requirements should give the DPU ample information on the utilities’ gas demand trajectories, with the “open question” being whether the DPU allows the companies to reduce their reliance on Everett by securing additional pipeline capacity. 

To read the full article from RTO Insider, click here.

No new gas hookups on Aquidneck Island? Idea floated to curb need for Portsmouth LNG plant.

PORTSMOUTH – State energy regulators are in an unusual position as they consider whether to extend the life of what was supposed to be a temporary liquefied natural gas facility in Portsmouth that has attracted the ire of neighbors.

While the Energy Facility Siting Board heard evidence that there’s a need, at least for now, for the use of LNG to back up Rhode Island Energy’s natural gas system on Aquidneck Island, stakeholders in the approval proceedings also said they want to company to do everything it can to quickly make the plant obsolete.

A moratorium would also undoubtedly force change. The idea was first put forward in 2021 by the Conservation Law Foundation and the Acadia Center, environmental groups that argued a ban was justified after the passage of the Act on Climate, the state law that requires Rhode Island to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

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

EVs, heat pumps seen creating Northeast grid crunch

Electrifying New England’s transportation and heating sectors will lead to a potential 17 percent increase in power demand by 2033, the region’s grid operator said.

The upward trend is putting pressure on developers and regulators to accelerate new generation and transmission projects.

“Our current policies regarding energy efficiency and distributed generation — particularly solar — are already putting us on a different path for the future,” said Kyle Murray, Massachusetts program director at the environmental nonprofit Acadia Center, in a statement.

To read the full article from E&E News, click here.