Myth Busters!

We’ve all had the experience of reading a news article, blog or social media post and thinking: “But that’s wrong!” or “This is misinterpreting and misusing the research!” Acadia Center would like to set the record straight on some of the common misconceptions about clean energy and energy efficiency.

Myth: 100% clean energy is a pipedream, and we will always need oil, natural gas, and other fossil fuels.

Reality: It’s not a question of “if” the world can run on 100% clean energy, but “when.” Renewable electricity is expected to grow globally by 1,200 gigawatts in the next five years, the equivalent of the total electricity capacity of the U.S. By 2050, many countries will achieve 100% renewable energy, and many countries can meet their energy needs with 100% clean energy. It is feasible around the world AND here in the Northeast.

Myth: Renewable energy is too expensive.

Reality: Renewable energy resources are increasingly cost-competitive compared to fossil fuels and getting more so every day; in fact, solar and wind energy are cheaper than gas power plants in many situations. In addition, it is cheaper to build new renewables – without subsidies – than it is to keep existing coal plants running. The costs of renewable energy keep decreasing, while the cost of aging fossil fuel resources keep increasing, and that’s all before you even factor in the social cost of carbon.

Myth: Energy efficiency is a limited resource because we’ve already made most efficiency gains.

Reality: Energy efficiency is a vast resource that can include everything from huge industrial plants to the elevators in your office building to the toaster on your kitchen counter.  We have massive untapped energy efficiency gains yet to come, as well as energy efficiency resources that can be turned on and off, or up and down, to satisfy demand and ensure reliability during extreme events like heat waves.

Myth: Clean energy and energy efficiency only help the wealthy.

Reality: Everyone benefits when we deploy clean energy resources, because the cost of the energy is reduced. Many low- and moderate-income households live in homes that are much less efficient than average, so targeting clean energy and efficiency work in those places make a huge difference in families’ household budgets. Clean energy helps to eliminate local air pollution, which disproportionately harms low-income communities and communities of color.

Myth: Heat pumps are not cost-effective.

Reality:  Whole-home electrification that includes heat pump installations can save energy and money, especially when paired with common-sense weatherization improvements such as better insulation. Further, electricity rates are somewhat sheltered from the wild fluctuations seen in natural gas prices. This winter residents could suffer the most expensive gas prices in years, but as more renewables are added to our grid, electricity prices can remain stable even when gas prices climb. Best of all, heat pumps help avoid the increasing cost and health impacts associated with greenhouse gas emissions, helping to create the clean energy future all deserve.

Unfortunately, misconceptions of this kind continue in our work, so we’ll continue to counter fiction with facts. Watch for more “Myth Busters” coming soon!

Baker Administration’s Energy Bill Attempts to Harnesses Winds of Fortune

On October 13th, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker filed legislation that he hopes will provide a massive boost to clean energy in the Commonwealth. The legislation contains a number of reforms to the offshore wind procurement process, but centers primarily around the creation of a new Clean Energy Investment Fund. Located at MassCEC, this fund will be financed with $750 million in COVID-19 funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). The Administration hopes that this investment, the “largest investment in the clean energy economy that the Commonwealth has made to date,” will spur the development of a major industry in the state.[1] The Baker administration’s goal seems to be to repeat the success that Massachusetts has had with the life sciences industry, now with the growing clean energy sector. In 2008, then-Governor Patrick signed a $1 billion bond to fund the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center Capital Funding Programs. Thanks to that bill and repeated investments, the life sciences are one of Boston’s most successful industries.[2]

In addition to this substantial investment in clean energy, this legislation also modifies a number of provisions concerning the offshore wind procurement process, which Acadia Center considers to be largely positive. Under current state law, each new bid for long-term offshore wind contracts must be lower than the last accepted bid. Unfortunately, the first bids for offshore wind contracts came in significantly lower than expected. This has made getting each subsequent bid under the cap much more difficult, with the last round of procurement receiving only two bidders.[3] This legislation eliminates the price cap that is currently constraining the industry, which should open the field to many more bidders.

The proposed legislation also eliminates a glaring conflict of interest in the bid selection process. Under current law, the electric distribution companies (EDCs) select the winning contracts from the offshore wind developers, with no protections against the EDCs selecting a bid where they directly partnered with offshore wind developers. This legislation removes this conflict of interest by selecting the Department of Energy Resources as the final arbiter, in consultation with the EDCs. Additionally, this bill implements better flexibility for DOER in selecting a bid to give greater credit to bids that promote economic development, with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion; benefits to environmental justice communities; and mitigation and avoidance of detrimental environmental and socioeconomic impacts. Acadia Center welcomes these developments.

The bill is not without its deficiencies, however. Chief among Acadia Center’s concerns is the modification to remuneration from a ceiling of 2.75% to a floor of 2.5%, when it should be eliminated entirely. Under current state law, EDCs can receive up to 2.75% of the total contract price for long-term offshore wind contracts as compensation for holding the contract on its books.[4] The proposed legislation sets this payment at 2.5%.The idea when it originally passed in 2016 was that large-scale offshore wind was a brand-new industry in the United States, and the EDCs faced some uncertainty and risk under the contracts. The offshore wind industry in Massachusetts has since proven itself to be a smart investment that will pay dividends for the EDCs, even without remuneration. Remuneration for EDCs with these contracts is no longer necessary and should be eliminated completely.

The funding of the new trust fund could use improvement as well. While the infusion of $750 million will certainly help jumpstart the industry, the use of ARPA money is concerning. First, the money from ARPA is a one-time source of funding for the Commonwealth. This legislation fails to set up a recurring revenue source, and instead leaves future funding up in the air. Additionally, the money from APRA is time-limited and must be expended by December 31, 2026.[5] These factors leave the future of this new fund uncertain.

Finally, the specific purposes listed for the Fund are somewhat vague and unclear. For example, it is not currently clear if the definition of clean energy technology would include the heat pump industry for home electrification. Given that the administration’s own Clean Energy and Climate Plan calls for the installation of one million heat pumps by 2030, it would be foolish to possibly exclude the heat pump industry because of vague terminology.[6]

Overall, Acadia Center appreciates the work put into this legislation by the Baker administration. We look forward to working with them and the legislature to make this bill as strong as possible to deliver the clean energy future we all deserve.

 

[1] According to Governor Baker’s filing letter with the legislation: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/192/H4204

[2] See https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/06/15/business/has-boston-become-silicon-valley-biotech/

[3] See https://commonwealthmagazine.org/energy/2-offshore-wind-developers-submit-bids/

[4] See https://commonwealthmagazine.org/energy/dpu-gives-168m-offshore-wind-bonus-to-utilities/

[5] See https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/SLFRPFAQ.pdf

[6] See https://www.mass.gov/doc/interim-clean-energy-and-climate-plan-for-2030-december-30-2020/download

Supporting Public Health, Transportation Investment and Climate Commitments through TCI-P

Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island must not squander their opportunity to deliver the clean air and improved transportation options that residents and businesses deserve. Chronic underinvestment—both in marginalized communities and in alternatives to personal vehicles—has resulted in congested roads, inadequate public transit, and isolated communities. At the same time, the imported fossil fuels used to power vehicles remain the region’s most significant contributor to climate change and a major source of locally harmful air pollution.

Bold action is needed to address these growing challenges. One piece of the solution is the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P), a multi-state effort to reduce tailpipe pollution while funding investment in clean transportation projects. In southern New England, the governors of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have been working together to implement this program to deliver cleaner air and better transportation options.  States must act with urgency and a commitment to equity in advancing this crucial program.

TCI-P also has the support of the region’s residents. Recent polling of Republican, Independent and Democratic voters from Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island found that 70% of the region’s residents support participation in TCI-P. That level of popular support combined with program’s substantial benefits begs the question: what’s holding up the process?  In short, misinformation from Koch-funded networks and the fossil fuel industry have caused temporary delays, but state legislators in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island still have an opportunity to act.

Tackling Shared Challenges in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island

Due to the regional nature of transportation pollution—both vehicle tailpipes and the pollution they emit cross state lines—regional collaboration to confront this challenge is critical. A regional solution is also well suited to address the similar issues that Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island are facing. In all three states, TCI-P will improve poor air quality, provide much-needed funds for clean transportation investment, and help the states meet their climate requirements.

Public Health

Transportation pollution causes poor air quality and results in substantial healthcare costs for individuals and the broader public health system. While some of the region’s air pollution comes from upwind states, much it comes from cars, trucks and buses that operate locally, causing significant harm to communities near highways, cities, and ports. Despite the fact that Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island are home to just 3.5% of the country’s population, five of the top 20 Asthma Capitals in the country are located here: New Haven, CT (#5), Worcester, MA (#11), Springfield, MA (#12), Hartford, CT (#17), and Boston, MA (#18) have some of the highest rates of asthma prevalence, emergency department visits due to asthma, and asthma-related fatalities. Making matters worse, that pollution disproportionately harms communities of color: Asian American, African American and Latino residents in Massachusetts are exposed to 36%, 34%, and 28% more particulate matter from transportation, respectively, than white residents.

Fixing the costly and inequitable burdens of transportation pollution will require multiple strategies, but TCI-P will help. Analysis of TCI-P from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health finds that the program will result in over $1 billion in annual health benefits across the three states by 2032 (annual health benefits by state: Massachusetts, $710 million; Connecticut, $360 million; and RI, $100 million). By delivering cleaner air and making walking and biking safer and more accessible, TCI-P will help the region’s residents thrive.

Clean Transportation Investment

Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have all developed robust plans for clean transportation investment. All three plans, designed with significant stakeholder input, are organized around the need to meet climate targets, improve mobility options for all residents, and invest in a resilient and modern transportation system. The specific ideas proposed in these plans include affordable, reliable, electrified public transit, better walking and biking infrastructure, expanded broadband internet, equitable EV incentive programs, and more. In addition to improving air quality and mobility choices, these investments would create much-needed jobs in growing sectors of the economy.

TCI-P would provide an important new source of funding for these investments while supporting the states’ efforts to secure matching federal funds. Over the program’s first 10 years, the three states are projected to receive over $3 billion in proceeds for clean transportation investment (projected proceeds by state: Massachusetts, $1.8 billion; Connecticut, $1 billion; and RI, $249 million). As described by the authors of Rhode Island’s Clean Transportation and Mobility Innovation Report, “this new funding is integral to the full realization of the recommendations made by the Mobility Innovation Working Group”.

Meeting Climate Commitments

Vehicle tailpipes are the largest source of climate pollution in the region by a wide margin. In Connecticut, the transportation sector accounts for more climate pollution than the electricity and residential sectors combined. Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island all have binding, economy-wide climate targets in place, but states will fail to achieve those targets without bold action to reduce pollution from the transportation sector. As stated by Commissioner Dykes of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, “we know that we will not be able to meet the legislatively mandated targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 2030, unless we have a tool that’s as impactful as [TCI-P].”

TCI-P will help participating states achieve their climate commitments by establishing an ambitious yet achievable glide path for transportation decarbonization and by funding investments in clean transportation. The longer we delay action to reduce transportation pollution, the more dramatic—and expensive—the necessary measures will be.

Opposition from Koch-Funded Networks and the Fossil Fuel Industry

Despite broad support for TCI-P, the program does have opposition. In some cases, that opposition stems from genuine concerns around how TCI-P will ensure equitable outcomes for environmental justice communities and other overburdened and underserved populations. Acadia Center has expressed similar concerns and is currently working to advance TCI-P provisions and other policies to secure cleaner air, better transportation options, and more oversight for the communities marginalized by our transportation system.

The loudest opposition to TCI-P, however, comes from two small but vocal camps: organizations with close ties to the Koch network’s dark money, and those who profit more directly from our continued reliance on gasoline and diesel fuels.

Coordinated Opposition

The Yankee Institute in Connecticut and the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity are members of the State Policy Network (SPN), a network of conservative think tanks backed by Koch-funded foundations working to “oppose climate change regulations, lower wages, cut taxes and business regulations, tighten voter restrictions, privatize education, and hide the identities of political donors.” The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, an organization notoriously adverse to donor transparency, works closely with these SPN groups to oppose clean energy and climate policies. Joining these groups is the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association, a trade association representing some of the region’s gas stations, which is trying to preserve the region’s costly dependence on gasoline and diesel fuels by delaying the transition to a clean transportation future.

Misinformation Campaigns

All of these groups rely on scare tactics and disinformation campaigns to block climate action and slow investment in clean transportation. From a stubborn reliance on long-debunked, inflated cost projections (hint: anyone still citing the Tufts CSPA study, whose author acknowledged its inaccuracies, or its 38 cents/gallon price tag is resorting to willful misinformation for lack of better arguments) to a dogmatic refusal to acknowledge TCI-P’s public health, economic, and transportation benefits, these opponents rarely address the details of the actual program that the states are planning to implement.

Offering No Solutions

Perhaps most frustratingly, the opposition offers no solutions to the climate crisis, to our underfunded and outdated transportation infrastructure, or to the devastating public health impacts from tailpipe pollution. Rather than addressing avoidable deaths from local tailpipe pollution, creating better transit options, reducing traffic, and investing in transportation infrastructure, they ask residents to be content with the status quo, point fingers at other states, hope to be rescued by the federal government, and demand inaction from state policy makers. Unfortunately, too many state legislators have been willing to oblige while parroting the opposition’s misinformation.

What’s Next for TCI-P?

Clean air, new jobs, and better transportation options are still within our grasp. The governors of all three southern New England states are supporting the TCI program; now it is the legislatures’ responsibility to act, not only to authorize TCI-P participation, but to codify provisions to ensure the program prioritizes the needs of overburdened and underserved communities across the region.

In Connecticut, the legislature must pass TCI-P legislation through a special session this fall that enables participation in the program and establishes important equity and environmental justice provisions.

In Rhode Island, the Senate passed TCI-P legislation in 2021, but the full legislature will need to move the bill forward in 2022 to enable participation.

In Massachusetts, the legislature has already granted the Governor authority to implement TCI-P, and new legislation has been filed that would strengthen existing provisions to benefit overburdened and underserved communities.

Through the passage of these important bills, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island will be advancing meaningful action to address climate change and help every community thrive.

 

For More Information:

Jordan Stutt, Carbon Programs Director, jstutt@acadiacenter.org, (617) 742 0054 x105

 

Why Northeast States Must Center Equity To Achieve Climate Goals

Most Northeast states have passed laws and stipulated goals to reduce emissions and transition to clean energy in the fast-approaching decades. Putting in place goals for climate action is only a first step, as the actualization of those goals rest largely on effective implementation strategies and actions that follow. These strategies will bring the needed change only if they work for all communities, especially disadvantaged communities: those of low-income with history of environmental injustice. Substantial efforts are needed in research, engagement, and better understanding of communities in order for this work to benefit all.

While the overarching goal is to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG), the progress towards this end depends on how tailored the approaches are to each community across the region. For example, while emissions from buildings and transportation are a major source of GHGs, only through consideration of the infrastructure in a location can we identify the best action that suits the specific neighborhood, community, or state.  Acadia Center recognizes this hindrance to states reaching their climate goals, and so has continued to press for programs that center on equity. For example, the Next Generation Energy Efficiency program is designed to help states reach climate goals by weatherizing and upgrading neglected buildings to make them more efficient, in ways that are tailored to the needs of people who have not been reached by other efficiency programs.

Prioritizing Equity and Environmental Justice Fulfills Climate Goals

Environmental justice communities constitute a large population in the Northeast. Massachusetts is one of the few states that have robustly defined and mapped out environmental justice communities. Spearheaded by state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), Massachusetts has provided an unambiguous definition to EJ populations as communities that meets one of following criteria: “(1) an annual median household income that is not more than 65 percent of the statewide annual median household income; (2) has minorities comprising of 40 percent or more of the population; (3) has 25 percent or more of the household lacking English Language proficiency; or (4) has minorities that comprise 25 percent or more of the population and the annual median household income of the municipality in which the neighborhood is situated does not exceed 150 percent of the statewide annual median household income.”  Understanding the needs of diverse neighborhoods in the region will help states to create appropriate programs and climate action plans suited to the needs of individual communities, aiding them as they make provisions that protect these communities.

Additionally, awareness of the needs and concerns of environmental justice communities and low-income groups who suffer the biggest impacts from pollution and climate change should not be limited to environmental advocates and climate action groups. Equity-centered perspectives must form the fabric of climate strategies and solutions and decisions made at all levels of government. LD1682, which Acadia Center helped pass in Maine, will require that state agencies incorporate equity considerations and perspectives in their decisions.

By seeking out and amplifying the voices of EJ community leaders and advocates, as well as other major stakeholder groups and organizations whose efforts are channeled towards climate and clean energy goals, real climate progress can be made. State and national councils on climate solutions must seek to include and highlight the perspectives of leaders from groups that have been continuously left out. Reducing emissions, tackling climate change, and ensuring thriving communities within the next few decades can only be achieved from goals and implementation strategies that address the complex and systemic issues of pollution, environmental injustice, and climate.

The Massachusetts Commission on Clean Heat: A Priceless Opportunity

On Monday, Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) announced that it had convened a new Commission on Clean Heat, the first body of its kind in the nation. According to Governor Charlie Baker’s office, this committee of stakeholders will work to “establish a framework for a long-term decline in emissions from heating fuels.” Acadia Center applauds the Commonwealth for undertaking this important work and underscores the need for this Commission to take its role seriously—Massachusetts cannot meet its climate commitments without eliminating emissions from buildings.

Buildings account for one third of Massachusetts’ greenhouse gas emissions. Federal data[1] and Acadia Center analysis show that space heating and water heating currently account for 70% of residential emissions and about half of commercial building emissions. Tackling these sources of emissions is absolutely crucial to achieving the Commonwealth’s net zero target for 2050.

This chart demonstrates that emissions from burning natural gas for space heating in buildings surpassed emissions from burning oil for heating around 2002. Massachusetts is on track for 88% of its heating emissions to come from burning natural gas by 2030.

However, many of the policy details are still to be determined. For a complex, multi-sector topic like heating, the devil is in the details.

Our Over-reliance On Gas

Economy-wide emissions have declined by about 23% in Massachusetts since 1990. Yet emissions from buildings have remained mostly flat. A closer look at the data tells us why: while the use of oil has declined markedly, it has been replaced by another fossil fuel: natural gas. In addition to those that have converted from oil to gas, more than 90% of new housing units in the Northeast are built with gas-fired equipment.[2] As a result, the Commonwealth is on track for natural gas to represent more than 70%—and potentially up to 90%—of its space heating emissions by 2030.

Natural gas is a fossil fuel that emits carbon dioxide when burned. It also consists mostly of methane, itself a greenhouse gas that is 86 times as potent as CO2.[3] It will be impossible for the Commonwealth to continue its reliance on natural gas and still meet its climate targets.

Designing The Cap

Because natural gas already figures so prominently in meeting the heating needs of homes and businesses in Massachusetts, the Commonwealth’s proposed heating fuel emissions cap[4] must be designed in a way that does not encourage more oil-to-gas fuel switching. Converting homes from oil to gas achieves a tiny short-term emissions reduction, but locks in decades of unnecessary emissions in the long run. It also locks consumers into using a fuel that faces volatile price fluctuations[5] and can be damaging to their health.[6]

The cost of electrification—i.e. the cost difference between electrification and business-as-usual fossil fuel equipment, plus the cost of new electricity supply—is lower than the cost of emissions to society, and significantly lower than the cost of abating the same amount of CO2 using biogas (RNG).
BE = beneficial electrification
Wx = weatherization
ASHP = air-source heat pump
Average = a home with average building shell efficiency
Drafty = a home with poor building shell efficiency

 

 

 

 

Using clean, efficient heat pumps to satisfy the Commonwealth’s heating needs is, as the 2050 Roadmap acknowledges, the most cost-effective and the easiest-to-deploy strategy for decarbonizing buildings.[7] In fact, Acadia Center analysis shows that gas-to-heat-pump conversions are cheaper for society than doing nothing: per ton of carbon abated, the cost of whole-home electrification in a gas-heated home is less than the cost of future property and infrastructure damage due to the impacts of climate change—a metric known as the “social cost of carbon.”

Electrification Is The Answer

Energy bill and emissions impacts can vary widely between buildings, depending on their location and their building shell efficiency. Regardless of these variations, whole-building electrification reduces emissions substantially and, in many cases, reduces annual energy costs as well. Combining properly-installed heat pumps with common-sense weatherization measures like insulation and air sealing can reduce bills even further while improving comfort and health.

The Mass Save 2022-2024 Three-Year Plan is set to “fundamentally transform”[8] programs to accommodate more building electrification, better equity outcomes, and more investment in workforce development. As a result, robust financial assistance will hopefully be available to any home or business owner who chooses to convert to heat pumps.

Conclusion

The Commission on Clean Heat is the Commonwealth’s best chance to meaningfully address its worsening overreliance on natural gas. It is essential that the Commission seize this priceless opportunity. State agencies, Massachusetts residents, contractors, and industry actors must come together around policies that dramatically reduce emissions from buildings while improving equity and health outcomes. Acadia Center is looking forward to working with Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the members of the Commission to promote policies and programs that achieve these goals.

 

Footnotes

[1] U.S. Energy Information Administration. Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) and Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS). RECS: https://www.eia.gov/consumption/residential/ ; CBECS: https://www.eia.gov/consumption/commercial/

[2] HUD Survey of Construction (SOC): Annual Characteristics of New Housing. The median percentage of all housing units built in the Northeast between 2015 and 2020 that heat with gas is 92%. Data files are available at https://www.census.gov/construction/chars/

[3] IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), 2014. Summary: https://www.ghgprotocol.org/sites/default/files/ghgp/Global-Warming-Potential-Values%20%28Feb%2016%202016%29_1.pdf

[4] Massachusetts Interim Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2030. December 30, 2020. Page 29. https://www.mass.gov/doc/interim-clean-energy-and-climate-plan-for-2030-december-30-2020/download

[5] Knoema Commodities Data Hub. See: Natural Gas Henry Hub Spot Price, Annual & Monthly; U.S. Natural Gas Futures Closing Price, Daily; EIA Long-Term Natural Gas Price Projection, Henry Hub. https://knoema.com/infographics/ncszerf/natural-gas-price-forecast-2021-2022-and-long-term-to-2050

[6] Jonathan J. Buonocore et al. “A decade of the U.S. energy mix transitioning away from coal: historical reconstruction of the reductions in the public health burden of energy.” Environmental Research Letters: Volume 16, Number 5. May 2021. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/abe74c

[7] Massachusetts 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap. December 2020. Page 22. https://www.mass.gov/doc/ma-2050-decarbonization-roadmap/download

[8] Mass Save Program Administrators. “PA Update on 2022-2024 Three Year Plan.” Presented to the Massachusetts Energy Efficiency Advisory Council on September 22, 2021. https://ma-eeac.org/wp-content/uploads/9.22.21-EEAC-3YP-Presenation_FINAL.pdf

 

Acadia Center Files Request for Immediate Gas Moratorium in Rhode Island

Acadia Center, joined by Conservation Law Foundation, filed a motion on August 18th with the Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board requesting an immediate moratorium on new fossil gas (also called natural gas) connections across Aquidneck Island, which encompasses the communities of Newport, Portsmouth, and Middletown in Rhode Island. The filing comes as part of proceedings to consider National Grid’s proposals to build and operate new major energy facilities, like Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) vaporization equipment, that will support their plans for gas growth across Aquidneck island.

National Grid’s analysis predicts that it has already enrolled more customers than its gas supply can handle on the most extreme cold days, so it is seeking additional ways to bring more gas to the island. Acadia Center analysis demonstrates that through a combination of energy efficiency and electrification to reduce gas demand, the deficit could be completely eliminated in just a few years – likely at a lower cost than new gas investments. Expanding today’s limited gas demand response programs could exert significant downward pressure on gas demand and play a key role in reducing and even eliminating the claimed supply shortage. In a nutshell: “When you’re in a hole, STOP DIGGING!”

Acadia Center is asking the Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) to ensure that National Grid considers these viable clean energy options. The mandatory greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions limits enacted by the Act on Climate bill requires Rhode Island to reduce its GHG emissions 45% by 2030, 80% by 2040, and to net-zero levels by 2050. Each time National Grid makes a new gas connection, it is introducing yet more fossil fuel reliance for the next 20 to 30 years while locking in climate-harming emissions like carbon dioxide and methane that constantly leak from the gas distribution system.

National Grid has rebuffed Acadia Center’s repeated requests to establish a gas moratorium, even temporarily, on Aquidneck Island. Instead, National Grid plans would actively grow the size of the problem they have created and lock in more greenhouse gas emissions for decades to come. By marketing gas conversions to new customers, National Grid’s plan would impose more costs on Rhode Island’s ratepayers, through construction of new gas equipment, gas mains, service line connections, and monthly customer charges.

Allowing this problem to grow does not benefit the people of Rhode Island. Climate- friendly clean energy solutions are available today and local communities on Aquidneck Island have requested a non-infrastructure approach for future energy needs. New gas connections only increase demand and exacerbate the supply concerns that National Grid is citing, and narrows the possibility that efficiency and electrification alone could solve the issue.

The EFSB will hear Acadia Center’s filing, at a hearing on August 26th. For more information regarding this proceeding, please contact Acadia Center’s Rhode Island Director, Hank Webster, at hwebster@acadiacenter.org.

More on the Aquidneck Island clean energy opportunity:

For more information:

Hank Webster, Rhode Island Director & Staff Attorney, hwebster@acadiacenter.org, 401.276.0600 x 402

 

The 6th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report – Acadia Center Reacts

Even if you can’t handle more bad news these days, you need to know about this. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN-sponsored body, recently released its latest report on the global climate crisis. Its findings are not surprising for those who have been following climate science as closely as Acadia Center, but heart-stopping, nonetheless. In a nutshell: the climate crisis is not far off. It’s a currently occurring crisis, “unequivocally” caused by humans, and worsening with every year we delay aggressive action.

The changes in climate that we’ve already seen – multiple episodes of extreme heat, rain, snow, and flooding throughout the Northeast in 2021 alone – are just the beginning. Tipping points – events which, once they occur, create feedback loops that worsen climate change, are already happening. Just this week, other scientists announced that the Gulf Stream (the cross-Atlantic current of water from Florida to Europe) is weakening and may collapse entirely,  driving up sea level rise in New England faster than anywhere else (and causing famine and disaster for Europe and Africa).

The IPCC report discusses tipping points which are predicted to come a decade sooner than the IPCC estimated only 3 years ago. In the 2015 Paris Agreement, 196 countries of the world set the goal of limiting global warming to below 2˚ Celsius higher than pre-industrial temperatures. This report concludes we’ve already crossed the 1˚ mark and may hit the 1.5˚ global mark by 2030.

What will it look like if we don’t act?

Think about what happens in your family in a typical decade:  births, deaths, weddings, graduations. Life. But how might all that change if we don’t act? My children will be in high school in 2030. They will still be children. But the world is likely to look very different by then, let alone what it will be like when they are young adults or older adults, for the changes that have already been set in motion are irreversible for centuries.

But there is hope. Change is possible and  doable. Both the IPCC report and Acadia Center analysis show that ending our use of fossil fuels will have an impact. The sooner, the better. The faster we reach at least net-zero CO2 emissions and rebuild carbon sinks, the sooner we can change the trajectory of the global climate crisis and begin to save not just future generations, but ourselves.

 

From: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-58130705

In the last year alone, Acadia Center has helped the states of the Northeast set mandatory climate targets, hold state agencies responsible for meeting those climate targets, empower energy efficiency programs to consider climate in planning for efficiency. In Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, and ISO-NE, Acadia Center set their course for a clean energy future. Next up: ending incentives that promote new fossil fuel use and pressing Connecticut and Rhode Island to take on the climate crisis and  the transportation crisis by passing legislation to advance transportation and climate justice through the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI).

What can you do?

 Make your voice heard. Reach out to your civic leaders to take climate seriously now. If they made promises to address climate change, hold them to it. If they haven’t, demand that they do. Amplify the voices of youth and vulnerable communities who face the brunt of this crisis. Stop using fossil fuels. Keep recycling. Replace your old, inefficient appliances and cars with better, safer, electric ones. Weatherize your home and help others to weatherize theirs. Walk, cycle, take public transit instead of driving. Read more, talk about the climate crisis more. Use less… way less.

And, if you’re so inclined, donate to non-profits like Acadia Center who are taking on the systemic causes of the climate crisis and ensuring that we make this decade count. Because, if anything, this new report proves that now is when our work is needed the most.

 

Reforming PUC and state agency mandates is key for advancing equity and climate policy

Northeastern states have committed to significant economy-wide cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. But despite these goals, most states have not empowered the agencies that play an outsized role in carbon emissions to prioritize climate, equity, and environmental justice in their decision-making. States’ commitments to climate and equity are just pretty words if they do not have a mechanism to make them binding and real. To achieve our climate goals, all government agencies should be required to prioritize climate change impacts and equity in their decisions.

Acadia Center wrote recently on the importance of reforming PUC and state agency mandates to better align with climate and equity goals. Since then, we have been a part of several notable mandate reform successes across the region.

In June 2021, Maine Governor Mills signed LD 1682, An Act To Require Consideration of Climate Impacts by the Public Utilities Commission and To Incorporate Equity Considerations in Decision-making by State Agencies. The Maine PUC is now mandated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the state’s climate targets and to prioritize climate alongside its other responsibilities. In addition, LD 1682 opens the door for all state agencies to address equity concerns in environmental justice, frontline, and other vulnerable communities that are disproportionately burdened by current energy policies by requiring a stakeholder process to develop guidelines for how state agencies should include equity considerations in their decision-making. Acadia Center played a key role in ensuring the passage of LD 1682 and will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure that all agencies consider equity in their regulatory and programmatic decisions.

In addition, in March 2021 Massachusetts Governor Baker signed a landmark climate bill (S.9) that achieves key mandate reform goals. The bill went into effect in June and requires the state’s Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to consider equity and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as equal priorities to reliability, safety, and affordability. The bill will serve as a critical tool in empowering the DPU to act in alignment with the state’s climate goals.

By reforming agencies’ mandates, states can empower the entities that play a key role in emissions and equity outcomes to be partners in meeting state policy priorities. Instead of choosing the cheapest solution in the moment, agencies will be positioned to choose the best solution for both today and tomorrow’s consumers and environment.

Click here to read more about the role of the PUC and state agency mandate reform in supporting progress on climate and equity policy.

Summer Legislative Update: Massachusetts

Only 6 months into the marathon 2021-2022 legislative session, Massachusetts has already passed landmark climate legislation. Among other things, the Next Generation Climate Roadmap law updates the Commonwealth’s greenhouse gas reduction requirements to 50% reductions by 2030 and net zero by 2050, codifies definitions for “environmental justice population” and “environmental justice principles,” and allows the state to procure an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind. Crucially, the legislation also updates the mandate for the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), requiring the department to give equal weight to equity, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, security, and safety, in addition to its traditional focus on affordability and reliability. It also requires the development of sector-specific emissions targets, legislates the development of a new opt-in municipal stretch energy code, and sets energy efficiency standards for household appliances. Acadia Center played a key role in the enactment of this legislation, providing tireless advocacy and continuing to hold the legislature’s and Governor’s feet to the fire.

Despite this significant victory, Acadia Center’s work continues. In addition to the just and equitable implementation of the climate legislation, significant work remains to be done in the electric, transportation, and building sectors. To that end, Acadia Center is employing its policy expertise and coalition leadership, specifically with the ACES coalition, to prepare analysis and testimony for a host of bills that would rapidly electrify our transportation and building infrastructure and drastically cut emissions.  Legislation that Acadia Center has drafted and filed (by Senator Joanne Comerford and Representative Natalie Blais) would create a stakeholder council like the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council to guide grid modernization and the transition away from natural gas (S.2144/H.3261) and eliminate the automatic ‘bonuses’ approved for electric utilities by the DPU in recent years (S.2143/H.3259).  Acadia Center has also been deeply involved in the development of legislation that would implement the Transportation & Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P) with a greater focus on environmental justice, directing at least 70% of TCI-P proceeds towards investments in communities that suffer disproportionately from transportation pollution or lack access to mobility options.  Environmental justice legislation has been a particular focus for Acadia Center, and the organization is also promoting legislation that would expand air quality monitoring in pollution hotspots.

Acadia Center’s work goes far beyond just focusing on legislation as well. While legislative approval is not required in Massachusetts for the implementation of TCI-P, Acadia Center endeavors to ensure that the program is implemented with an eye toward environmental justice. The organization continues to lead on the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council, crafting detailed analysis and policy recommendations for the Commonwealth’s 2022-2024 three-year energy efficiency plan. Finally, Acadia Center is actively monitoring and participating in several dockets at the Department of Public Utilities that impact crucial questions facing the Commonwealth, such as the role of natural gas in its energy transition, and implementing modernization plans for the electric grid. We are also actively involved in the New England Governors’ Energy Vision process, led by Massachusetts, which is seeking to reform the governance of ISO-New England.

Summer Legislative Update: Rhode Island

Acadia Center’s leadership on climate, energy, and equity issues was on full display during Rhode Island’s 2021 regular General Assembly session, as we testified remotely at dozens of hearings and working with legislators to refine and advance key pieces of legislation.

Acadia Center worked with its partners in the Climate Crisis Campaign and Climate Jobs RI coalition to advance the historic Act on Climate into law, Acadia Center’s top legislative priority in Rhode Island. The Act on Climate transforms previously aspirational climate goals into meaningful and enforceable greenhouse gas reduction mandates—45% by 2030, 80% by 2040, and net-zero by 2050. After years of work building legislative support, Acadia Center was able to combat a last-minute stream of fossil-fuel industry backed disinformation. Acadia Center’s Rhode Island Director, Hank Webster, engaged directly with print journalists, talk radio hosts, and concerned legislators to disprove unfounded claims about climate action and the legislation’s impact. Acadia Center is now spearheading efforts to work with the McKee Administration to develop an updated state climate plan by December 2022.

Building on the success of the Act on Climate, Acadia Center is the lead organization working to advance the regional, bipartisan, Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P) in Rhode Island. Acadia Center helped legislators develop S872 and H6310, the TEAM Community Act which will codify the state’s involvement in the TCI-P. The Senate overwhelmingly passed the legislation in June and Acadia Center is urging House leaders to address the policy in an anticipated special fall legislative session. To support TCI-P, Acadia Center convenes advocates and businesses for biweekly strategy calls and developed a Rhode Island-specific microsite, www.TCI4RI.com, to help key stakeholders stay apprised of the benefits of the program.

Throughout the pandemic-truncated 2020 and full 2021 legislative sessions, Acadia Center also worked to successfully advance two key energy efficiency bills—1) an extension of the state’s energy efficiency programs and 2) an update to the state’s appliance energy efficiency standards. In the waning hours of the 2021 regular session, Acadia Center testified before the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee to oppose a dangerous last-minute rewrite of the energy efficiency extension bill and to instead support a plain extension of the energy efficiency programs. Those efforts were successful and, as a result, the state’s nation-leading energy efficiency programs are protected through 2028. Acadia Center and colleague organizations also successfully advanced a law that sets minimum energy efficiency standards for appliances sold in the state and protects consumers from unknowingly buying and installing energy-wasting versions of everyday products. This update will reduce carbon emissions by 256,000 metric tons and lower utility bills by $10 million annually.

Acadia Center will be busy this summer, working with RI policymakers to advance a robust clean energy and environmental justice agenda in the anticipated fall legislative session, including: the TEAM Community Act to implement the TCI-P, legislation to adopt a 100% Renewable Energy Standard by 2030, and the Environmental Justice Act to better protect affected communities from new activities that increase cumulative impacts.