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 firstname.lastname@example.org, and he will endeavor to answer your questions.
Achieving progress on environmental justice policy implementation: Community organizer and policymaker perceptions on equitable solutions
Urban environmental injustices are rooted in structurally racist discriminatory policy outcomes like segregation, redlining, highway construction, and deindustrialization. Uncovering policymakers’ and community organizers’ perceptions can guide equitable solutions to systemic environmental harms. To address decades of underinvestment and ongoing environmental injustices, Executive Order 14008 launched the Justice40 Initiative. Justice40 set a goal of directing 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain federal investment flows to address the following environmental justice program areas: climate change, clean energy, energy efficiency, clean transit, affordable housing, workforce development, cleanup of industrial pollution, and development of critical clean water and wastewater infrastructure. Justice40’s implementation processes must incorporate policymaker and organizer perspectives to ensure equitable program and policy design.
In an October 2022 article, researchers from RAND Corporation investigated the perceptions of community organizers and policymakers on existing and proposed environmental justice policies. Motivated by Justice40, the authors explore perceptions of environmental justice-oriented policy design and implementation processes. Published by the journal Environmental Justice, the researchers interviewed 19 environmental leaders across eight U.S. cities. They used a semi-structured interview guide and developed a codebook of shared patterns and concerns among organizers and policymakers. When asked about how environmental history shapes their current priorities, interviewees across sectors reported on the value of cultivating trust through meaningful engagement, prioritizing procedural and distributional equity, and demonstrating awareness of unintended consequences.
The authors find that gaining community organizers’ trust involves transparency, accountability, and avoiding false promises. Policymakers can address this challenge by committing to procedural and distributional equity in policy design and implementation. In this study, procedural equity prioritizes meaningful community engagement and consultation through scoping and decision-making processes. Distributional equity aims to ensure equitable percentages of benefits from solutions are allocated to historically underserved and underinvested communities. Interviewees in this study shared policies underway to tackle urban environmental injustices that align with Justice40’s goals.
Procedural and distributional equity also include community education and outreach. Organizers believe residents also need to know the connections between historical actions and current challenges. They advocate for educational programming on the systemic origins of environmental injustices. Across interviews, organizers named the ways discriminatory policy outcomes like segregation, redlining, racial covenants, highway construction, and deindustrialization entrenched environmental harm across generations. Yet organizers highlight a gap between these histories and current community perceptions and priorities.
The authors also called attention to the unintended consequences of environmental justice policy implementation. Across interviews, organizers and policymakers expressed concerns about green gentrification, affordable housing, and physical and cultural displacement. Accordingly, the study unveiled frustrations from community members when funding allocation and attention toward environmental justice policies disregard their broader economic, social, and political livelihoods. The authors’ analysis suggests combining environmental justice policy design with affordable housing and anti-displacement initiatives to ease these sentiments.
It is necessary to use policymaker and organizer perceptions on environmental justice policies as critical insight for Justice40 implementation. This study highlights the importance of embracing meaningful community engagement to avoid unintended consequences, such as gentrification and delayed investment in housing, parks, and infrastructure. Integrating procedural and distributional equity can help address urban environmental injustices and guide progress on policies aligned with the goals of Justice40.
Original Paper: Siddiqi, S. M., Mingoya-LaFortune, C., Chari, R., Preston, B. L., Gahlon, G., Hernandez, C. C., Huttinger, A., Stephenson, S. R., & Madrigano, J. (2022). The Road to Justice40: Organizer and Policymaker Perspectives on the Historical Roots of and Solutions for Environmental Justice Inequities in U.S. Cities. Environmental Justice, env.2022.0038. https://doi.org/10.1089/env.2022.0038
To read the original article in Yale Environment Review, click here.
Hydropower and Sustainable Development at Climate Week NYC
What is Climate Week NYC?
Climate Week NYC is the largest annual climate event of its kind, bringing together some 400 events and activities across the City of New York – in person, hybrid and online. Each year, business leaders, political change makers, local decision takers and civil society representatives of all ages and backgrounds, from all over the world, gather to drive the transition, speed up progress, and champion change that is already happening.
What event did Acadia Center specifically take part in?
Acadia Center president Dan Sosland was invited to join a panel of experts to discuss large-scale hydropower operations, climate, and sustainability issues. The International Hydropower Association (IHA) has developed a Hydropower Sustainability Standard (HSS) intended to provide an objective set of criteria to assess the operations of existing hydropower facilities. The HSS covers 11 major areas of hydropower operations, including ecosystem and community impacts.
The HSS was developed by NGOs, including the World Wildlife Federation, the Hydropower Sustainability Council, an independent NGO, and government and industry participants. Certification of a project indicates that it meets minimum sustainability expectations across a comprehensive range of topics using up-to-date and sector-specific sustainability guidance.
Hydro-Québec chose to become the first North American hydropower generator to seek certification, a process that began in May 2022 with the audit of its facilities at the Eastmain-1 Development.
In addition to Dan, panelists included prominent international environmental leader Ashok Khosla with the Hydropower Sustainability Council, who is credited with coining the concept of international sustainability, Gia Schneider, founder of Natel Energy, who works on innovation approaches to fisheries protection, and Margaret Trias, an international consultant expert in certification who was one of three independent assessors of the Eastmain-1 project. The panel was moderated by Carolyn Kissane, clinical professor at NYU and Director of the NYU SPS Energy, Climate Justice, and Sustainability (ECJS) Lab. Final words were provided by Aaron Mair, of the Adirondack Council, a leading environmental justice advocate in New York.
Why did Acadia Center specifically involve itself with this topic?
Acadia Center’s mission includes addressing climate and clean energy issues across the region of the northeast U.S. and eastern Canada. Cross-border interactions between these states and provinces occur in many ways. By taking an extensive view of the region, Acadia Center looks for opportunities to advance and assess climate solutions that cross borders when they provide climate, consumer and environmental benefits. Acadia Center’s Dan Sosland has been involved in numerous regulatory issues surrounding hydropower and watershed impacts and protection. Acadia Center has been directly involved in issues surrounding the role of Canadian hydro as a decarbonization pathway. Acadia Center is currently working with Canadian partners on a project called the Northeast Grid Planning Forum to encourage dialogue to explore the benefits on both sides of the border of greater cooperation between U.S. and Canadian power grids to meet climate, cost, reliability and clean energy goals.
What role will hydropower play in the future of clean energy and sustainable development?
Large-scale hydropower offers both benefits and impacts. The hydropower system in Quebec is extensive and provides low-cost electricity in Quebec and to U.S. states and cities. Reputable independent academic studies have concluded that the existing hydropower system in Quebec generates electricity at very low emission levels, approaching that of solar energy. However, large-scale hydropower can also have significant impacts on watersheds, cultural issues, and indigenous populations.
This event had some prominent panelists. What did you learn from them?
A key takeaway is that the Hydropower Sustainability Standard can significantly influence how a hydropower developer like Hydro-Quebec manages its system. As Joao Costa with the International Hydropower Association explained in a detailed presentation, like other certification approaches such as the U.S. EPA’s EnergyStar and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, hydro operations can be significantly and positively improved by evaluating against objective, best practices criteria.
What are the high-end takeaways from this event?
Hydropower currently plays a large role around the world as a low-cost and low-emission energy resource. The Hydropower Sustainability Standard can have a positive impact on hydropower operations, including ecological and cultural concerns. Future new developments, however, will depend upon whether a proposed project assesses the full scope of impacts and whether it has the support of local populations. Changes in operations and approaches are happening. For example, in the multi-billion Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission line project connecting Hydro-Quebec to New York City, the portion of the new transmission line in Canada will be jointly owned by the Mohawk community and Hydro-Quebec.
International Clean Energy Grid Coordination in the Northeast and Eastern Canada: Starting the Northeast Grid Planning Forum Dialogue
The Northeastern states and neighboring Canadian Eastern Provinces have set ambitious targets to reduce climate emissions by 2050. Fossil fuel power generation must be replaced with low and no-carbon electricity sources and electrified building heating and transportation to meet these goals. Studies show that a 4-fold or greater increase in clean energy generation is necessary to achieve these targets. Transitioning the electric power grid is central to success in our region and North America.
An essential tool the region can add to the climate toolbox would spur greater cooperation and coordination between the electric power grids on both sides of the U.S./Canada border. Acadia Center and the Quebec-based clean energy organization Nergica, with experts from both sides of the border, are convening the Northeast Grid Planning Forum for these discussions. The Northeast Grid Planning Forum will spur conversations to imagine a power grid that conducts itself according to the following public interest values:
- Reliable, efficient service.
- Attaining climate decarbonization and clean energy goals.
- Providing a respectful process for community and indigenous concerns.
- Prioritizing consumer and justice needs.
The Northeast Grid Planning Forum will bring voices to the table to address planning, investment, market design, and operational approaches that optimize clean energy supply, infrastructure, and complementary resources on both sides of the border. Currently, the region lacks a coherent planning process, resulting in uncoordinated projects that fail to align with a shared vision for the future energy system. Vulnerable communities, including low-income communities, communities of color, and non-English speaking communities, bear the brunt of these impacts.
The benefits of a better-coordinated grid include cost savings, reduced emissions, improved reliability, lower compliance costs for climate goals, expanded energy efficiency, and reduced environmental justice impacts. Coordinated grid integration would also facilitate the expansion of locally distributed clean energy, streamline opportunities presented by federal action, and provide a process for communities to be engaged in project development and siting.
The Northeast Grid Planning Forum proposes several next steps, including initiating conversations with interested entities, drafting a “bill of principles,” developing information and best practices, and outlining an outreach and messaging framework. These steps aim to build stakeholder buy-in, generate interest from decision-makers, attract investment, and ensure a socially accepted and equitable transition.
There is significant support from states, experts, regulators, and advocates in the U.S. and Canada for grid coordination. Meeting the climate goals requires an unprecedented “build-out” that demands rapid action and investment in new transmission lines and expanded distributed energy. By coordinating grid integration efforts and addressing community and stakeholder concerns, the region can leverage clean energy resources efficiently and achieve a more sustainable and equitable energy system for the future.
Why Massachusetts Needs a Clean Heat Standard
Ben Butterworth, Director of Climate, Energy, and Equity Analysis, spoke at the Building Decarbonization Coalition’s National Policy Call for Massachusetts about the Clean Heat Standard (CHS) and gas system planning. A Clean Heat Standard (CHS) is a performance standard requiring heating energy providers to replace fossil fuel heating with clean heat over time. They can do this by implementing clean heat measures, such as high-efficiency electric heat pumps or purchasing credits. A CHS requires either a gradually increasing percentage of low-emission heating services to customers over time or credits that are allocated based on the number of tons of greenhouse gas reduced. Heating energy providers include natural gas utilities, delivered fuel providers like heating oil and propane, and potentially electric utilities.
How Could Massachusetts Benefit from a CHS?
The MA Global Warming Solutions Act requires economy-wide net zero emissions by 2050 and 50% below 1990 levels by 2030. The building heat and cooling sector itself has a goal of a 49% reduction by 2030. The state’s energy efficiency program has been one of the critical drivers of building decarbonization, but more is needed. Spreading the cost of the building energy transition to natural gas, propane, and heating oil customers rather than only electric heating customers is the only sustainable way forward. A Clean Heat Standard can provide a solid boost to other efforts to decarbonize buildings, such as energy efficiency incentives, public funding and taxes, updated building codes, and fossil gas bans that take time to work.
One core challenge Massachusetts faces is not having a comprehensive plan for the future of gas systems over the next three decades. Coordination with gas system planning is vital because it allows for long-term planning that supports the least-cost pathway to net zero instead of only permitting short-term strategies that produce marginal reductions in emissions. The Future of Gas docket (DPU 20-80) attempted to create that vision, and Acadia Center was heavily involved throughout that process. The DPU has failed to rule on this issue as of September 2023. The CHS would complement strategic, geographically targeted decommissioning of the gas distribution system in a least-cost, equitable manner.
So, how does the state create an equitable CHS?
Disadvantaged communities disproportionately live in older, less efficiently heated households. These communities must be involved in the design of the CHS program. To ensure equitable design of the CHS, a “just transition fee” can be imposed on projects that don’t support equitable outcomes, “carve out” requirements for disadvantaged communities, and generate higher program incentives for equitable projects. Additionally, coordination with policy solutions outside the scope of CHS, such as rate reform, is also essential.
A Clean Heat Standard must ensure that the right clean energy technologies are promoted and that there is a straightforward way to measure the emissions impacts of the program. For example, the CHS promotes biomass heating in some states, which is a high-emitting energy choice. To meet its goals, the MA CHS must advance those new heating measures to meet the state’s climate goals.
You can watch the full webinar below.
An Attempt to Enhance Energy Efficiency in Connecticut’s Underserved and Overburdened Communities, Community Expertise, and Climate Advocate Urges
In an area of the country with the oldest housing stock, the highest 25% of emitting homes make up a disproportionate amount – well over 50% – of the residential on-state climate emissions. High emitting homes in Connecticut are not likely weatherized and are more often located in low-income communities and communities of color. High-emitting housing units are also more likely to pose serious health risks. Hazards such as asbestos, mold, lead, vermiculite, and knob and tube wiring, among others, are substantial barriers to retrofitting and energy efficiency upgrades.
At the tail end of Connecticut’s 2023 legislative session, Connecticut’s General Assembly passed H.B. No. 6942. Sections 90 and 91 of H.B. No. 6942 set out the guidance to establish a $125M “Housing Environmental Improvement Revolving Loan Fund” through the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) in collaboration with the Connecticut Department of Housing. Effective July 1, 2024, $75M will be available in a to provide low-interest financing for retrofits projects of multifamily residences in environmental justice communities that improve energy efficiency and building shell weatherization. Potential projects include but are not limited to, the installation of heat pumps, solar power generating systems, improved roofing, doors, windows, and any electric system or wiring upgrades necessary for such retrofit. The pilot program(s) will also prioritize upgrades that include the remediation of health and safety concerns such as mold, vermiculite, asbestos, etc. They will prioritize upgrades on non-owner-occupied units and units where residents or prospective residents are low-income. H.B. No. 6942 calls attention to engaging residents and owners to assist with participation and implementation. This is especially important as Tenaya Taylor, Executive Director at Nonprofit Accountability Group wrote, “…when people do take the time to find out about energy efficiency programs, complete the burdensome paperwork and get in touch with and convince their landlords to sign off on an application, too often the promised upgrades do not materialize.”
A report by DEEP on the program’s success is expected by October 2027 and will provide any recommendations for a permanent program and any subsequent legislation. The pilot program(s) will run until September 30, 2028.
The pilot program(s) outlined in H.B. No. 6942 align with Acadia Center’s Next Generation Energy Efficiency challenge priorities which aim to address: 1) sub-standard housing quality, 2) climate mitigation, 3) clean heating and whole-house electrification, and 4) sustaining investments in efficiency. Acadia Center will continue collaborating with coalition partners, the Lamont Administration, and community leaders to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while accelerating energy justice.
The Housing Environmental Improvement Loan Fund is an important step towards improving energy efficiency in overburdened and underserved communities. Climate advocates around Connecticut are calling for urgent, collaborative, and transparent action to “reestablish Connecticut as a true climate leader.” Through this process, community knowledge and expertise must be supported, centered, and valued as “the fight for housing justice and the fight for energy justice are the same fight.” Acadia Center will continue to play an active role in advancing energy efficiency efforts in Connecticut while enhancing outreach and engagement efforts to drive action on climate and energy justice.
Massachusetts’ “Green Bank”: What’s it all about?
In Massachusetts, Governor Healey’s administration has announced the creation of the Massachusetts Community Climate Bank. Otherwise known as the Green Bank, it will begin with $50 million in seed funding and will be initially targeted at decarbonizing affordable housing. While other states have established Green Banks, the Massachusetts approach is notable because it will be the first ever in the nation devoted to affordable housing. However, there are plans to expand it eventually. You may have two questions though: 1) what is a Green Bank, and 2) with so many programs already in place for decarbonization, why do we need it?
At the most basic level, Green Banks are “public, quasi-public, or nonprofit financing entities that leverage public and private capital to pursue goals for clean energy projects that reduce emissions.” They allow clean energy projects which may not be able to meet traditional financing requirements to get the capital necessary to move projects forward. The $50 million initial investment from the Healey Administration will allow it to access some of the $27 billion in funding in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund established by the federal Inflation Reduction Act. Miriam Wasser from Boston radio station WBUR has prepared this explainer about Green Banks operate.
A more interesting question is why Massachusetts needs a Green Bank when the state already has several incentive programs. The answer is straightforward: what is currently available is nowhere near enough to fund our building decarbonization needs. The Commonwealth will need to invest billions to achieve its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction requirements.
In Massachusetts, over 65% of the energy used by buildings comes from fossil fuels. Unfortunately, roughly 85% of the residential buildings expected to exist in 2050 have already been built. This housing stock is also older, as with much of New England and the Northeast. Older homes are significantly more difficult and expensive to retrofit. These aspects of the building stock in Massachusetts signal the need for more large-scale investment in programs to retrofit, weatherize, and replace fossil fuels used in these buildings.
Currently, the vast majority of funding in Massachusetts for weatherization and heat pump installation comes from the utility-administered Mass Save energy efficiency program. Massachusetts has fielded a top-rated energy efficiency program for over a decade that provides billions of dollars in investment toward energy efficiency, weatherization, and heat pumps. However, the program is primarily funded through ratepayer dollars. As the need to invest in housing stock improvements, additional funds are needed to avoid placing the decarbonization burden on utility ratepayers. Therefore, the need to find alternative funding mechanisms for decarbonization is clearly critical.
A Green Bank alone will not entirely solve our decarbonization financing needs for the Commonwealth. However, it remains a critical piece in the decarbonization jigsaw puzzle and signals that the Healey Administration understands the need to diversify the funding sources to meet the building decarbonization challenge.
Community Engagement Towards a Clean Power Grid: How Cities and Towns Can Advance the Fight for Transmission and Grid Reform
The electric power grid is an essential part of our energy system. While we can see the transmission lines and supporting infrastructure that crisscross the landscape, what is hidden from view are the billions of dollars consumers pay to support the power grid.
Historically, the power grid has established planning and tariff policies that have favored fossil gas generation in the name of reliability and has failed to embrace the full potential for clean energy. The result is that over 50% of electricity is generated by fossil gas plants. This exposes consumers to volatile pricing in fossil fuel markets and imposes economic burdens by limiting clean energy options that offer clean, cost-effective technologies. By sustaining fossil infrastructure, public health is damaged, most often in communities that suffer from disproportionate impacts of pollution. Acadia Center’s recent RGGI Report shows the stark legacy of siting fossil fuel infrastructure near low-income communities.
Local communities are key stakeholders in how the regional grid is operated. Many cities and towns have adopted clean energy and climate goals that can only be achieved with the regional grid acting in alignment to embrace clean energy. Hospitals, agencies, and social services – are impacted by energy costs, volatility, and the myriad ways harmful air pollution affects residents.
For these reasons, with the generous support of the Barr Foundation, Acadia Center is starting a new program to conduct outreach on power grid issues to communities. Our Communities and Clean Grid Engagement Project will explore the interest of local communities in adding their voices to the critical issues addressed at the regional grid level.
Cities and towns play a unique role because they are large energy consumers themselves and they represent their residents’ interests in having access to reliable, affordable, and sustainable electricity. Across the United States, cities and towns are emerging as clean energy leaders and have procured over eight gigawatts of renewable energy over the last five years. This city leadership is catalyzing action across smaller communities and other public institutions.
Acadia Center has been engaged since 2006 in the role of the grid in addressing and intruding on climate, clean energy, and consumer goals. We have raised issues around barriers created by project funding and tariff formulas, governance, and failures in long-term planning. We are working with other organizations and coalitions growing in their focus and outreach.
We look forward to engaging with public officials, community leaders, and other stakeholders around the region and strengthening the movement for building a clean grid that benefits all residents.
Climate Change Solutions with Bill McKibben
Most understand the climate is changing before our eyes. Implementing solutions has been slowly occurring, but much more needs to be accomplished. Join Bill McKibben for an in-depth discussion on the opportunities, priorities, and diverse solutions to address the challenges of carbon emission and climate change. Find out what each of us can do to make a difference.
Recording of the Webinar available here: https://www.nfrpp.org/2023/07/13/climate-change-solutions-with-bill-mckibben/
Join us July 11 @ 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm
To RSVP for the Zoom Webinar: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_KhSMFuBjRCuTyV4aox1vuA
To watch the event on Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/NFRPP/live_videos/
Bill McKibben is a contributing writer to The New Yorker, and a founder of Third Act, which organizes people over the age of 60 to work on climate and racial justice. He founded the first global grassroots climate campaign, 350.org, and serves as the Schumann Distinguished Professor in Residence at Middlebury College in Vermont. In 2014 he was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called the ‘alternative Nobel,’ in the Swedish Parliament. He’s also won the Gandhi Peace Award, and honorary degrees from 19 colleges and universities. He has written over a dozen books about the environment, including his first, The End of Nature, published in 1989, and his latest book is The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon: A Graying American Looks Back at his Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened.
Daniel L. Sosland, the moderator, is the President of Acadia Center. For over 25 years, Dan has been working in the field of climate and clean energy solutions. His major focus has been as president and co-founder of Acadia Center, a non-profit research and advocacy organization acting at the state, regional, and community levels to advance climate and clean energy solutions in the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada. One of the first such organizations created in the U.S. to address climate solutions, Acadia Center, has won awards from U.S. EPA, the American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy and others for its groundbreaking work on climate pathways, energy efficiency and transforming government to be responsive to climate and equity and is ranked in the top 1% of non-profits evaluated by Charity Navigator. Prior to Acadia Center, Dan’s work focused on energy efficiency and forest and watershed protection. Dan was given the Maine Forever Award by Gov. Angus King and the Exemplary Public Service Award from Cornell Law School. He began his career at a major law firm in New York City and holds a JD with honors from Cornell Law School and a BA from Brown University. He is a member of the board of directors of the U.S. Climate Action Network.