New England for Offshore Wind Urges Federal Regulator to Reject ISO-New England Proposal

April 20, 2022Yesterday, the New England for Offshore Wind coalition called on federal regulators at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reject ISO-New England’s (ISO-NE) proposal to delay the elimination of a market rule that disproportionately impacts offshore wind and would increase costs for ratepayers. In a letter to FERC, the coalition underscored the importance of offshore wind to state climate goals, highlighted the momentum of offshore wind policy across the country, and pushed back on ISO-NE’s claims that offshore wind development is uncertain. ISO-NE’s proposal to delay the elimination of the Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR) would prevent the fair participation of clean energy in regional markets and drive up consumer costs by incentivizing the procurement of unnecessary and redundant energy generation capacity in the region.

Offshore wind is our best opportunity for new sources of clean, renewable energy in New England, which boasts the best offshore wind resources in the country. Expanding local, renewable energy is critical to our efforts to prevent the worst impacts of climate change and increase energy security in these times of instability due to the conflict in Ukraine. Developed responsibly, offshore wind has the potential to create tens of thousands of high-quality, family-sustaining jobs; provide health benefits to vulnerable communities through pollution reduction; ensure equity in economic benefits; coexist with existing ocean uses; and protect wildlife and the environment every step of the way.

New England for Offshore Wind is a broad-based coalition of associations, businesses, environmental and justice organizations, institutions, and labor unions committed to combatting climate change by increasing the supply of clean energy to our regional grid through more procurements of responsibly developed offshore wind. We believe that responsibly developed offshore wind is the single biggest lever we can pull to address the climate crisis while also strengthening our regional economy, protecting ratepayers, creating high quality jobs, and improving public health by reducing pollution.

Susannah Hatch, Environmental League of Massachusetts Director of Clean Energy Policy and New England for Offshore Wind Regional Lead, said:
“Responsibly developed offshore wind will be the workhorse of our decarbonization efforts in our region, and it holds enormous potential to grow the economy, meet our energy needs, and create equitable economic benefits for decades to come. ISO-NE should allow that transition to take place instead of hindering states’ ability to achieve their climate goals and burdening ratepayers with unnecessary costs.”

Melissa Birchard, Acadia Center Director for Clean Energy and Grid Reform, said:
“Offshore wind is one of the most promising energy opportunities of this decade and, combined with energy storage, can be a key to addressing climate change and grid reliability in New England. We call on FERC to direct ISO-New England to stop dragging its feet on clean energy and eliminate the backward Minimum Offer Price Rule now – not years down the road – so that the region can meet its climate goals in time to protect communities from danger.”

Launa Zimmaro, League of Women Voters Massachusetts Legislative Specialist, Climate Change and Energy, said:
“Maintaining the MOPR would have real and lasting impacts on the health and well-being of residents in the Commonwealth, as well as our opportunities to grow a clean energy economy in the region.”

Charles Rothenberger, Save the Sound Climate and Energy Attorney and New England for Offshore Wind Connecticut State Lead, said:
“Removing the barriers to clean, renewable energy and supporting state efforts to transition to zero-carbon resources should be fundamental to the operation of our regional energy market. Every year that we delay reforming or eliminating the market rules that disadvantage renewable resources makes it more difficult and more expensive to address the pressing climate and air quality issues we face.”

John Carlson, Ceres Manager of State Policy and New England for Offshore Wind Business Lead said:
“New England states are making informed, considered policy decisions to forge a new clean energy economy in the region. Local, renewable energy resources will drive investment in the region, reduce emissions, create jobs, and insulate us from volatile fossil fuels markets. The continued imposition of the Minimum Offer Price Rule will delay and reduce the ability of states to reap these benefits in the long-term and drive up ratepayer costs in the near term. ISO-NE should eliminate this protectionist rule immediately and embrace the just transition to a clean energy future.”

Logan Malik, Massachusetts Climate Action Network Clean Energy Director, said:
“The rapid deployment of offshore wind is critical for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to meet its 2030, 2040, and 2050 climate goals. ISO-NE’s proposal to delay repealing MOPR by two years will unnecessarily slow our progress towards meeting our emissions reduction targets and extend the life of old and dirty facilities that are polluting our communities. FERC should reject this proposal. In doing so they would be supporting grid reliability, energy security, and the growth of a promising industry that will create thousands of good-paying jobs in New England.”

Jen Benson, The Alliance for Business Leadership President, said:
“In delaying a decision on MOPR, ISO-NE is making it harder for renewables to gain access to the energy market by artificially raising the cost of clean energy to allow more expensive fossil fuels to “compete”. Ultimately this hurts ratepayers, impacts our economy, and potentially reduces New England-based innovation and investment. In order for Massachusetts to reach its own climate goals, we must project a consistent message that renewable energy will be valued fairly in forward capacity markets to ensure that near and long-term investment continues.”

William Sedlack, Maine Conservation Voters Program Manager and New England for Offshore Wind Maine State Lead, said:
“We call on ISO-NE to be a partner with Maine and the rest of New England in the transition to a just clean energy future. Delaying the elimination of the Minimum Offer Price Rule blocks clean energy from being able to fairly compete and participate in the market, burdens taxpayers, and wastes time that we do not have as states in a geographically vulnerable region to climate impacts.”

 

 

 

About Acadia Center 

Acadia Center is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. Acadia Center advocates for an equitable clean energy future for Connecticut, tackling regulatory and legislative energy policy, transportation, energy efficiency, beneficial electrification, utility innovation, and renewable energy. 

 

Media Contacts:

Ellen Macaulay, Environmental League of Massachusetts
emacaulay@environmentalleague.org
617-742-2553

Melissa Birchard, Acadia Center
mbirchard@acadiacenter.org
857-276-6883

Clean Energy and Consumer Groups Call on FERC to Reject ISO New England’s Proposal to Delay Key Energy Market Reform

BOSTON, MA (April 21, 2022) – Today, 11 New England clean energy and consumer advocacy organizations filed a protest urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reject ISO New England’s proposal to delay reforming the Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR) and require an immediate fix to this anti-competitive rule.

The MOPR artificially inflates the cost of clean energy, giving an advantage to more expensive fossil fuel power plants in ISO-NE’s forward capacity market. The rule has extended the life of highly-polluting, uneconomical plants and incentivized continued investment in fossil fuel infrastructure while preventing affordable, clean energy from entering the market. As a result, the MOPR imposes higher electricity costs on customers and perpetuates air pollution in historically impacted fenceline communities across New England. The rule also undercuts New England states’ efforts to address the threat of climate change by decarbonizing the electric grid.

“FERC has an obligation to immediately fix ISO New England’s Minimum Offer Price Rule,” said Hannah Birnbaum, Sierra Club Northeast Deputy Director of Energy Campaigns. “The rule has needlessly increased electricity bills and stifled job growth in clean energy for years. Fenceline communities are facing dirty air and long-term health risks because the MOPR protects uneconomic fossil fuel plants that would have otherwise retired long ago. The economic and health costs of keeping the MOPR in place for two more years are unjustifiable. We can’t allow the fossil fuel industry to get in the way of making responsible and cost-effective improvements to our energy system.”

“New England’s residents are demanding clean energy. So why is the region’s grid operator trying to put up roadblocks and delays to this transition?” said Bruce Ho of the Sustainable FERC Project at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “FERC needs to step in and ensure clean solar and wind power get a chance to compete in New England’s electricity capacity market – and that they get that chance today, not in 2025.”

“ISO New England promised the New England states and the public to eliminate the discriminatory MOPR rule in the next capacity auction and then backed out of that promise at the last moment,” said Melissa Birchard, Director of Clean Energy and Grid Reform at Acadia Center. “FERC should hold ISO New England to its original proposal – vetted by stakeholders over the course of more than 12 meetings – to eliminate the MOPR now, without delay. Every excuse not to reform the markets to let clean energy compete fairly now puts our children and communities at greater risk from pollution and the climate emergency.”

“The climate crisis is threatening our health and safety as we speak. Nearly every New England state has climate laws that require slashing polluting emissions, and clean energy sources like wind and solar are the keys to reaching these goals,” said Conservation Law Foundation Senior Attorney Phelps Turner. “But ISO New England’s attempt to keep the Minimum Offer Price Rule on the books prevents electricity from these sources from being delivered into our homes. ISO’s decision to keep this rule alive for two more years allows polluting fossil fuel plants to keep running, costs electricity customers millions of dollars, and creates a major roadblock to safeguarding a livable world in the face of climate change. The rule cannot be allowed to stand.”

“”The latest IPCC report warns that we are running out of time to prevent the worst of the climate crisis. New England’s grid operator is making it harder for the region to power our homes, businesses, and transportation with clean energy. We’re asking FERC to stand up for what New England residents have already demanded: a clean grid powered by renewable solar and wind and freedom from polluting fossil fuels,” said Danielle Fidler, Earthjustice Senior Attorney.

“ISO’s administratively set pricing floor creates a bias in favor of existing resources and is slowing the transition to a cleaner grid at great expense to consumers. The ISO has simply not justified its proposal to delay the elimination of this artificial barrier,” said Francis Pullaro, Executive Director of RENEW Northeast.

​​“Competitive energy markets are essential to ensuring cost-effective and reliable electricity,” said Jolette Westbrook, Director and Senior Attorney, Energy Markets & Regulation at Environmental Defense Fund. “Unfortunately, ISO New England’s proposal moves the region in the wrong direction, accomplishing little to improve reliability, delaying the deployment of renewable energy and increasing costs for electricity customers. Market barriers must be eliminated for New England to get the reliable, affordable and clean electricity it deserves.”

 

 

About Acadia Center 

Acadia Center is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. Acadia Center advocates for an equitable clean energy future for Connecticut, tackling regulatory and legislative energy policy, transportation, energy efficiency, beneficial electrification, utility innovation, and renewable energy. 

 

Media Contacts:

Adil Trehan, Sierra Club
adil.trehan@sierraclub.org
202-630-7275

Melissa Birchard, Acadia Center
mbirchard@acadiacenter.org
857-276-6883

Phelps Turner, Conservation Law Foundation
pturner@clf.org
207-210-6439

Mark Drajem, NRDC
mdrajem@nrdc.org
202-297-5444

OpEd: A chilling impact on Connecticut’s EV adoption rates

Connecticut is among the most environmentally conscious states in the country and has taken a leading role in advancing clean energy and climate goals, targeting an 80% reduction in climate-warming emissions by 2050.

The vast majority of transportation pollution comes from vehicle tailpipes, with cars, trucks and buses accounting for 82% of the transportation sector’s CO2 emissions. In order to meaningfully and urgently address the transportation sector’s contributions to climate change and poor air quality, a rapid transition from polluting vehicles to non-emitting electric vehicles (EVs) is necessary. Vehicles powered by electricity produce far less pollution than those running on gasoline or diesel, and as the electric grid gets cleaner, the benefits of electrification will grow. Acadia Center is working across a variety of forums to advance transportation electrification policies that are ambitious, equitable and good for consumers.

Transportation is the largest source of climate-warming emissions in Connecticut, and we have implemented public policies to deploy electric vehicles (EVs) in the state. Gov. Ned Lamont has set a goal of 125,000-150,000 EVs by 2025, and signed a letter last year urging President Joe Biden to phase out sales of new internal combustion cars by 2035. Connecticut is also providing purchase incentives to make new and used EVs more affordable and expanding charging infrastructure to streamline the transition.

These are the right steps, yet this plan has a glaring omission: Connecticut remains one of the most regressive and restrictive states for buying an EV — currently requiring all new cars in the state to be sold through a dealer as a middleman, and blocking test drives and deliveries by some EV manufacturers.

Tesla, now joined by Rivian and Lucid, have been working in the legislature for almost six sessions to open Connecticut’s EV market. Polling last year showed that 83% of Connecticut residents support opening the state for direct sales. Furthermore, sales data shows that states with direct sales have EV adoption rates that are 4.8 times higher than closed states.

Connecticut’s auto dealers defend the status quo, where they have the exclusive right to sell all new vehicles in the state, on the basis that opening for direct sales would harm their businesses and have a negative impact on employment. An analysis by the Acadia Center found, on the contrary, direct sales has had no negative impact on dealership employment on other states in the Northeast region. Additional review of data provided by the National Automobile Dealers Association through its annual NADA data report reflects this trend nationally: States that are fully or partially open for direct sales have seen higher dealership sales and employment growth than closed states.

While direct sales have not harmed existing dealership businesses in any state, preventing EV manufacturers from entering the market has also blocked jobs and investment from these companies, and had a clear chilling impact on Connecticut’s EV adoption rates. As of August 2021, Connecticut had 23,000 plug-in vehicles on the road — only 15-18% of the way toward the governor’s 2025 target. Connecticut lags Florida, Utah, Maryland and Massachusetts (all open states) in per-capita EV adoption.

There’s another downside to the dealer system that everyday Connecticut families are facing: Supply chain disruptions and other market forces have restricted vehicle supply, and dealerships have added significant markups to both electric and conventional vehicles. In January 2021 only 2.8% of vehicles were sold above sticker price — in January 2022 that number skyrocketed to 82.2%. Some popular electric vehicle models have seen five-digit markups and manufacturers ranging from Ford to Hyundai have asked dealerships to stop.

The direct sales model offers car buyers a more transparent alternative to the dealership system, where they must negotiate over the price of a car. Furthermore, it reduces barriers to buying an electric vehicle. Current restrictions in Connecticut force Tesla, Rivian or Lucid buyers to travel across state lines to test-drive or take delivery of their EV of choice.

Connecticut must make up for lost time to meet climate goals and realize the broader benefits of EV adoption. The most straightforward path to success, which comes at no cost to the taxpayer while offering an alternative to dealer markups, is to simply allow a fair and open market for EVs. Doing so will help improve air quality, create good-paying jobs and demonstrate that Connecticut is ready for a cleaner transportation future.

Read the full OpEd in the Hartford Courant here.

OpEd: Van Welie is wrong about natural gas

In response to Russia’s unjust invasion of Ukraine, the European Union announced it will rapidly accelerate its transition from natural gas – much of which it gets from Russia – to renewables. Reuters quotes EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans saying, “It’s hard, bloody hard. But it’s possible.”

What does this have to do with New England?

New England also depends on the global natural gas market. As the EU cuts gas imports from Russia, it’s likely to import more gas in liquefied form from the United States. This stands to drive up both natural gas prices and electricity prices in New England. Natural gas prices impact electricity because, in addition to home heating, New England relies on natural gas to fuel the power plants that produce about half of its electricity.

Like the EU, New England is also working to transition off gas to a clean, electric economy. The urgency of climate change, together with the volatility of escalating fossil fuel prices tied to unstable foreign governments, require the region to make this transition now, not in 10 or 15 years. The region also needs more non-gas fuels to ensure the lights stay on through the winter when gas is highest in demand here and around the globe. Making this change will require the transformation of regional markets that have long locked us into fossil fuels, but we are up to this challenge.

In his February 26, 2022 column in CommonWealth, Gordon van Welie, the CEO of New England’s regional electricity market manager, ISO-New England, suggested that we can’t have a reliable electric grid powered by clean energy until new technologies come along. Van Welie cited green hydrogen and modular nuclear reactors as two key tools to ensure the region’s reliability without gas. On other occasions he has listed long-duration storage as a third non-gas option for reliability. As none of these technologies is usable now, van Welie’s conclusion is that New England must continue to rely on natural gas.

The experts, however, say such new technologies are not needed to decarbonize the electric grid until we get much closer to 100 percent renewable energy. Until then, our reliability needs can be met by more common types of resources such as four-hour energy storage, distributed resources like solar, and flexible load – which incrementally ramps up or down technologies readily available in our homes like heat pumps, hot water heaters, and EV chargers.

For example, a Stanford study published this winter concluded that batteries available now can help keep the electric grid stable, along with flexible load and demand management. The National Renewable Energy Laboratories has similarly found that flexible load “offers high value in supporting a highly electrified, renewables-based” energy grid.

Why then does Gordon van Welie still say we cannot quickly shake the region’s overreliance on gas? Perhaps ISO-New England thinks making the transition off gas is too hard for a region that’s long relied on fossil fuels, but it’s not.

Last May, when ISO-New England first proposed eliminating the so-called minimum offer price rule, which is a regional market rule that subsidizes gas power plants to stay in the market, it assured stakeholders across the region that it could remove this gas subsidy in 2023 without undue risks to grid reliability.

ISO-New England held this position right up until January, when it suddenly started lobbying for a delay to the reform so that more gas power plants could continue to stay online. It provided no data but pointed to vague potential risks to a grid where gas starts to become less common – and suggested delaying the reforms would be the easy path. But there’s nothing easy about a path that locks us into irreversible climate damage, price volatility, and over reliance on a single fuel.

If we open up New England’s markets to energy storage, flexible load, and offshore wind that blows strong in the winter, we will have clean resources that are reliable and perform well when we need them most. With these resources, we can do things that in the past seemed too hard with new confidence. The risks of not doing so are too great.

Gov. Charlie Baker and the other elected leaders of the New England states should oppose ISO-New England’s efforts to delay the market reforms the region needs to move off fossil fuels without more damage and higher costs. They should press ISO-New England to open the region’s markets further to clean electric resources like energy storage and flexible load that can help ensure reliability as we electrify our economy with homegrown renewables. These reforms won’t change the world today, but they can help change it tomorrow.

Read the full OpEd in CommonWealth Magazine here.

NJ households could achieve over 50% reduction on energy bills by combining electric appliances with home weatherization measures

FAR HILLS, NJ (March 1, 2022) – A new report issued today by Acadia Center confirms that electrifying the building sector is beneficial to all New Jerseyans, making buildings healthier and safer while reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state. Aggressively transitioning away from fossil fuels to electric is seen as key to significantly reducing emissions from buildings – the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in New Jersey. 

Commissioned by New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the report, titled “The Future is Electric,” outlines the fact that while New Jersey is making strides toward clean energy, many in the state continue to burn natural gas and other fossil fuels directly in their homes, producing greenhouse gas emissions and harmful indoor air pollution. New Jersey is falling behind in achieving its building decarbonization goals compared to neighboring states, as the transition to clean, electric buildings are underway throughout the U.S. and globally.  

New Jersey voters strongly support policies that advance the adoption of electric appliances in buildings, according to ReThink Energy NJ’s 7th annual “Attitudes on Clean Energy” poll conducted in late 2021.  

“Building electrification is necessary to address climate change and achieve significant emission reductions by 2030 and beyond,” said Tom Gilbert, campaign director, ReThink Energy NJ and New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “New Jersey needs to start developing the policies and incentives necessary to advance building electrification in a way that benefits consumers, supports low and moderate-income communities, reduces harmful indoor emissions, and creates and sustains local jobs in the sale, installation and maintenance of efficient, electric appliances.” 

Low-income communities and people of color are disproportionately affected by air pollution and climate change. They are more likely to suffer from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and heart disease due to nearby pollution sources. New Jersey was listed among the ten states with the most premature deaths from air pollution in buildings directly related to gas, oil and propane, costing $2.8 billion in monetized health impacts annually. Shifting to electric appliances today would cut greenhouse gas emissions in a New Jersey home by more than half, while also improving public health. 

Despite the gas industry’s attempts to delay the transition to efficient electric appliances, states like New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine are installing cold climate heat pumps, which can replace furnaces or boilers and handle the heating needs of well-insulated homes in the northeast without backup systems. Many New Jersey homeowners can dramatically reduce their energy bills by more than 50% by combining electric appliances with home weatherization measures. 

“High efficiency, cold-climate air-source heat pumps can provide 100% of a home’s heating and cooling needs, even in colder climates like in Massachusetts and Maine,” said Amy Boyd, Director of Policy, Acadia Center. “Acadia Center’s new report shows that, when combined with weatherization, New Jerseyans will save money and improve local health by electrifying their homes. New Jersey can follow the framework set by fellow Northeast states to successfully, quickly and affordably switch to an electric future.” 

“Heat pumps have evolved. The new generation of heat pumps save a lot more energy, work perfectly well in the dead of winter, offer greater comfort, and cost less to operate.” said William Amann, P.E., DCEP, LEED Fellow, President, M&E Engineers, Inc., and Advocacy Committee Chair, MLAB, US Green Building Council NJ. 

“Residential and commercial buildings are one of New Jersey’s biggest climate polluters because of the massive amount of oil and gas that is used to power, heat, and cool them. But it doesn’t have to be that way,” said Eric Miller, Director of N.J. Energy Policy, Natural Resources Defense Council. “New Jersey can do more with less pollution by making buildings more efficient and equipped for electrification while improving public health and creating jobs.” 

“Electrification of homes and businesses is essential not only for our shared future climate health but the health of vulnerable adults and children right now,” said Nicole Miller, Principal Consultant of MnM Consulting and Chair of the Newark Green Team. “With gas-fired plants polluting the air outside and gas cooking appliances polluting the air indoors, communities like Newark, where more than 25% of children have asthma, are in a position with few good options. As New Jersey has committed to reducing emissions in how we produce electricity, we need to also commit to transitioning our homes and businesses to electric appliances.” 

“The electrification of our homes and buildings is one of the most impactful ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving our air quality. In addition to the air pollution caused by the fracking and transportation of natural gas, this pollution does not stop at our doorstep, it also continues in our homes even when the gas stove is off. Where there is natural gas, there will be leaking methane,” said Anjuli Ramos-Busot, NJ Director, New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club. “This report provides the much-needed evidence that electrifying our appliances with home weatherization measures not only gives us healthier and more energy-efficient homes, it also gives us more affordability.”   

“Over a quarter of New Jersey’s climate pollution comes from buildings,” says Mary Barber, Director of State Affairs, Environmental Defense Fund. “Acadia Centers’ new report gives New Jerseyans the information and tools they need to do their part by effectively switching their fossil-fueled appliances to electric ones for heating and cooking at home. This will save money while improving air quality for all.” 

“Based on Isles’ 17 years of providing weatherization and healthy homes improvement services in Trenton, we know first-hand the problem of leaky homes, hazardous gas appliances and poor ventilation for residents who disproportionately have asthma and who can least afford to pay for high energy bills,” said Elyse Pivnick, Senior Director for Environmental Health, Isles, Inc. “Policies must change to allow electrification retrofits in our oldest, substandard housing because currently, this is not an option in New Jersey’s weatherization programs. Additionally, Isles’ ten-year-old Center for Energy and ‘Environmental Job-Training is ready to train the next generation of New Jersey’s energy efficiency workforce.” 

“Burning fossil fuels in buildings is a leading cause of premature death in the state, which overwhelmingly affects Black and Brown communities. We recommend that the state end natural gas hookups for new buildings and residences by 2030,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. “Acadia Center’s report confirms that we don’t have to choose between public health and affordable energy. A smart and effective way to protect the health and safety of residents and reduce utility bills is to electrify our buildings and homes,” 

State Senator Andrew Zwicker, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Isles, the N.J. Green Building Council, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, Environmental Defense Fund, the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Newark Green Team joined N.J. Conservation Foundation and Acadia Center in releasing the report, and called upon the Murphy Administration and the State Legislature to make decarbonization of the building sector a priority in the state’s climate mitigation efforts.  

About New Jersey Conservation Foundation 

A private nonprofit based in Far Hills, New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s mission is to preserve land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. In addition to protecting over 125,000 acres of open space, farmland and parks, New Jersey Conservation promotes strong land use and clean energy policies at the local, county, state and federal levels, and provides support and technical assistance to hundreds of partner groups. 

For more information about New Jersey Conservation Foundation and its programs and preserves, visit www.njconservation.org or call 1-888-LANDSAVE (1-888-526-3728). 

About Acadia Center 

Acadia Center is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. Acadia Center advocates for an equitable clean energy future for Connecticut, tackling regulatory and legislative energy policy, transportation, energy efficiency, beneficial electrification, utility innovation, and renewable energy. 

 

Media Contacts:

Tom Gilbert
tom@njconservation.org
(267) 261-7325 

Amy Boyd
aboyd@acadiacenter.org
(940) 367-4992 

ISO-NE Decision Will Hold Back Clean Energy Throughout the Region

Boston, MA. — If approved by its regulator, a decision made Thursday by New England’s power grid operator, ISO-NE, along with a majority of its stakeholders, will slow New England’s ability to meet state climate goals, exacerbate the climate pollution impacting our communities and our economy, and cost consumers extra money they can ill afford.

Yesterday afternoon, ISO-NE and a majority of its stakeholders, which are mostly energy companies, decided to push back by two more years the elimination of a major barrier to clean energy in the region. The Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR), which pays gas power plant generators extra on the ratepayer’s dime to stay in the market, was on its way out. But now ISO-NE is delaying implementation of an improved approach and keeping clean energy from competing fairly in the regional capacity market for two additional years.

According to Melissa Birchard, Senior Regulatory Attorney and Director for Power Grid Reform at Acadia Center, after originally proposing in May of 2021 to eliminate the harmful MOPR rule in 2023, ISO-NE changed its position at the 11th hour. “ISO-NE has let the region down by choosing to cut clean energy out of the capacity market for two more years. This decision throws an unnecessary lifeline to gas generators that could otherwise be priced out of the market by cost-effective clean energy,” says Birchard. “Despite pushing for quicker market reforms in the recent New England Governors Energy Vision Statement process, the states appeared to back the delay. This is a disappointing failure of leadership,” said Birchard.

The New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE), which represents the states, recently announced they did not oppose the two-year delay. This position appeared to sway many previously opposed parties, contributing to majority support for the delay. Acadia Center and its partners, as well as renewable energy companies and a number of other stakeholders, strongly opposed the delay, which would keep in place barriers to clean energy participation in the ISO-NE capacity market until the 2025 auction, which commits resources for the period beginning in 2028.

“This outcome comes at a cost for New England’s climate goals and damages the communities that will suffer higher bills and more pollution in their neighborhoods,” said Acadia Center’s Birchard. “The region has waited too long already for these overdue market reforms.”

Acadia Center calls on the New England states to stand behind important climate and clean energy reforms and demand that ISO-NE increase its accountability to consumers and communities, to avoid these failures in the future.

 

Media Contacts:

Melissa Birchard
Clean Energy Program Director
mbirchard@acadiacenter.org
617-742-0054 x103

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Acadia Center is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. Acadia Center advocates for an equitable clean energy future for Connecticut, tackling regulatory and legislative energy policy, transportation, energy efficiency, beneficial electrification, utility innovation, and renewable energy.

Maine Must Fundamentally Reform Energy Planning to Gain Public Trust

On November 2, motivated by opposition to the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) transmission project, Maine voters overwhelmingly approved Question 1, the citizen’s initiative to amend state law regarding construction of electric transmission lines, including banning certain projects and requiring legislative approval for those that cross public lands. The line proposed by Central Maine Power in conjunction with Hydro-Quebec would have connected the Maine power grid with Quebec as part of a Massachusetts plan to export hydropower and displace fossil fuel generation.

The controversy over the NECEC project has crystalized critical issues that Maine must grapple with, including how to transition to a modern energy system that benefits communities, protects critical lands and habitat, and serves all consumers equitably while rapidly shifting away from fossil fuels towards reliance on cleaner, safer electric options needed to meet the state’s climate targets by 2030.

Maine is already witnessing the damaging impacts of climate change. From increased storm damage and flooding, to alarming threats to lobster habitat, Maine’s economic future and quality of life is tied to its climate future.  Maine must shift from fossil fuels like heating oil and natural gas to clean energy options. Over the next  decade, Maine can do this by expanding electric building heating and electric transportation choices; increasing clean energy generation, storage, and delivery of renewable energy; and modernizing its electricity grid. This transition will require a clean and equitable transmission and utility distribution system and a shared vision to build it.

To ensure good decisions that earn public support, Maine must fundamentally reform its outdated approach to energy planning and decision-making. Simply put, the current energy planning and utility business model is no longer compatible with the transformations necessary to address climate change, electrify the economy, and incorporate public input. Currently, electric utilities are charged with the responsibility to plan for energy needs and then decide which energy projects to propose and build. Once constructed, utilities and other energy companies earn revenue from these projects.  This system creates fundamental conflicts between planning and investment choices. And it fails to take a comprehensive view of all the technologies, fuels, and efficiency options available to meet the energy needs of the state and communities.

To reform the system, Acadia Center is recommending that Maine enact two fundamental changes we call Reforming Energy System Planning for Equity and Climate Transformation (RESPECT). First, RESPECT removes conflicts of interests by separating the entity that conducts energy planning from the entity that builds, owns, and earns revenue from the projects.  The planning entity would have a public interest charge – not a financial one. Second, the energy planning entity would have the tools to  meet energy, heating, and consumer needs while specifically addressing state climate requirements and equity goals. This will allow more focused consideration of  clean, effective energy solutions, including building weatherization, heat pumps, solar, and storage.

Maine has started down this road. L.D. 1682, enacted earlier this year, requires the Maine Public Utilities Commission to consider compliance with Maine’s climate statute in all decisions. If this law had been in effect when the PUC was considering the NECEC project, the carbon emission reductions promised would have been tested in a robust, measurable, and verifiable way. With “climate” elevated on equal footing with affordability, reliability, and utility profits, future PUC decisions will help save ratepayers money, improve equity and environmental justice outcomes, and support decarbonization.

In the wake of the divisive referendum, a new framework must emerge to modernize the electricity grid with greater stakeholder engagement and the holistic planning that Maine deserves. The alternative is continued delays in building the energy future we need at great detriment to Maine’s economic, environmental, and consumer future.


Dan Sosland is president of Acadia Center, a Rockport based non-profit research and advocacy organization focused on climate change and clean energy solutions that address economic, consumer and equity needs.

Fuel Oil Associations Issue Misleading Claims

Rockport, ME. — Oil and gas dealer associations initiated a media campaign today calling on the region’s governors to cease support for clean, consumer friendly electric heat pump options. In fact, heat pump rebates are already insulating consumers from volatile heating oil price spikes while improving indoor air quality, reducing pollution, and providing efficient, comfortable heat.

“Energy marketers misleadingly claim that concerns ISO-NE [the regional power grid operator] recently flagged about pandemic-related fuel supply constraints require this backward response, but their claim is meritless,” said Melissa Birchard, Senior Regulatory Attorney and Director, Clean Energy Program at Acadia Center. “Pandemic supply chains and fuel demands in other countries are contributing to price volatility and making fossil fuels harder to come by,” noted Birchard.  “The short- and long-term answer is to help residents shift from reliance on volatile fossil fuels to electric alternatives that are cleaner, safer and equally comfortable.”

“Calls to cancel heat pump rebates are a sad example of the fossil fuel industry once again fighting the clean energy solutions that will keep our communities, safe, warm, and healthy,” said Matt Rusteika, Senior Policy Analyst at Acadia Center. “Many fuel oil dealers already recognize this and are providing a full array of heating choices to their customers, including air source heat pump conversions.”

According to press reports, ISO-NE’s Gordon van Welie has raised concerns about supplies of home heating oil, citing pandemic-related shortages of truck drivers that could affect deliveries.  Given that the supply chain for heating oil, gas, and other fossil fuels has been disturbed by the pandemic, increasing reliance on those fuels makes zero sense. As European gas prices soar, U.S. gas companies are exporting gas for greater profits, leaving domestic customers exposed to even more price volatility.

“Heat pump rebates help families and businesses control costs, insulate household budgets from fossil fuel price spikes, and increase the overall efficiency of the region’s energy use,” said Rusteika. “Energy marketer attempts to sow doubt about heat pumps are sadly self-serving. Heat pump rebates are unlikely to influence fuel supply constraints either way. And many heat pumps installed each year displace electric resistance heat—which reduces strain on the grid.”

“Long-term,” says Birchard, “the region needs to expand its electric transmission grid and clean energy supply to help solve constraints and ensure reliability.  Heat pumps are a key part of the solution, as controllable heat pumps can provide a flexible resource for the electric grid.”

Acadia Center calls on the governors to reject the misleading assertions and backward-looking position of the fuel dealers associations.

 

 

Media Contacts:

Melissa Birchard
Clean Energy Program Director
mbirchard@acadiacenter.org

617-742-0054 x103

Matt Rusteika
Senior Policy Analyst & Buildings Lead
mrusteika@acadiacenter.org
617-742-0054 x108

 

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Acadia Center is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. Acadia Center advocates for an equitable clean energy future for Connecticut, tackling regulatory and legislative energy policy, transportation, energy efficiency, beneficial electrification, utility innovation, and renewable energy.

RGGI auction sets new highs, demonstrates need for climate and justice reforms

BOSTON, MA- Today, the states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) announced the results of the program’s record-setting 54th auction. Emissions allowances were sold for $13.00 each, generating $351 million in proceeds for investment in the clean energy economy. Both the allowance price and the auction proceeds establish new record highs for the RGGI program, which has now been in operation for 13 years. Auction 54 also resulted in the release of additional allowances from the Cost Containment Reserve (CCR), undermining the program’s environmental integrity.

 

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

The auction clearing price of $13.00 is 39% higher than the clearing price from the previous auction in September, and 75% higher than the clearing price from one year ago. The clearing price represents the price that power plant operators must pay for each ton of CO2 emitted by their fossil-fuel-fired plants. The recent increase in allowance prices means the RGGI program is sending a stronger incentive to produce electricity from carbon-free sources, like wind and solar.

The record-high amount of proceeds generated from Auction 54 is also a boon for the clean energy economy. Since the program launched, the vast majority of RGGI proceeds have been invested in energy efficiency and clean energy projects. Today’s announcement that participating states will be receiving $351 million from the latest auction (bringing the annual total to $926 million) is great news for climate action, the economy, and the growing workforce in energy efficiency and clean energy.

 

Necessary RGGI Reforms for Environmental Integrity and Justice

Today’s auction results also reveal serious problems that the RGGI states must address with urgency.

Today’s auction clearing price of $13.00 met the Cost Containment Reserve (CCR) trigger price of $13.00, resulting in the addition of 3.9 million allowances to an already oversupplied market, allowing increased emissions from the region’s power plants. Given the desperate need of the RGGI states—many of which are struggling to meet their climate targets—to reduce power sector pollution, allowing additional emissions beyond the cap is unacceptable. Acadia Center and our partners have opposed the use of a CCR and its design since its introduction. As a reiteration of recommendations Acadia Center has made in both of the previous RGGI Program Reviews to preserve the program’s effectiveness and environmental integrity, the RGGI states must either eliminate the CCR or reform it by: 1) significantly increasing the price trigger and 2) withdrawing allowances from future supply, rather than minting new allowances.

Even more importantly, today’s auction results demonstrate the critical and overdue need to ensure that RGGI auction proceeds are invested equitably. The RGGI program imposes no requirements on participating states to guarantee equitable investment, and most of the participating states lack processes to ensure RGGI-funded investments deliver meaningful and proportional benefits in overburdened and underserved communities. As a result, many states invest RGGI proceeds into clean energy projects that, while effective in reducing climate pollution, fail to address the inequities in the clean energy transition. In other cases, RGGI funds are used to fill budget gaps, addressing neither climate nor justice imperatives. At a minimum, the RGGI states must adopt requirements for equitable investment that are consistent with the Jusitce40 Initiative, developed by the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. If the RGGI states applied this framework to the investment of RGGI proceeds from 2021, they would be investing at least $370 million in disadvantaged communities in one year alone.

The RGGI states are currently in the midst of the Third RGGI Program Review. This presents an ideal opportunity for the states to commit to the reforms described above, along with a suite of additional measures (like a dramatically reduced emissions cap and more inclusive processes) to ensure the program supports a just transition to a carbon-free future. For more information on the Third Program Review and to participate in upcoming meetings, see: https://www.rggi.org/program-overview-and-design/program-review.

 

Media Contacts:

Jordan Stutt, Carbon Programs Director
jstutt@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x105
198 Tremont Street, Suite 415Boston, MA 02111 

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Acadia Center is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. Acadia Center advocates for an equitable clean energy future for Connecticut, tackling regulatory and legislative energy policy, transportation, energy efficiency, beneficial electrification, utility innovation, and renewable energy.

Rhode Island Left Without a Plan After CT, MA Abandon Transportation and Climate Initiative

PROVIDENCE, RI – The McKee Administration has announced that recent decisions by Connecticut Governor Lamont and Massachusetts Governor Baker will delay Rhode Island’s pursuit of the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) program. The program, which would limit vehicle pollution over time and direct investments in clean transportation strategies, is a central component of Rhode Island’s strategy to rein in carbon pollution. Without TCI kickstarting efforts, the state will have an even steeper hill to climb as it seeks to achieve legally binding greenhouse gas reduction targets set in the Act on Climate. 

Rhode Island should apply the program’s central principles of equity, inclusive decision-making, and clean mobility priorities to redress myriad problems inherent with current transportation planning practices. Rhode Island must work with environmental justice communities to advance air quality monitoring programs, provide better mobility options, and pursue strategies that reduce the state’s overdependence on single passenger vehicles. 

“We still have to find solutions to several persistent challenges—stubbornly high tailpipe pollution and asthma rates, inadequate bike/pedestrian infrastructure, and underfunded and underutilized public transit. The Act on Climate law is pretty clear that Rhode Island must reduce pollution and without TCI, state agencies are going to have to redouble efforts to do just that.” said Hank Webster, Acadia Center’s Rhode Island Director and member of the Rhode Island’s 2020-2021 Mobility Innovation Working Group.  

Media Contacts: 

Hank Webster, Rhode Island Director and Senior Policy Advocate
hwebster@acadiacenter.org, 401-239-8500 x402, cell: 401 239-8500
144 Westminster St, Suite 203, Providence, RI 02903 

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