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Acadia Center Strengthens New York Office and Hires New York State Director

Cullen Howe, New York Office Director

It is an exciting time for clean energy issues in New York. New York’s ongoing Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding, its goal of 50% renewable energy by 2030, and its continued participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative provide key elements for the future of the state’s energy system. Acadia Center’s recently completed report, EnergyVision 2030, shows that New York can reduce emissions 45% and be on a path to a clean energy system by the year 2030 if the state acts now to further strengthen its commitment to clean energy technologies. To facilitate the action necessary to achieve this vision for all New Yorkers, Acadia Center has taken the next step, strengthening its staffing capacity in New York and hiring a full-time staff director of its New York program.

Acadia Center has been active on selected issues in the state for several years, participating with colleague organizations in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and other energy and climate issues. New York’s REV process—one of the most comprehensive reassessments of energy policy occurring in the country—has offered opportunities for Acadia Center’s experience in energy policy, energy efficiency and climate mitigation to be applied in New York forums. Fully active in the many REV proceedings, Acadia Center has focused on energy efficiency, power grid modernization, and climate policy. In 2015, by invitation of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Acadia Center hosted a multiday meeting at the Pocantico Conference Center focusing on utility reform and grid modernization issues. Beginning in 2015, the organization helped to protect the integrity of New York’s new Clean Energy Standard by successfully arguing against counting large hydropower as a renewable resource eligible for ratepayer support. In addition, it participated in the settlement phases of Con Edison’s most recent rate case and successfully advocated for the utility to increase its investments in energy efficiency.

This past July, this work ramped up when Acadia Center hired me as Senior Attorney as its inaugural New York Director, joining Acadia Center’s New York project team of lawyers and energy policy experts. I’ve joined the team at an exciting moment for the organization and the state. I came to Acadia Center from the New York City Council, where I had been a legislative counsel and was responsible for drafting and negotiating a wide variety of legislation focused on energy efficiency, clean energy, and sustainability. Before that I was an environmental law specialist at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer’s New York City office, where I focused on federal and state environmental issues involving climate change, energy efficiency, and green buildings. My work at Acadia Center largely focuses on policies that I’ve been working on throughout my career—policies that move us toward a future fueled by clean energy and energy efficiency.

One of my first tasks has been representing Acadia Center in a rate case brought by National Grid. The utility is seeking to increase customer rates by $331 million beginning next year. Acadia Center has focused on National Grid’s high fixed customer charges, which are charges all customers pay regardless of the amount of electricity they use. In most states, fixed charges range between $5 and $10 a month for residential customers, but in some states, including New York, these charges are much higher.

Since I started in the role of director, Acadia Center has released a paper explaining the problems with high utility fixed charges, which detrimentally impact consumer incentives to invest in energy efficiency and solar power, and the organization has filed testimony in the rate case stating that a reasonable range for customer charges would be between $5.57 and $8.30. We have also focused outreach efforts on educating consumers about the issue of high fixed charges and about opportunities to make their voices heard. This work will continue as Acadia Center expands its reach in New York, advocating for sustainable solutions across the energy system.

Massachusetts takes on leadership role with new greenhouse gas-cutting regulations

This new state program would set more aggressive emissions-reducing targets than RGGI uses. Since RGGI was created in 2009 to cut utility-sector carbon emissions, the states in the regional compact have cut their carbon emissions from electric generation by 37 percent and reduced electricity prices by 3.4 percent. At the same time, the state’s economies have grown 3.6 percent faster than states outside the compact, according to a study by the clean energy nonprofit Acadia Center.

Read the full article from ThinkProgress here.

CT works on a new energy strategy as old one misses the mark

Acadia Center, a Northeast-based environmental advocacy group that was among critics of the natural gas emphasis in the 2013 CES, discovered a math error in DEEP’s calculation of greenhouse gas emissions in 2013.

Instead of being at, or even just below, the 2020 emissions cap dictated by the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act – which is where emissions were in 2012 they were heading back up. DEEP has since revised its calculation.

Acadia’s calculation, based on publicly available data, showed more. “We found an increase of 7.5 percent from 2012 to 2015,” said Bill Dornbos, who heads Acadia’s Connecticut office. “Looking at the data that’s out there now for 2016, we’re pretty confident 2016 will be higher than 2015 and maybe even significantly so.”

Most believe the cause is not the electricity sector, which has all but eliminated its dirtiest generators in the state and region. Rather the lower price of gasoline has increased the use of vehicles and the purchase of less fuel-efficient ones. Transportation accounts for about 40 percent of emissions.

Emissions from buildings and manufacturing account for another 40 percent, and that’s gone up too. “Our current natural gas emission level is higher than the entire carbon budget for 2050 (80 percent below 2001 emissions),” Dornbos said.

Read the full article, including a figure capturing Acadia Center analysis, from The CT Mirror here.