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Critics say Rhode Island report overlooks potential of heat pumps

That go-slow recommendation comes as some environmental groups are advocating for widespread heat pump adoption in the Northeast to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Acadia Center, for example, recently put out an overview of specific policy measures that states can put in place to develop the market for and accelerate the transition to heat pumps.

Such programs are growing rapidly in the U.S., with current year budgets of nearly $110 million, a 70% increase over the prior year, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

“We know that heat pumps are the most straightforwardly carbon-free way to heat and cool a house, and there are also a number of health benefits associated with them,” said Matt Rusteika, a senior policy analyst in Acadia’s Boston office. “We’re focused on building up the policy interventions that are going to bring down the cost of heat pumps, which are still a pretty new technology.”

Rusteika co-wrote a commentary on the Natural Resources Defense Council blog criticizing the Rhode Island report for not recommending firm targets for heat pump acceleration. He and co-author Alejandra Mejia, a building decarbonization advocate for NRDC, argued that the report overstated the technology’s drawbacks using two “incorrect assumptions.”

The other is the report’s prediction that the high upfront cost of the technology, including installation, will only drop by about 2% per year. Mejia and Rusteika called that estimate too conservative, and said that state incentive programs and other market development activities would drive down the cost more quickly.

“We’ve seen it with solar,” Rusteika said. “A number of overlapping policies have created a favorable atmosphere, with net metering being a big one, as well as renewable portfolio standards. That’s how you get the ball rolling.”

Rusteika expressed hope that the state still might set specific targets for heat pump adoption, as Maine has done.

“We’ve been really impressed with the Raimondo administration’s willingness to tackle this issue in particular,” he said.

Read the full article from Energy News Network here.

The Declining Role of Natural Gas Power in New England

By 2030, reliance on natural gas for electricity could decrease to only 10% of New England’s consumption

Existing gas-fired electricity plants would be underused and any new gas infrastructure would be unnecessary, according to new study from Acadia Center

A new report from Acadia Center entitled “The Declining Role of Natural Gas Power in New England” concludes that under current plans and laws, New England’s reliance on natural gas to fuel power plants could drop from 45% to approximately 10% of its electricity needs in 2030, making any investment in new gas pipelines or plants unnecessary and therefore costly.

The enormous shift away from natural gas would result from environmental policies in every New England state to promote renewables, as well as planned electricity imports from outside the region.

Connecticut has committed to reducing its 2050 greenhouse gas emissions by 80%, relative to 2001 levels, and Massachusetts has committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Similar targets have been established by other states throughout New England.

The impacts from the region’s reliance on natural gas are disproportionately felt by low-income households and communities of color. The report calls for action to redress this ongoing inequity at every level of decision-making.

“This report underscores that continuing to invest in new gas infrastructure throughout the upcoming decade adds unnecessary expense, leaving us with plants and pipelines that we won’t need but could be forced to pay for,” said Daniel Sosland, President of Acadia Center. “It doesn’t make sense to build new gas-fired plants that we can’t use if we’re going to have a hope of avoiding the worst outcomes of climate change.”

In the meantime, the cost of generating wind power has dropped 70% in recent years, and utility-scale solar costs have dropped even further — by 90%, according to sources cited in the report.

The Acadia Center report studied two scenarios through 2030 — continued expansion of natural gas supply and generation capacity versus no additional investment in gas infrastructure. Under either scenario, dependence on gas-fired electricity would drop from about 45% to 10% of New England’s electricity needs.

“If natural gas is only needed to a meet a tenth of New England’s needs, then planned gas plants, and possibly existing ones, are going to be severely underutilized, and that could present problems for their finances,” warned Taylor Binnington, Senior Policy Analyst at Acadia Center.

From now until 2030, the expansion of renewables without additional investment in natural gas would result in a cumulative cost savings of about $620 million, clearly challenging the assumption that natural gas is the least expensive option, according to the study.

Furthermore, more reliance on natural gas means more dollars flowing out of Connecticut, Massachusetts and other New England states. For example, the report points out that in 2017, spending on imported natural gas by the electric power sector amounted to $1.4 billion. Recapturing some of those dollars to invest within the region could result in a net job gain.

The Acadia Center study offers several additional recommended actions and implications, including:

1. Construction of new natural gas plants should be opposed under all circumstances, since additional fossil gas generating capacity is unnecessary. New fossil gas plants may be unable to sell their electricity, potentially leaving stranded costs for ratepayers to cover.

2. Natural gas delivered to power generators in New England through expanded or upgraded pipelines would not be used enough to justify their investment costs. States should strongly consider whether new gas projects should proceed if they are misaligned with public policy.

3. Renewable electricity will play a huge role in helping states meet their carbon reduction goals. If ISO-NE’s markets continue to work against public policy goals, states should follow Connecticut’s lead and hold the ISO accountable – or find ways to work around it.

The report concludes, “the future of fossil gas power in New England will be a challenging one. Many decisions influencing what the grid will look like in the next ten years have already been made, which makes the remaining decisions even more important.” The long-term impacts of climate change – on human and ecosystem health and on the economy – have a cost, too, and decision-makers should be aware that these costs and benefits can make an even clearer case against expanding fossil gas infrastructure.

The full report is available here: https://acadiacenter.org/document/the-declining-role-of-natural-gas-power-in-new-england/


Media Contacts

Amy McLean, Connecticut Director & Senior Policy Advocate
amclean@acadiacenter.org, 860-246-7121 x204

Nancy Benben, Director of Communications & External Engagement
nbenben@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x104

Everett power plant does not have a place in a clean energy future

Letter to the Editor

Exelon, the corporate owner of the Mystic Generating Station, wants to keep the fossil fuel-burning plant open beyond its scheduled 2024 retirement date, flying in the face of the future we must demand: a reliable energy grid centered on clean resources that benefit everyone (“Plan to keep using Everett power plant fuels climate, health fears,” Page A1, June 15).

ISO New England, operator of the regional power grid, is already propping up the plant with hundreds of millions of ratepayer dollars, revealing a decision-making structure that perpetuates the status quo and ignores considerations of justice, equity, and sustainability for the affected communities. Extending Mystic’s life is not only dangerous for residents of Chelsea, Everett, and other surrounding communities; it is also indefensible, as shown by viable alternatives such as Somerset’s Brayton Point.

Once the site of the largest coal-fired power plant in New England, Brayton Point is now headed for repurposing as a hub for the burgeoning offshore wind industry. Rather than looking backward at familiar, but failed, practices, we must look forward to the innovative, clean-energy solutions that our planet and our communities need to thrive. To get there, Acadia Center is calling for energy market stakeholders, states, communities, and ISO New England to reimagine a clean, equitable energy future.

Deborah Donovan
Massachusetts Director and Senior Policy Advocate
Acadia Center
Boston

Read the Letter to the Editor in the Boston Globe here.

Power plant emissions down 47% under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

According to a 10-year report by the northeast regional advocacy group Acadia Center, proceeds since the time of the first two auctions (a year before RGGI officially got under way) had totaled nearly $3.3 billion by the end of June 2019.

The Acadia report also says emissions from the plants covered by RGGI are down 47% – outpacing the rest of the nation by 90%. The gross domestic product of the RGGI states, all in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions, also grew by 47% – again outpacing the rest of the country, which grew by 31%.

“I’m not shocked by the direction of the impact here,” says Jordan Stutt, carbon programs director at Acadia. “But I am surprised by just how strong the direction is. The fact that we’re outpacing the rest of the country in electric sector emission reductions by 90% is staggering. … It’s an important demonstration that taking on climate change doesn’t mean economic sacrifice.”

Read the full article from the Connecticut Mirror here.

Maine must plug in to fight climate change, study concludes

“Usually, the bigger the problem, the more attention you need to pay to get to solutions,” said Jeff Marks, Maine director at the Acadia Center, a regional group working on climate change issues. “And transportation is it.”

Acadia Center supports the Transportation and Climate Initiative, a collaboration of states from Maine to Virginia working to reduce carbon emissions on the road. But part of that effort envisions raising money through a surcharge on gasoline and diesel fuel, with some of it going to EV rebates and new charging stations. That’s a non-starter for opponents such as the Maine Heritage Policy Center, which said the tax would hurt low-income residents.

Read the full article from Portland Press Herald here.

Massachusetts State Senate Unveils Next Generation Climate Policy

“With the bill released today, President Spilka and Senate leadership are setting the Commonwealth on a meaningful pathway to a net-zero carbon economy by 2050”, said Deborah Donovan, Acadia Center’s Massachusetts Director. “The strong interim target of a 50% reduction by 2030 ensures that Massachusetts will make the next decade count. The ambitious provisions of this bill will boost our economy and protect the health of our most vulnerable residents and our planet.”

Read the full release from MA State Senate President Karen E. Spilka here.

Examining Raimondo’s goal: Can R.I. reach 100% renewable power by 2030?

In a series of tweets, Hank Webster, Rhode Island director of the Acadia Center, described the plan as “a bold challenge, and one that RI can meet.”

“We are ready and looking forward to working with you to achieve this important mission,” he said.

Read the full article from Newport Daily News here.

The Northeast’s New Year’s Resolution – Get Serious about Climate Change

January is a great time to start fresh. Whether it’s signing up for a new gym membership or cutting back on social media, the New Year is an opportunity to envision a better future and eliminate bad habits. And the Northeast has one that can’t be ignored for another year: an ongoing, dangerous reliance on fossil fuels. In 2020, Acadia Center’s resolution is to help the region break up with dirty energy.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) served up a harsh reality check: the world has until just 2030 to act to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. In the Northeast, we risk severe storms, declining public health, the destruction of our scenic coastline, and upheaval in important regional industries like farming, fishing, and tourism. Fossil fuels are like smoking: hard to quit, but unmistakably bad for you. The IPCC report makes it abundantly clear that it’s time to quit.

Acadia Center is committed to Making the Next Decade Count—using the next ten years to advance ambitious climate policy that will transition the region to a stronger, cleaner, more just energy economy. The good news is that states around the region have set unambiguous climate pollution reduction goals, and there are policies and programs available to meet them. These solutions can also improve public health and strengthen the economy for the future by keeping our dollars in the region instead of flowing to other states and countries. Even better, if designed conscientiously, these policies and programs can also address the financial and health disparities between our communities that the fossil fuel economy has exacerbated.

Acadia Center recommends that each Northeast state embrace these three bold but achievable actions in 2020 to make real progress on its climate pollution reduction goals:

1. Require that state agencies assess the long-term climate impact of their decisions. Empowering state agencies to act in ways that support state climate goals will unify the agencies that regulate utilities, transportation, buildings, and more in addressing the defining challenge of our time. For example, public utilities commissions might begin to reject fossil fuel energy projects in favor of clean energy options like solar and wind. New York has taken steps to do this in its 2019 Climate Change and Protection Act, and other states should follow their lead, with specific and immediate deadlines for action.

2. Phase out fossil fuels, including gas. Natural gas is a fossil fuel. It consists primarily of methane, a greenhouse gas at least twelve times more potent than carbon dioxide. It leaks out of poorly maintained pipeline networks, creating safety hazards and more emissions. It releases carbon dioxide and other harmful gases when burned. And as this region knows all too well, it can explode—with dire consequences. Fortunately, the Northeast has economically beneficial alternatives that can replace fossil fuels now, including efficient electric heating systems and real potential for a significant amount of offshore wind energy. The region must immediately halt the expansion of gas infrastructure—including power plants and pipelines—that consumers will be paying for decades from now and start embracing better alternatives.

3. Implement the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI). The transportation sector is our region’s largest single source of emissions. This regional policy will reduce transportation emissions while raising revenue for states to invest in cleaner, more equitable transportation solutions, such as public transit, walking and bicycling, and vehicle electrification. TCI is the most effective way to address the climate impacts, health repercussions, and horrendous traffic congestion of our transportation system. It should be designed to provide real alternatives for those most adversely impacted by our past transportation decisions: communities of color, lower-income communities, and rural communities.

Now is the time for states to move forward on these bold solutions. Like any transformational goal, the path to success will require discipline and persistence. But as the IPCC report makes clear, the Northeast must lead the way toward a cleaner, healthier, more just, and more vibrant economy. Acadia Center will be working to make this future a reality. Will you join us?

by Matt Rusteika and Arah Schuur

Eastern States Introduce a Plan to Cap Tailpipe Pollution

“When we’re going backward at the federal level, for states to step up and take action on climate, take steps to modernize our transportation system, it’s just an unprecedented opportunity,” said Jordan Stutt, carbon programs director at the Acadia Center, a research and public interest group in New England that is pushing for cleaner energy. “If designed well, this can be the most significant sub-national climate policy ever.”

Read the full article from The New York Times here.

Acadia Center Applauds Regional Coordination to Reduce Tailpipe Pollution, Urges Ambitious, Equitable Action

TCI Announcement Demonstrates Benefits of Transition to Clean Transportation, Highlights Need for Strong Program

BOSTON — Today, 12 states and the District of Columbia announced the details of a new, regional program to cut tailpipe pollution while delivering much needed investment in clean, equitable, modern transportation options. Working together through the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), these jurisdictions[1] have developed a multi-state cap-and-invest program to address rising transportation emissions and the need for greater investment in a clean transportation future.

Launching this program will be a major accomplishment at a substantial scale: the TCI region, were it a single country, would represent the world’s third largest economy.

“States are leading the way with subnational action on climate,” said Daniel Sosland, Acadia Center’s President. “By working together, this region can achieve globally significant carbon reductions while delivering billions of dollars each year for grants and investments to help every community thrive. From rural towns to the region’s biggest cities, TCI can fund investments to make better transportation options more accessible, affordable, and reliable.”

Along with the policy details in the draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the TCI jurisdictions released modeling results demonstrating that regional action to reduce transportation pollution will deliver economic, health, and environmental benefits. Under the most ambitious policy analyzed, the region would see the following impacts in 2032:

The modeling makes it clear that launching a TCI program will be a tremendous step forward if the participating jurisdictions implement an ambitious emissions cap. As the modeling shows, each increasingly more ambitious policy scenario delivers greater health savings and more resources for clean, equitable transportation investment.

Given these findings, the TCI states should establish a cap that declines by at least 25% from 2022 to 2032, if not more. Of the policy scenarios analyzed, the 25% cap comes closest to ensuring the necessary cuts in transportation pollution to meet state economy-wide climate requirements. While the 25% cap would represent progress, the TCI jurisdictions have an opportunity to chart an even bolder path; a more ambitious emissions cap will ensure that participating states meet their climate requirements while delivering greater health savings and enabling more transformational investments. Those investments in public transit, electric vehicles, active mobility, and other clean transportation projects will provide greater access to the clean, affordable, reliable transportation options that this region needs.

The importance of strategic investment has been demonstrated through the region’s experience with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The investment of over $3 billion in RGGI auction proceeds has helped participating states become national leaders on energy efficiency while creating high quality, local jobs. Those RGGI-funded investments have contributed to the fact that electricity prices in the RGGI states have declined since the program launched, while prices have increased in the rest of the country.

Through TCI, states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic can build on RGGI’s success while improving the model. Investments funded by TCI must be dedicated to reducing pollution and delivering a more equitable transportation system, and complementary policies will be essential to the rapid and just transition to a clean transportation future.

“Investment in better transportation options while reducing tailpipe pollution is a winning combination,” said Jordan Stutt, Carbon Programs Director. “Acadia Center applauds the TCI jurisdictions for developing this program, and we call on every participating Governor to ensure that the program is both robust and equitable; the program’s success will be determined by their ambition.”

[1] The TCI jurisdictions are: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, D.C.


Media Contacts

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

Connecticut
Amy McLean Salls, Connecticut Director and Senior Policy Advocate
amcleansalls@acadiacenter.org, 860-246-7121 x204

Rhode Island
Hank Webster, Rhode Island Director and Staff Attorney
hwebster@acadiacenter.org, 401-276-0600 x402

Maine
Jeff Marks, Maine Director & Senior Policy Advocate
jmarks@acadiacenter.org, 207-236-6470 x304