With the winter solstice just around the corner, the Northeast’s heating season is in full swing and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from buildings are at their seasonal high. About 85% of homes in New England and New York rely on fossil fuels for heating, and this consumption accounts for about 30% of total regional GHGs. Fossil fuel use for heating also poses health and safety dangers like carbon monoxide poisoning and risk of explosion. The average home in the Northeast spends $1,000-$2,600 on heating fuel every winter, and because the Northeast imports all of its fossil fuels, this money flows out of local economies and the region is beholden to price fluctuations out of its control.
A clean alternative to fossil fuel heating is efficient, electric heat pumps.
What is a Heat Pump and What Are Its Benefits?
A heat pump is an electric heating and cooling technology for buildings that works by moving heat between the inside and outside of a building. A standard air conditioner is a type of heat pump that extracts heat from inside a building and moves it outside. A heat pump uses this same cooling process in the summer, and it is able to reverse the process in the winter for heating.
Heat pumps offer many benefits over fossil fuels, including:
Pollution reduction and improved health and safety – Full replacement of an existing heating system with heat pumps can reduce greenhouse emissions 60-70%, depending on the fuel being displaced. In MA, HVAC improvements in low income homes led to $265 in annual health and safety savings per household.
Winter fuel savings – Fully converting an oil or propane-heated home to heat pumps can save residents between $800-1600 on average.
Avoided natural gas infrastructure – Customers can access greater fuel savings and cut pollution more by converting to heat pumps rather than natural gas. Plus, converting homes to heat pumps does not require addition of new gas pipes, which lock in higher greenhouse gas emissions for decades and increase costs for all gas customers because the utility passes on these infrastructure costs.
Clearing the Path for Clean Heating
No state or city can reach its climate and clean energy goals if fossil fuel heating continues. With their significant pollution and consumer benefits, heat pumps deserve to be more widely adopted in the Northeast. Acadia Center supports 7 key solutions to overcoming barriers to heat pump adoption:
Educating consumers and vendors
Coupling heat pumps with home efficiency
Installing only clean electric heating in new homes
Decreasing operating costs through smart electricity pricing
Removing incentives to promote natural gas
Aligning retrofit incentives with state policy objectives
Acadia Center is in the final stages of developing a report called “Clean Heating Pathways” that identifies supportive policies across New England and New York to accelerate these 7 solutions and compares state progress to advance clean heating.
“The poll shows that people across the region want proactive leadership to address our transportation and climate challenges. We need bold solutions to make the shift to a clean transportation future, and an ambitious TCI program can jumpstart that transition.” — Jordan Stutt, carbon programs director, Acadia Center.
Read the full release from Our Transportation Future here.
As Acadia Center has examined the path to a rapid transition away from fossil fuels, it has considered the potential for hydroelectric energy from existing impoundments to replace some of the fossil fuels used in the Northeast’s energy mix. The Northeast is currently heavily reliant on fossil fuels, especially natural gas, for electricity generation. According to multiple studies, when electricity comes from excess generation at existing hydro impoundments, it results in dramatically lower carbon emissions than electricity generated by fossil fuels.,
Beyond the question of whether carbon emissions from hydro are lower, Acadia Center has been open to hydropower imports from existing hydro projects, but only if specific critical conditions are met and expectations fulfilled. Because these conditions and expectations have not been met, Acadia Center has not endorsed either the energy contract between Hydro-Quebec and Massachusetts utilities or the NECEC line.
In January 2019, Acadia Center joined a multiparty settlement to impose economic and consumer protection conditions on Central Maine Power (CMP) in the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s (MPUC) proceeding on the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) transmission line. In that proceeding, Acadia Center joined the settlement for a certificate of public need and necessity (CPCN) for the NECEC line because the settlement would strengthen Maine’s economy, protect consumers, and deliver a clean energy future for the state. However, Acadia Center stated that it would only support the line and the contract between Hydro-Quebec (HQ) and Massachusetts utilities if, and only if, CMP and HQ also:
Ensure the project advances state and regional climate goals by verifying the emission reductions expected from the contract over its lifetime; and
Contrary to Acadia Center’s sustained advocacy for transparency and accountability, Massachusetts regulators approved a contract that fails to hold Hydro-Quebec responsible for verifying that electricity deliveries over the NECEC line, if permitted, will continue to produce real, incremental climate benefits over the life of the contract. Additionally, the Maine DEP siting process is ongoing, and has yet to produce final assurances that the negative siting impacts will be avoided and reduced as much as possible.
Acadia Center will continue to hold CMP, Hydro-Quebec, and the Massachusetts utilities to their carbon-reduction and clean energy commitments should its contracts with Massachusetts proceed, and Acadia Center will heavily weigh the remaining unmet conditions prior to considering its full and unqualified support for NECEC.
Acadia Center aims to ensure that the Northeast region rapidly decarbonizes its energy system in line with Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommendations. To that end, Acadia Center works to build a comprehensive zero-carbon energy system by focusing on and prioritizing clean energy solutions, local clean energy resources, deep energy efficiency, utility reform, transportation improvements and innovations, and the phase-out of fossil fuels. Acadia Center remains committed to ensuring that Maine, Massachusetts, and this region work aggressively to reduce climate pollution to provide a climate safe future for all.
 London Economics International LLC, Independent Analysis of Electricity Market and Macroeconomic Benefits of the New England Clean Energy Connect Project, prepared for the Maine Public Utilities Commission, May 21, 2018.
BOSTON – Northeast states performed well in the 2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, with Massachusetts taking the top spot for the 9th consecutive year, according to rankings released by the nonpartisan American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).Rhode Island and Vermont tied for #3.New York and Connecticut ranked#5 and #6, respectively.
Maine was ranked #15, and New Hampshire improved a spot to #20.
The region’s strong showing is largely due to state policies requiring programs to pursue all energy efficiency that is cost-effective, rather than defining a proscribed level of funding. In addition, several states across the region have begun to implement policies that address new opportunities and challenges in energy efficiency, such as using additional efficiency investments to lower costs associated with peak times of demand for energyand a fuel-neutral approach that gives consumers access to incentives and savings, no matter whetherthey use electricity, heating oil, or gas in their homes.
“Energy efficiency is a cornerstone of the clean energy economy in the Northeast and beyond.Efficiency has reduced the cost of doing business, lowered consumer energy bills, limited the need to build costly new energy infrastructure, and provided healthier, more comfortable spaces to live and work,” said Daniel Sosland, Acadia Center president. “But there’s much more efficiency to be captured in the region, including for traditionally underserved sectors like low-income customers. States need to continue to support strong efficiency policies – and the next generation of energy efficiency – so the Northeastcan capture these substantial benefits for consumers and the environment.”
Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector. Over the last decade, strong efficiency policies and programs have helped the Northeast lower carbon pollution while providing a range of economic and public health benefits.
TheACEEErankings, released annually, are based on scoring in categories including state government initiatives, building efficiency policies, utility and public benefits programs, transportation policies, and appliance standards. ACEEE awarded Massachusetts a perfect score in the utility program category, particularly praising the programs’ contribution as the largest contributor to achieving the state greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.
“Over the last nine years, Massachusetts’ strong customer-funded efficiency programs have grown the economy while saving ratepayers money and cutting emissions – and they’ll continue to do so. But Massachusetts could do more to take full advantage of other policies to ensure that our buildings, homes, and transportation are as efficient as possible,” said Amy Boyd, senior attorney at Acadia Center and a member of the Massachusetts Energy Efficiency Advisory Council. “One of the most effective ways to achieve efficiency savings – and more greenhouse gas reductions – is through improved appliance standards. Particularly with the Trump Administration’s freeze on updating the federal standards, it is even more important to push for higher efficiency in the standards that states control.”
Rhode Island maintained the #3 spot for the third year. With strong state policy that prioritizes investments in energy efficiency over traditional energy supply, Rhode Island last year achieved electric savings of 2.75%, relative to total electricity sales, one of the highest levels in the country.Efficiency programs have saved Rhode Islanders $1.32 billion in energy costs since 2008. Like Massachusetts, Rhode Island earnedno points in the appliance standards category, as appliance standards legislation has repeatedlystalled at the statehouse.
Vermont, meanwhile, moved up one spot, to tie Rhode Island at third, rounding out the top tier of states aggressively pursuing all cost-effective energy efficiency.
Much More to be Done Across the Region
As in recent years, there was a sizable gap between the top efficiency performers and the second tier of states, underscoring that other states in the region must do much more to reduce energy use and minimize consumers’ costs.
New York moved into the #5 spot, scoring relatively well on transportation and building efficiency policy and in state government initiatives. But the state has significant room for improvement in maximizing and procuring new cost-effective energy efficiency through utility and public programs.New York in 2018set a new energy reduction target of 185 trillion BTUs by 2025, but critically important utility energy savings targets and other details of implementation are still being worked out. Like Massachusetts, New York is using a fuel-neutral approach designed to better align efficiency program goals with state policy goals such as decarbonization.
Connecticut, which slipped one spot to #6, continued to suffer the effects of a massive fund raid in 2017 that seriously weakened energy efficiency programs and the efficiency workforce.
“Connecticut’s well-established energy efficiency programs are capable of delivering significant energy and utility bill savings to customers,” said Amy McLean Salls, Connecticut Director at Acadia Center and a member of the state’s Energy Efficiency Board.“Connecticut’s path forward must include robust energy efficiency investments that make homes and businesses more efficient, support the transition from dirty heating fuels to high-efficiency electric heat pumps, and expand peak demand management. Next-generation efficiency policy should include larger heat pump incentives and strong customer and vendor education programs to help overcome barriers to heat pump deployment.”
Maine’s #15 ranking reflects in part that it can do moretoexpand energy efficiency access and savings for Maine homes and businesses, including setting more aggressive energy savings targets and capturingadditional cost-effective efficiency. Maine has led the nation in deployment of clean, efficient electric heat pumps and has a new goal of installing100,000 heat pumps by 2025. Maine could also improve its programs – and rank – by adopting the most recent building energy code and passing appliance standards.
New Hampshire implemented the first year of its Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) in 2018, putting it on a path to reduce energy waste.But at #20, the statestill ranked relatively low this year due to several factors, including a lack of commitment to transportation efficiency and appliance standards. New Hampshire has seen a modest increase in efficiencygains from utility programs but spending on energy efficiency has only begunto ramp up.Thelegislature failed to overturn a requirement that it approve any increase in the efficiency charge, creating an additional hurdle to achieve all cost-effective efficiency.
BOSTON – Last Friday marked the close of a three-month public comment period on the Baker Administration’s proposal to overhaul rules that establish what electric power generation resources qualify for renewable energy subsidies. Massachusetts clean energy advocates sent a letter yesterday to Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides sharply criticizing these proposed regulatory changes that would, among other things, significantly increase rate-payer subsidies for wood-burning power plants and garbage incinerators.
The letter, signed by Acadia Center, Conservation Law Foundation, Green Energy Consumers Alliance, the Massachusetts Sierra Club, Partnership for Policy Integrity, and RESTORE: The North Woods, states:
“[T]he Department of Energy Resources (DOER), which is now under your purview, has led a deeply flawed rulemaking process for an even more deeply flawed proposal to rewrite regulations implementing the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). …These regulations are currently the linchpin of Massachusetts climate policy; numerous other policies of the Commonwealth incorporate RPS-eligibility in their implementation, including the Clean Peak Standard now under development. Changes to the RPS regulations must be grounded in environmental and climate science.”
The organizations signing today’s letter commit to “help[ing] the Baker administration correct course and to ensure that the RPS assists the state in complying with the Commonwealth’s climate mandates, rather than promoting technologies that will actually increase emissions.” The groups are requesting stakeholder input into a study that the Baker Administration is only now conducting on the impacts of the proposed regulations, and the opportunity for environmental advocates and climate scientists to meet with decision makers to share their information.
Throughout the public comment period, DOER’s proposals to substantially roll back science-based standards governing the eligibility of biomass power plants for subsidies raised the most extensive concerns. Nearly one hundred organizations signed on to a letter to DOER calling on the agency to withdraw its proposed rule changes, which also impact subsidies for hydroelectric power and other areas of renewable energy. Signers included local, state and national environmental groups, public health advocates, consumer protection groups, local governments, and municipal groups, including the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission.
Dozens of scientists, doctors, environmentalists, and concerned citizens testified at public hearings across the state, and more than a thousand written comments were submitted in opposition. In addition, nearly 40 state legislators submitted a letter raising concerns about the proposed biomass eligibility rollbacks, and Attorney General Maura Healey also weighed in, flagging multiple ways in which the proposal may violate state law and undermine efforts to meet climate change goals.
Acadia Center Applauds Strong Suite of Climate and Clean Energy Actions
AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine’s most ambitious bills to fight climate change in a decade are now law. Today, Governor Mills signed three bills that will put Maine on track to 100% renewable energy by 2050, create an innovative Climate Council that allows voices from around the state to have a say in fighting climate change, expand access to renewable energy and put communities on the path to become energy independent. These join a suite of complementary bills that Governor Mills has signed into law since taking office, which reverse years of inaction and promise to advance the fight against climate change and bring the benefits of the clean energy economy to the people of Maine.
“For so long, Mainers have watched while other New England states invest in solar, wind, and large-scale procurements that reduce their dependence on foreign oil, lower consumer costs and provide cleaner and healthier power – now Maine will be a leader in creating jobs, saving money on energy bills and tackling the climate crisis using resources here at home,” said Daniel Sosland, Acadia Center President.
The bills signed today are An Act to Promote Clean Energy Jobs and to Establish the Maine Climate Council (L.D. 1679), An Act to Reform Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (L.D. 1494), and An Act to Promote Solar Energy Projects and Distributed Generation Resources in Maine (L.D. 1711). They follow three other groundbreaking energy laws passed this month with bipartisan support.
Since the beginning of 2019, Governor Mills has signed legislation to restart a stalled offshore wind procurement process, install 100,000 clean and energy-efficient heat pumps in homes around the state in the next five years, create a fund to support rebates for the lease or purchase of an electric vehicle, expand training programs to build the clean energy workforce and address a suite of electric grid modernization initiatives, from energy storage to non-wires alternative solutions.
Altogether, these actions represent a remarkable turnaround in the leadership’s commitment to tackling the climate crisis and bringing the benefits of energy efficiency and clean energy to Maine. As neighboring states have demonstrated, the clean energy economy creates high-paying local jobs, saves consumers money and improves health and air quality by reducing the use of polluting fossil fuels.
“Acadia Center’s Building a Stronger Maine policy blueprint, submitted to the next governor at the end of 2018, laid out five critical areas where Maine needed to modernize its transportation and energy systems in order to address climate change and stay competitive in the New England region,” said Arah Schuur, Vice President – Climate and Energy at Acadia Center. “It should gratify all Mainers to see bipartisan support that takes concrete steps in each of these areas. Acadia Center applauds Governor Mills and the Maine Legislature for their swift action on clean energy.”
This approach appears to give a lot of leeway to towns and cities to make their own decisions about how to regulate the siting of solar, and would also steer developers to previously disturbed sites. As such it was endorsed by many of the main non-profits active in the environmental and energy space, including Conservation Law Foundation, Audubon Society, Acadia Center, Save the Bay and Green Energy Consumers Alliance.
But lowering emissions will show that Maine is serious about contributing to a very important fight.
It will make us healthier, too – according to the Rockport-based Acadia Center, passenger vehicle emissions were responsible for $500 million in health costs in Maine in 2015.
The Acadia Center also figures that modernizing and making green Maine’s transportation system would be a boost to the economy. By prioritizing electric cars and buses – and by implementing a vehicle emissions cap-and-trade plan based on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – Maine can raise $1 billion in new wages, create 8,700 long-term jobs and reduce emissions by 45 percent.
Read the full article from the Portland Press Herald here.
The bill was a major issue in the energy landscape that met Gov. Lamont when he took office with an agenda that was at odds parts of the 2018 law.
“This was a big one coming into this year,” Arconti said just prior to the committee vote, two days before its deadline to act. “I think we have a really good framework going forward to a final product, and not having to address it for a while after the session.”
“It’s way better than it was, and it’s going to save Connecticut jobs, but it won’t expand the solar industry,” said Amy McLean Salls, senior policy advocate for the Acadia Center.
A bloc of states from Maine to New Jersey are stitched together by shared power sources and an interdependent set of economies, highways, and waterways. They moved in unison in the earliest throes of clean energy policy. But in recent years, politics has peeled off some while others have surged ahead.
Now some of the smallest and most unlikely players are helping to get everyone moving together again.
Read the full article from Yale Climate Connections here.