In an unprecedented time of change and uncertainty, the suspension of many functions of government and imposition of social distancing has resulted in a surprising amount of creative and effective interactions among stakeholders, government agencies, and coalitions. Moving to online, virtual meetings has presented opportunities to interact with new audiences and deepen relationships with stakeholders.
Acadia Center’s experience with online collaboration across its offices has prepared the organization well for this transition to virtual public hearings and stakeholder processes. The crisis has reinforced our commitment to advance effective, equitable reform solutions across the region and has prompted our staff to generate new ideas for innovative virtual engagement opportunities where physical barriers may have previously been limiting.
In Connecticut, just as the historic health and safety directives were put in place in March to cancel all in person events, Acadia Center and allies shifted a long-planned forum on the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) to an online webinar format. The result was excellent: the forum was attended by over 80 diverse participants, including business, community leaders, legislators, and administration officials. The event focused on how the TCI program structure could work, how to extend its benefits to all people in the state, and emphasized economic and employment benefits, exceeding its goal to move the discussion forward on implementing a sound transportation and climate policy for the state.
Official government work also shifted to online formats. In Rhode Island, Acadia Center RI Director Hank Webster participated in an “Energy 101” panel for members of the recessed General Assembly and spoke to Leadership Rhode Island’s first ever virtual “Government Day” about the legislative process and climate/energy issues. Hank also commented during the first-ever video conference meeting of the Executive Climate Change Coordinating Committee. An important state stakeholder process designed make recommendations to Governor Raimondo on ways to transform building heating in the state to cleaner resources also moved online, allowing stakeholders including Acadia Center the opportunity to provide verbal and written comments ahead of a final report. And in Maine, the Governor’s Climate Council process – an ambitious effort to engage numerous stakeholders to recommend an effective climate plan for the state –shifted rapidly online as the state phased in social distancing requirements, allowing the tight schedule for the process to remain in place. Acadia Center responded by working remotely with coalition partners on policy development, outreach, and communications strategies related to buildings, energy, forestry, and transportation.
In Massachusetts, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Katie Theoharides hosted an online briefing and coalition communications have continued without significant interruption. Acadia Center steered advocacy within coalitions such as the Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions (ACES), the Global Warming Solutions Project (GWSP), and the Massachusetts Offshore Wind Power Coalition. Acadia Center continued to lead input in shaping the Baker Administration’s approaches to offshore wind and state carbon targets. Acadia Center and a broad coalition have been focused on ways to strengthen the Global Warming Solutions Act, leading to passage of a strong Senate bill and a commitment from the Baker Administration in January of 2020 to a net-zero carbon target in 2050. Acadia Center will closely track and comment on the forecasts and roadmap development that continues to progress as stakeholder engagement uses remote formats.
The New England Power Pool (NEPOOL), the governance body engaged in overseeing the region’s electricity grid, maintained its regular schedule using virtual tools. As a member of NEPOOL, Acadia Center is engaged in the upcoming Transition to the Future Grid analysis being undertaken to address the barriers faced by clean energy resources in the current electricity grid design. Acadia Center’s Deborah Donovan coordinated with other clean energy advocates to ensure NEPOOL’s rejection of a flawed proposal to modify energy markets in ways that would harm consumers and further bias clean energy.
Acadia Center also raised its voice to address directly ways the crisis was affecting key programs. For example, all residential energy efficiency and weatherization work was ordered to be stopped early in March in Connecticut, causing a wide range of impacts including on the vendor community performing the efficiency installations. No resources were being offered to assist the contractors or workers but as chair of the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Board (CEEB), Acadia Center Connecticut Director Amy McLean was able to raise questions about ways to relieve the burden of the contractors and keep them from going under during the pandemic. As a result of action at the CEEB, the state issued a formal ruling on April 24, 2020 outlining compensation eligibility for energy efficiency vendors.
“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.
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?
Last month, young people around the world marched to demand action from decision makers. They echoed what thousands of the world’s climate scientists have concluded: only a short period of time remains — 10 years, from now until 2030 — for the world to reduce climate pollution by at least 45% from 2010 levels and shift to clean energy systems so the globe can avoid the worst impacts of a warming planet. For twenty years, Acadia Center has been accelerating strong state, local, and regional action to address climate pollution. Now, it will draw from its strengths in analysis, thought leadership, relationship building, and informed advocacy to meet these urgent climate deadlines and implement a refined strategy it calls Make the Next Decade Count TM.
Make the Next Decade Count seeks to bring greater attention to the need for policy action on climate and address the biggest challenges and opportunities to transition to a clean energy future as quickly as possible. Working together, Northeast states can take bold, effective, and broad-reaching action now to aggressively phase out fossil fuels and expand clean energy to achieve necessary reductions in climate pollution by 2030. Done right, these actions will grow the region’s economy, create jobs, enhance public health, improve the quality of housing, and increase access to transportation. Acadia Center will:
Ensure that decision makers and stakeholders embrace a clear framework for aggressive climate action on the necessary time frame
Cut emissions drastically by addressing transportation, buildings, and power generation—85% of climate pollution comes from these three sectors
Reduce the region’s reliance on fossil fuels, including heating oil, propane, gasoline, and natural gas
Shift the public narrative to grow understanding of the power of existing solutions and enthusiasm for the changes needed to achieve a clean energy future
Acadia Center believes this region can set an example and benefit all of its residents beginning with the big picture in four related areas:
Accelerate Comprehensive Climate Planning
To provide a roadmap for climate action, Acadia Center has for years developed analyses and reports that offer recommendations at the state, community, and regional levels. Its EnergyVision 2030 analysis is the latest example of a comprehensive framework designed to shape an achievable vision for the future. With the urgency of climate science in mind, Acadia Center will expand and accelerate state and regional action according to EnergyVision 2030, new analyses, and external resources to achieve deep reductions in emissions. It will influence and participate in a robust approach to regional climate planning, supporting processes that effectively prioritize input from many stakeholders to shape climate policies. And it will require that climate goals are accounted for in the laws and regulations used by states, cities, and regional authorities to make public utility rulings, energy siting and land use decisions, transportation plans and investments, energy choices, and other plans that will otherwise continue to be barriers to a rapid transition to clean energy.
Reduce Emissions from the Largest Sources
85% of climate pollution in the Northeast stems from three sectors: transportation, buildings, and power generation. Acadia Center will accelerate progress in all three.
Invest in a Cleaner, Modern Transportation System
The Northeast’s transportation system is its largest source of climate pollution, contributing about 40% of total climate emissions in the region while burdening public health and our pocketbooks. Power sector emissions have declined sharply in recent years, but transportation emissions have been level or growing. The region’s economy and health are suffering because its mass transit system is outdated and underfunded and transportation options in rural communities and many lower income neighborhoods are limited or non-existent. To address these interconnected challenges, the region needs a coordinated campaign that brings together all affected stakeholders. Acadia Center has played a leadership role in launching and advancing efforts to implement a regional cap-and-invest program for the transportation sector, the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI). This program — if designed properly — can significantly reduce CO2 and co-pollutants while generating funds to invest in an equitable, modern, low-carbon transportation future. Acadia Center analysis shows that the economic potential for this policy is immense — in Massachusetts alone this policy could generate $5.5 billion in new funds to invest in modernizing the transportation infrastructure, creating 52,000 long-term jobs.
Improve the Quality of Buildings
Building heating, cooling, lighting, and operations are responsible for over a third of total emissions in the Northeast. Acadia Center is advancing policies that will reduce these emissions by supporting the transition to all-electric buildings, focused on clean electric heating and expansion of energy efficiency. Acadia Center will break down barriers to accelerating the transition from fossil fuel heating by working to expand markets for clean electric heat pumps. If all the homes currently burning oil in the Northeast switched to clean electric heat today, CO2 emissions would be reduced by about 19 million metric tons annually — equivalent to taking about 4.1 million cars off the road for a year. And Acadia Center will advocate for expanded investments in energy efficiency and building weatherization. Since 2010, energy efficiency has avoided 87 million metric tons of carbon pollution while bringing consumers $35.7 billion in economic benefits — as programs expand, these numbers will only grow.
Accelerate the Shift to Clean Power Generation
The Northeast’s power sector has been getting cleaner. In the last decade, the region has reduced emissions through policies that increase renewable energy supply and through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the country’s first multi-state cap-and-invest program, which limits carbon emissions from power plants and reinvests revenue from pollution allowances in clean energy improvements. Many states across the Northeast have committed to large-scale clean energy, particularly offshore wind, and expanded community based clean energy resources like solar. Acadia Center will work to advance clean, no- and low-carbon power generation options like offshore wind.
Outdated regulatory barriers stand in the way of growth in clean energy. Thanks to new technologies, the Northeast can have a power grid that is clean, flexible, and consumer-centered. Unfortunately, many state and regional policies sustain utility and energy investment models that fail to treat clean energy options fairly — particularly building and community-scale energy options. As a result, they cannot expand at the speed and scale necessary to slow climate change, and so these policies act to advance fossil fuels like natural gas. Acadia Center will build awareness about how outdated policies hamper the region’s ability to adopt clean energy, meet climate goals, and realize the best value for consumers. Acadia Center will develop and advocate for utility reform that invests in a modern, flexible grid and reforms utility finances and planning. While many government bodies have the power to make decisions critical to addressing climate change, state public utility commissions and federal regulators have an especially significant say in how and whether clean energy can advance. Acadia Center will work to remove entrenched power market barriers, design policies that capture and meet community needs, set smart principles for siting new projects and align regulatory agencies so they consider climate impacts alongside short-term rates and bills.
Phase Out Fossil Fuels and Make the Case Against Natural Gas Expansion
The Northeast is heavily reliant on fossil fuels for energy production, heating, and transportation and will continue to be if it remains committed to the false promise of natural gas and outdated rules and regulations that prefer fossil fuels. Renewable power generation, transportation powered by electricity, and clean electric space and water heating and cooking appliances can rapidly curb dependence on natural gas and other fossil fuels. But well-funded fossil fuel interests proliferate claims that the region needs more natural gas to maintain its current quality of life.
Acadia Center will make it clear through analytic materials that natural gas is not a bridge fuel—it is a fossil fuel — showing decisionmakers and the public that relying on natural gas will defeat climate goals. Acadia Center will offer ambitious but realistic solutions to replace natural gas with clean energy. It will counter misinformation from sources that profit from fossil fuels, seek to shift those business models, and work to ensure that people across the region have full access to clean energy options and the quality of life, economic, health, and climate benefits that they bring.
Shift the Public Discourse to Embrace Solutions that Make a Difference
Climate progress requires a widespread preference for a clean energy economy over a fossil fuel future. Today, fossil fuel proponents have an outsized impact on the region’s energy narrative. That can change. Data and policy analysis can illustrate a path forward that empowers the Northeast to meet its energy needs and stop depending on fossil fuels. To build popular support, Acadia Center engages audiences through targeted research, innovative communications, partnerships, and coalitions. It demonstrates the benefits of clean energy for consumers and the climate in order to shift public narratives and build enthusiasm for an economy that relies on clean energy. Its Climate and Energy Analysis (CLEAN) Center produces thought-leading materials that connect clean energy and climate progress with issues of concern to the public and their daily lives. Together the CLEAN Center and Acadia Center’s Public Engagement work will help people throughout the region envision a clean energy economy as a viable and preferable path forward.
Acadia Center is dedicated to advancing the clean energy future to benefit all. The clean energy future can strengthen the region’s economies, improve quality of life for all residents, and protect us from climate change. Acadia Center is excited to redouble its efforts and work with many partners to Make the Next Decade CountTM.
Announcing New Staff
Jeff Marks, Senior Policy Advocate & Maine Director
Jeff joins Acadia Center on October 23, 2019 as Senior Policy Advocate and Maine Director. Before joining Acadia Center, Jeff served as Executive Director of E2Tech, a business trade association of Maine’s energy and environmental companies. Jeff was Deputy Director of the Maine Energy Office where he advised two Governors, Legislature, and State agencies on energy, environmental, and economic policy. Read Jeff’s full bio here.
Camille McDaniel, Public Engagement & Communications Associate
Camille McDaniel is Acadia Center’s Public Engagement and Communications Associate. Camille coordinates storytelling initiatives across digital media to raise awareness of Acadia Center’s work and develops compelling and original content for social media and web publication while supporting other Public Engagement tasks. Camille comes to Acadia Center with a broad background in communications, having worked in the non-profit, sports, and advertising industries. Previously, Camille served as the Community Outreach Coordinator at All In Energy. Read Camille’s full bio here.
Emily Lewis, CLEAN Center Director, led a panel entitled Renewable Building Heating: Pathways for Home & Business Savings
Jordan Stutt, Carbon Programs Director, led a panel entitled Improving Transportation Choices: The Transportation & Climate Initiative
ACEEE 2019 National Conference on Energy Efficiency as a Resource
October 15, 2019 Minneapolis, MN
Erika Niedowski spoke on a panel at ACEEE’s 2019 National Conference on Energy Efficiency as a Resource, being held in Minneapolis this month (Oct. 15-17). Her presentation, “Allies in the Climate Fight: The Interplay Between Energy Efficiency and Beneficial Electrification,” included Acadia Center analysis on the benefits of and barriers to switching from polluting fossil fuels to clean heating in the Northeast. It also showed how existing state energy efficiency programs are well-positioned to help customers access the benefits of high efficiency electric heat pumps.
Join Acadia Center, Transport Hartford Academy, partners, and stakeholders for a networking dinner and community meeting to learn more about critical efforts to deliver a more equitable, modern, low-carbon transportation future. Come share your thoughts to reach state leaders and help shape the policy’s future.
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.
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.
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.
“This is a great step forward for a region that desperately needs a more modern transportation system,” said Jordan Stutt, the director of carbon programs at the Acadia Center, a Boston-based environmental group. “I think this is a reflection of the kind of process we want to see more of when it comes to climate and economic policy.”
Others pointed to the additional benefits associated with cutting carbon emissions from cars and trucks, including cuts to other pollutants that are harmful to public health.
Read the full article from Scientific American here.
One group that has long called for a regional agreement on transportation emissions estimated it could raise more than $5.5 billion over a decade and generate more than 50,000 jobs in Massachusetts.
“A cap-and-invest program could unleash billions of dollars to deliver the overdue improvements this region needs,” said Jordan Stutt, carbon programs director for the Acadia Center, an environmental advocacy group in Boston.
Kathleen Meil, Maine policy advocate for the nonprofit Acadia Center, which focuses on clean-energy issues, called the transportation sector’s contribution to the challenge “astounding.”
“As other sectors become less carbon-intensive, the piece of the pie for the transportation sector has grown,” said Meil. “The other part of it is we have not taken the (concrete) initiatives with transportation emissions that we have with other sectors.”
In a recent report titled “Building a Stronger Maine: Memorandum to the Next Governor,” the Rockport-based Acadia Center said modernizing Maine’s transportation system could create up to 8,700 new jobs with more than $1 billion in new wages. The Acadia Center has recommended Maine work toward goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030 by, among other things, using 500 electric-powered buses and moving toward 17 percent of passenger cars running on electricity.