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E-Bikes: Another Path to Clean Mobility

Since 2015, the Massachusetts Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Commission has been working to expand access to non-polluting vehicles and chart a course towards a cleaner transportation future. At last Thursday’s ZEV Commission meeting, Acadia Center, Conservation Law Foundation and Sierra Club delivered recommendations to accelerate that transition to a clean transportation future (on behalf of 17 Massachusetts organizations) which included recommendations to increase access to another electric mobility option: e-bikes.

E-bikes (electric bicycles) are bicycles equipped with a battery, giving riders an electric assist as they pedal. The boost from an e-bike’s battery helps riders cover longer distances and climb hills more easily than they could on a standard bicycle. That makes cycling to work, school, transit, and other destinations a possibility for more people, including those who would otherwise be unable to make those trips due to physical limitations.

Research shows that increased use of e-bikes can significantly reduce vehicle miles traveled. In a recent survey of e-bike users conducted by the University of Tennessee and Portland State University, respondents most frequently cited replacing car trips as a reason for their purchase of an e-bike. One survey response said, “Before the e-bike I would normally only commute to work 2-3 days a week (because of the weight of my laptop, clothes, lunch, etc.). The extra weight, combined with the amount of elevation gain, would leave my legs too tired to commute more than that. However, I can now easily commute 5 days a week.”

That holds true for a new convert to e-bikes: Acadia Center’s Connecticut Director, Amy McLean-Salls (pictured below). She’s already ditching the car for trips to the grocery store, and once the Hartford office re-opens she can ride the e-bike 12 miles instead of driving to work. Amy saves on gas money and gets more exercise, and everyone else benefits from the avoided tailpipe pollution and one fewer car sitting in Hartford traffic.

However, our policies need to encourage widespread adoption of this mobility option. While e-bikes can take their riders farther than traditional bicycles, they also tend to cost more. That cost gap can be addressed, in part, through rebates, similar to the state and federal incentives currently in place to help address the cost gap between electric vehicles and traditional cars.

Cyclists, clean transportation advocates and other stakeholders are calling on states to deliver support for e-bikes. Last Monday, Acadia Center joined our partners at the Transport Hartford Academy at the Center for Latino Justice in calling for the expansion of Connecticut’s CHEAPR EV rebate program to include rebates for e-bikes. And at the Massachusetts ZEV Commission meeting last Thursday, Acadia Center called for a $300 rebate for e-bike purchases, and a $500 rebate for low-income consumers and those living in environmental justice communities. Those communities suffer from inequitable exposure to transportation pollution and have less access to transit; delivering improved transit service and more mobility options should be a top priority.

Though there are many significant benefits to e-bike usage, Massachusetts currently has outdated laws that were created before the technology that is now widely used in these devices. These laws make it difficult for consumers to maximize the benefits of e-bikes by limiting access to bike paths, requiring licenses, and preventing anyone under 16 from riding legally.

Our friends at MassBike are leading an effort to bring Massachusetts e-bike regulations up to date with other states’ more modern laws. S.2071 and H.3014, which are currently sitting in the Joint Committee on Transportation, would classify e-bikes by their maximum assisted speed and whether or not the motor provides assistance if the rider is not pedaling. Classifying e-bikes as bicycles instead of mopeds is much more consistent with the technology that they use and will allow Massachusetts residents to take advantage of this innovative transportation option at a time when creative mobility solutions are desperately needed to prevent an uptick in car usage.

As offices re-open and the Commonwealth’s residents start returning to work, Massachusetts should do whatever possible to help them get to work safely, sustainably, and in ways that help avoid a return to Boston’s worst-in-the-nation traffic congestion. E-bike rebates should be part of that plan, as should updating the Commonwealth’s outdated regulations that treat low-speed e-bikes the same as high-powered mopeds. With a first-in-the-nation, state-sponsored e-bike rebate program and the passage of H.3014/S.2071, more Massachusetts residents will have access to electrified mobility options.


What you can do:

 

by Rachel ZaffEnvironmental Policy Intern, and Jordan StuttCarbon Programs Director

New England business groups make case to suspend energy efficiency surcharges

Clean energy advocates are pushing back against the proposal. Hank Webster, Rhode Island director at Acadia Center, said halting the programs would cause further harm to a sector that is already struggling as a result of a drop-off in home and business energy audits and efficiency improvements.

Efficiency programs help drive down energy bills for all customers, regardless of whether they participate, by reducing demand and avoiding the costs of procuring additional supply, he said.

Webster said he suspects the business groups are appealing to lawmakers, rather than the state entities that oversee the programs and set the rates, because “even in the midst of the pandemic, each of those bodies has been resolute in its support for the energy efficiency programs generally and would likely have rejected such a proposal on its face.”

He cited as an example a 6-1 vote by the Energy Efficiency and Resource Management Council in March in favor of more ambitious three-year targets for statewide energy savings. (Roberts cast the sole dissenting vote.) Those targets were subsequently approved by the state Public Utilities Commission.

Read the full article from Energy News Network here.

Shifting to An Online Work World

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.

Solar and wind power are pushing down electricity prices in New England, but carbon fuels still dominate

The capacity market is separate from the larger energy market in which generators and others compete daily to provide power. To Deborah Donovan, senior policy advocate at the Acadia Center, a clean energy advocacy group, the prices in the most recent auction are a “leading indicator” of trends to come.

Read the full article from the Hartford Courant here.

Connecticut could be known for a modern transportation system, instead of asthma

A recent Acadia Center report shows that by capping transportation carbon dioxide emissions, auctioning allowances, and investing proceeds — much like Connecticut already does for power plants emissions — the state could generate $2.7 billion in auction proceeds through 2030. Reinvesting these funds across the state’s transportation system would generate 23,000 long-term jobs; $2.2 billion in new wages; $7 billion in new business sales; and $4.3 billion in other benefits, including reduced air pollution.

Read the full article from the Hartford Courant here.

Park City Wind

Bridgeport looks to become a hub for offshore wind in Connecticut, with its Park City Wind project expected to deliver 14% of the state’s electricity supply. That is, if the offshore wind farm can get federal approval. Our guests:

Listen to the episode from The Full Story 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

A New Approach to Transportation in Connecticut Could Cut Pollution, Boost the Economy and Deliver 23,000 Jobs

HARTFORD, Conn. – Today, Acadia Center released an analysis illustrating the benefits of a new approach for Connecticut to reduce transportation pollution while improving the system to better meet its residents’ needs. The analysis shows that, if designed well, a regional cap-and-invest policy developed through the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) could enable the state to make over $2.7 billion in crucial transportation investments by 2030, which would generate over 23,000 long-term jobs and $7 billion in economic activity.

“Connecticut can be a leader in developing a bold, equitable program to invest in needed transportation modernization while capping pollution in the state,” said Amy McLean Salls, Connecticut Director and Senior Policy Advocate at Acadia Center. “By capping transportation emissions and auctioning pollution allowances, all residents in the state will benefit through investments in transportation infrastructure and improved mobility options. The state’s overburdened and underserved communities are disproportionately bearing the brunt of non-accessible transportation options and harmful impacts of local air pollution. A modernized clean transportation system would be transformative for Connecticut’s people and economy.”

Acadia Center’s analysis demonstrates that new transportation investments funded through a regional cap-and-invest program would deliver substantial economic, environmental, and mobility benefits in Connecticut. As Connecticut works with other states to develop this program, advocates, community groups and other stakeholders are joining forces to determine what that program – and Connecticut’s transportation future – should look like.

On Tuesday evening, Acadia Center, the Center for Latino Progress, the CT Roundtable for Climate and Jobs, Sierra Club and Transport Hartford Academy gathered, joined by 55 stakeholders including transportation and environmental advocates, environmental justice activists, health professionals, business leaders, Commissioner Dykes from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Tom Maziarz from the Department of Transportation, for an important Connecticut-focused meeting to discuss efforts to deliver a more equitable, modern low-carbon transportation future.

“It is far past time for the State of Connecticut to act. As we act to quickly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants, we have the opportunity to invest in our communities, quality of life, and local employment,” said Gannon Long, Assistant Coordinator for Transport Hartford Academy at the Center for Latino Progress. “A transportation focused cap-and-trade system, implemented in 2021, could be a useful tool in achieving the state’s critically important emission reduction targets.”

To estimate the economic opportunity for a market-based transportation climate policy, Acadia Center’s report examined a sample investment portfolio including bus fleet electrification and transit system improvements, commuter rail updates and expansion, electric vehicle rebates and charging infrastructure, and walking and biking infrastructure. To determine how funds from this type of program are ultimately invested, participating states will need to develop a process that includes input from the most impacted parties, in particular low-income and disadvantaged communities.

“Cap-and-invest programs do not operate in a vacuum – they work best when they are designed to complement other policies and accelerate the transition to less-polluting options,” said Jordan Stutt, Carbon Programs Director at Acadia Center. “This analysis illustrates how cap-and-invest proceeds could bolster Connecticut’s existing efforts to deliver modern, accessible, low-carbon transportation options while spurring local job creation.”

Read the full report here: https://acadiacenter.org/document/investing-in-connecticuts-transportation-future/ 


Media Contacts:

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

Jordan Stutt, Carbon Programs Director
jstutt@acadiacenter.org, 860-246-7121 x105


The Northeast is poised to regain momentum on clean energy

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.

Solar policy fight is picking up where it left off

Anyone who thought legislation passed last year would extinguish controversy over the transition away from that widely used method of compensating solar energy customers for their excess power would have been wrong.

[…]

The direction from the Lamont administration has been clear, said Acadia Center Connecticut Director Amy McLean Salls.

“I don’t understand why, in my opinion, we’re regressing back to a place where we are not paying attention to Lamont administration goals,” she said. “We need to be moving forward here and fixing the problem.”

Read the full article from the CT Mirror here.