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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.

Massachusetts’ New Energy Efficiency Plan Ensures It Will Continue to Lead, But DPU Nixes Crucial Improvements for Consumers and Climate

BOSTON – On January 29, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) approved the 2019-2021 Energy Efficiency Plan, which will deliver more benefits than ever to Massachusetts’ electricity and natural gas customers. The three-year plan outlines goals and strategies to save energy and reduce bills for Massachusetts homes and businesses through the MassSave programs. It promises to deliver $7.6 billion in benefits, and reduce carbon emissions by 2.6 million short tons, as much as removing 500,000 cars from the road. It sets savings goals of 2.7% of sales for electric savings and 1.25% of sales for natural gas savings—the highest natural gas savings goal ever set in Massachusetts.  It also introduces an active demand management program featuring energy storage and allows strategic electrification for the first time.

As groundbreaking as this efficiency plan is, it could have been even better. In its approval of the Plans, the DPU rejected three key pieces created in settlement between stakeholders and the utilities through the energy efficiency advisory council process.  These pieces represented the future of expanding equitable access to the programs, appropriately valuing the carbon reductions efficiency can create, and leveraging the efficiency programs to further consumer—rather than utility—control.

“Massachusetts has consistently led the nation in its returns on investment in energy efficiency, bringing unprecedented benefits to consumers and the climate, and this plan will continue that leading trajectory,” said Deborah Donovan, director of Acadia Center’s Massachusetts office. “Unfortunately, while stakeholders, government agencies, Massachusetts’ advocates, and the utilities all agreed to build on that success with innovative approaches, the DPU undermined their efforts.”

Massachusetts’ energy efficiency programs consistently lead national rankings released by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, hitting number one overall for eight years running. Massachusetts’ commitment to invest in as much low-cost energy efficiency as possible has allowed it to reduce business costs and create more jobs. By efficiently powering homes and businesses, Massachusetts has improved its economy, public health, and carbon footprint, all while keeping more energy dollars in the state.

“Massachusetts has been very successful in meeting—and exceeding—the targets it sets for itself, but to fully achieve its goals for the climate and bring benefits to all consumers, our efficiency programs have to keep improving,” said Amy Boyd, Acadia Center senior attorney and environmental representative on Massachusetts’ Energy Efficiency Advisory Council. “The DPU could have done much more to allow the efficiency programs to take on some of the biggest obstacles to deeper savings and equitable service and set an example for other states across the country.  Instead, the DPU rejected a compromise between stakeholders and the utilities that would have incentivized utilities to ensure they were serving renters, established the full value of compliance with the Global Warming Solutions Act, and let consumers on Cape Cod combine solar, electrification, and energy storage to have more control over their energy use.”

Boyd continued, “The DPU did require utilities to report far more data on historically underserved populations.  Through the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council process, Acadia Center will encourage the utilities to use this additional data to identify and better address the needs of underserved populations and increase transparency.”


Media Contacts:

Amy Boyd, Senior Attorney
aboyd@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x102

Krysia Wazny McClain
kwazny@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x107

Maine: Transportation and Energy Reforms Would Bring $4 Billion in Economic Benefits and 13,500 New Jobs

New Analysis Released to Incoming Maine Administration

ROCKPORT, ME – Today, Acadia Center released new analysis showing the impact a shift toward better transportation infrastructure and cleaner energy would have in improving Connecticut’s economic and environmental future. Acadia Center’s “Memo to the Next Governor of Maine” recommends concrete steps that will deliver significant economic, consumer and public health benefits to the state. The analysis shows that modernizing the state’s transportation system alone could produce over $3.8 billion in new economic benefits, add 8,700 new jobs, and create $2.3 billion in public health and other benefits. All told, Acadia Center’s analysis indicates that the state could generate $6.5 billion dollars in consumer and economic benefits and create about 13,500 new jobs in the process.

“Maine must update and improve its energy and transportation systems, and doing so presents a significant opportunity to strengthen its economic future,” said Daniel Sosland, president of Acadia Center. “This analysis recommends five transportation and energy reforms that will have the most direct impact on Maine’s economy while enhancing quality of life for Maine people and communities. The time is now for Maine’s leaders to act to bring these benefits to residents.”

The memo calls on the new administration to undertake five reforms to achieve these goals and benefits:

1. Modernize transportation infrastructure to improve safety, access, and convenience;
2. Transition power generation to cheaper, cleaner, and more resilient local sources;
3. Improve energy performance in buildings to reduce costly energy use and emissions;
4. Reform energy grid rules to reduce high energy costs and speed energy innovation;
5. Give communities and consumers more control over their energy choices.

“Maine has many immediate needs that must be met to put the state on a path to success in the years to come,” said Kathleen Meil, Acadia Center’s policy advocate in Maine. “This new analysis shows how smart it is to tackle these challenges through the lens of a broader strategy to revitalize key infrastructure and avoid climate pollution.”

“Governor-elect Mills has indicated that advancing the clean energy future and enhancing community resilience are top priorities, and Acadia Center’s recommended reforms lay out a roadmap that promises concrete benefits for all Mainers. These key steps will fix roads and bridges, move the state away from its dependence on oil and gas, and increase accessibility of jobs and services-all while reducing emissions, increasing energy independence, and boosting local industries,” said Meil.

The full memo is available here.


Media Contacts:

Kathleen Meil, Policy Advocate
kmeil@acadiacenter.org, 207-236-6470 ext. 304

Krysia Wazny McClain, Communications Director
kwazny@acadiacenter.org, 617.742.0054 ext. 107

Connecticut: Transportation and Energy Reforms Could Bring $11 Billion in Economic Benefits and 33,000 New Jobs

New Analysis Released to Incoming Connecticut Administration

HARTFORD, CT – Today, Acadia Center released new analysis showing the impact a shift toward better transportation infrastructure and cleaner energy would have in improving Connecticut’s economic and environmental future. Acadia Center’s “Memo to the Next Governor of Connecticut” recommends concrete steps that will deliver significant economic, consumer and public health benefits to the state. The analysis shows that modernizing the state’s transportation system alone could produce over $6.9 billion in new economic benefits, add 14,900 new jobs, and create $3.7 billion in public health and other benefits. All told, Acadia Center’s analysis indicates that the state could add about $11 billion in new economic benefits and create about 33,000 new jobs through five transportation and energy reforms.

“Making Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure and its energy system work better for all state residents and businesses is smart economic strategy,” said Daniel Sosland, Acadia Center’s President. “This analysis focuses on five transportation and energy reforms that will have the most direct impact on Connecticut’s economy while also enhancing quality of life for its people and communities. The recommended reforms are achievable, the benefits are concrete, and the time is now to build a stronger Connecticut.”

The memo calls on the new administration to undertake five reforms to achieve these goals and benefits:

1. Modernize transportation infrastructure to improve safety, access, and convenience;
2. Transition power generation to cheaper, cleaner, and more resilient local sources;
3. Improve energy performance in buildings to reduce costly energy use and emissions;
4. Reform energy grid rules to reduce high energy costs and speed energy innovation;
5. Give communities and consumers more control over their energy choices.

“This new analysis underscores how important it is to remake Connecticut’s transportation and energy systems as a core part of the state’s new economic strategy,” said Amy McLean Salls, Acadia Center’s Connecticut Director. “Newly-unleashed investments and innovation will drive economic progress, improve quality of life, and extend benefits to communities and residents who have historically been overlooked.”

“The five recommended reforms complement Governor-Elect Lamont’s plans to create new economic growth and jobs in the state. These reforms will help make that vision of a more prosperous and livable Connecticut a reality,” said McLean Salls.

The full memo is available here.


Media Contacts:

Amy McLean Salls, Connecticut Director & Senior Policy Advocate
amcleansalls@acadiacenter.org, 860-246-7121 ext. 204

Krysia Wazny McClain, Communications Director
kwazny@acadiacenter.org, 617.742.0054 ext. 107

$12.5 Million Raid to Energy Efficiency Fund Threatens to Hurt Rhode Island Consumers and Economy

Joint release with People’s Power & Light

Providence, RI – Since the House Finance Committee released its proposed state budget, energy and environmental organizations have expressed serious concerns about the dangerous precedent that the House will set if their budget is enacted. The proposed plan would raid $12.5 million from ratepayer funded, cost-effective energy efficiency programs. Groups emphasize that these are not state funds, they are rate-payer funds collected specifically to bring much-needed energy savings to all Rhode Islanders. Diverting the funds from the efficiency programs will cost Rhode Island ratepayers more money.

Nonprofit organizations Acadia Center and People’s Power & Light (PP&L) are urging state representatives to support an amendment deleting Budget Article I, Section 16, in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget now before the General Assembly. Over thirty organizations and individuals – representing business, community, consumer, low-income, public health, environmental, and clean energy interests – signed a letter to the General Assembly vigorously opposing the raid. This letter highlights that by diverting ratepayer funds, the proposed budget is in effect taxing consumers for the use of their energy instead of using those funds to secure consumer savings.

“Imposing a new energy tax would be extremely unfair to Rhode Island’s already burdened ratepayers, who have been promised tangible benefits in return for their efficiency funding,” said the letter.

The letter goes on, “Rhode Island’s energy efficiency programs generate immense economic value for the state. They bring millions of dollars in electricity and natural gas bill savings to all our residents and businesses, drive our growing clean energy economy, help low-income families reduce the difficult burden of high energy costs, and protect the health and prosperity of our local communities. Rhode Island’s Least Cost Procurement law – first implemented a decade ago and extended another five years in 2015 – is primarily responsible for the state’s continued leadership on economic efficiency. The General Assembly has unanimously recognized that the electric and natural gas distribution utility must invest in the lowest cost energy resource, energy efficiency, before more expensive energy supplies from outside Rhode Island. This is an economic strategy, not a social benefits program.”

“Given that saving energy costs less than buying it and it creates far more jobs than making energy from imported gas and oil, it seems weird to tax energy consumers. There must be better ways,” says Larry Chretien, Executive Director of People’s Power & Light.

Recently the Office of Energy Resources released a report showing the importance of efficiency to the state’s economy. The report shows that clean energy jobs have grown 66% since 2014. In addition, according to the Energy Efficiency & Resource Management Council’s 2016 annual report, “Every $1 million invested in this sector leads to the creation of 45 job-years of employment, and every $1 invested boosts Gross State Product by $4.20.”

“Rhode Island’s ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs have provided $2.3 billion in economic benefits to residents and businesses since 2008, a fourfold return on investment,” said Erika Niedowski, Policy Advocate at Acadia Center. “Rhode Island has worked hard over the last decade to become a national leader on energy efficiency, and diverting these funds would cost ratepayers money and represent a big step backwards for our economy.”

As the House members prepare to vote today, Acadia Center, People’s Power & Light, and numerous local organizations and constituents are urging state representatives to delete Budget Article I, Section 16 to do right by ratepayers and all Rhode Islanders.


Media Contacts:

Erika Niedowski, Acadia Center
eniedowski@acadiacenter.org, 401-680-0056

Larry Chretien, People’s Power & Light
larry@ripower.org, 617-686-7289

Massachusetts DPU Protects Clean Energy and Consumer Control in Electricity Rate Case Ruling

BOSTON — Friday afternoon, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) issued a decision in the National Grid electricity rate case, D.P.U. 15-155. In the decision, the DPU denied a number of utility proposals that would have reduced customer control of energy bills, discouraged investment in energy efficiency, arbitrarily penalized clean local energy production, and restricted access to community distributed generation. Further information on these proposals may be found here.

Peter Shattuck, Acadia Center’s Massachusetts Director, said, “We are encouraged that the DPU rejected National Grid’s rate design proposals that would have unfairly impacted residential ratepayers and set back our clean energy future. The DPU agreed with Acadia Center’s case that tiered customer charges would not be efficient or understandable and that the proposed access fees were not based on sound analysis. This decision also granted a significant overall revenue increase to National Grid, which emphasizes that we should be finding new ways to lower costs and avoid expensive new infrastructure investments.”

Acadia Center intervened in this proceeding, participated in discovery, filed expert testimony, and submitted briefs on a number of key electricity rate design issues.

Dr. Abigail Anthony, Acadia Center’s Director of Grid Modernization and Utility Reform and expert witness in this proceeding, said, “As a party in this docket, Acadia Center consistently advanced a long-term vision for regulatory reforms that promotes clean energy while addressing legitimate consumer concerns.”

A number of other states in the region, including Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and New York, are engaging in efforts to proactively identify the new regulatory processes and analyses needed to support a consumer-friendly, clean energy future. Acadia Center urges the Massachusetts DPU to take further steps to do the same.

Mark LeBel, Staff Attorney at Acadia Center, said, “Reforms to electricity rate design must strike a careful balance between economic efficiency, equity for all customers, protection of low-income ratepayers, and access to community distributed generation. Acadia Center is actively working on all of these issues and looks forward to working with other stakeholders to bring together broadly acceptable solutions.”

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Acadia Center is a non-profit, research, and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. Acadia Center is at the forefront of efforts to build clean, low-carbon, and consumer-friendly economies. Acadia Center provides accurate and reliable information and offers a real-world and comprehensive approach to problem solving through innovation and collaboration.