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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

Acadia Center: Connecticut economy would get big boost from clean energy efforts

Acadia Center’s analysis, which officials with the organization called “Memo To The Next Governor of Connecticut,” was released Monday. Daniel Sosland, Acadia Center’s president, said the 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,” Sosland said in a written statement. “Making Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure and its energy system work better for all state residents and businesses is smart economic strategy.”

Read the full article from the New Haven Register here.

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

Op-ed: Merrimack Valley tragedy offers climate change opportunity

The significant investments required in the energy infrastructure of the impacted communities present an opportunity to re-think what energy options are available to best meet the needs of these communities, not only for this winter but for many years to come. Doing so can lead to practical, cost-effective actions that will provide a host of benefits for the residents and businesses in these communities: reduced energy costs for ratepayers; safer, more resilient homes and businesses; improved indoor air quality; and, meaningfully, less climate pollution.

Read the full article from CommonWealth Magazine here.

New Rates, Energy Plan Approved for R.I. Electricity

After months of hearings and negotiations, an energy initiative called grid modernization is moving forward in Rhode Island, along with new gas and electricity rates.

On Aug. 24 the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved a new model for compensating National Grid for operating and maintaining utility poles, transmission lines, and substations. For the next three years a portion of National Grid’s revenue will also go to making the power grid more cost-efficient and accommodating to renewable power, electric vehicles, and energy storage.

Read the full article from ecoRI News here.

Rhode Island approves National Grid modernization plan, rate increase

States are increasingly focused on efforts to transform the power sector, but regulators need to strike a delicate balance to ensure that customers are not over-burdened by costly grid modernization investments.

The agreement puts Rhode Island “into a leadership role among New England states seeking to reform utility regulations,” according to a statement from Daniel Sosland, president of the Acadia Center.

The final settlement represents a win for low-income customer advocates, most of whom will see a significant rate reduction. The current discount for income-eligible customers will be doubled to 25% of the total bill, with another 5% for customers who qualify through income restrictive federal assistance programs.

Read the full article from Utility Dive here.

Op-Ed: Maine needs a governor who will prioritize clean energy

After a protracted primary campaign and a long week of ranked-choice tabulation, Maine’s gubernatorial slate is set. As voters assess their options for state leadership, two intertwined issues need to rise to prominence: Maine’s economy and environment. To advance both, Maine’s next governor must prioritize a clean energy future.

The good news is that this future is close at hand. With smart energy policy reform based on proven results in other states, Maine can lower energy costs; save residents and businesses money on their utility bills; boost its own economy; grow its workforce with good-paying efficiency, HVAC and solar jobs; and dramatically reduce air pollution.

Read the full article from Bangor Daily News here.

Rhode Island Settlement Paves Way for Modern, Consumer-Friendly Electricity Grid and Further Progress on Clean Energy

PROVIDENCE – Today, a comprehensive settlement was filed on behalf of all parties in two related dockets at the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission: National Grid’s rate case and the Power Sector Transformation docket. Acadia Center strongly supports the settlement because it begins to reform the utility business model, makes significant investments in a modern and efficient electricity grid and new clean energy programs, and lays out a pathway for even more ambitious and rigorous reforms. It also saves ratepayers over $40 million in base rates across three years from National Grid’s original proposal and results in a 25-30% bill discount for low income customers. This settlement follows in the footsteps of the Power Sector Transformation Initiative created at the direction of Governor Gina Raimondo.

“New clean energy technologies at lower costs offer an historic opportunity to build a modern, more equitable energy system that benefits consumers, reduces pollution and improves economic productivity,” said Daniel Sosland, president of Acadia Center. “With this settlement, Rhode Island jumps into a  leadership role among the states on utility regulatory reform necessary to position it for further progress in coming years. Acadia Center is thrilled that Rhode Island is moving to embrace this future and remains committed to ensuring that the state and its residents see significant benefits from these reforms.”

Acadia Center participated in every phase of the Power Sector Transformation process in 2017 and filed testimony in both dockets covered by today’s settlement. Acadia Center has long advocated for states to embrace the types of reforms included in the settlement, through reports and materials such as UtilityVision. This includes reforms to the utility business model that place less emphasis on capital investments and more on results, improvements to the efficiency, intelligence and flexibility of the electric grid, and planning improvements to efficiently use local energy resources and provide customers with better incentives.

“Rhode Island is poised to be the first state in New England to implement serious reforms to the utility business model,” said Amy Boyd, senior attorney at Acadia Center. “This is a key step to incentivizing utilities to act in the public interest, instead of merely advancing their own bottom line.”

The settlement also includes new clean energy programs to facilitate increased adoption of efficient electric heating technologies, new investments in electric vehicle charging stations, and competitive procurements for advanced energy storage. It creates a pathway for critical next steps such as a study of advanced metering functionality and time-varying rates and further utility business model reforms.

“Electrification of heating and transportation are crucial pieces of a long-term greenhouse gas reduction strategy. New programs and investments should help push Rhode Island forward in the coming years.” said Mark LeBel, staff attorney at Acadia Center. “In addition, Acadia Center looks forward to next steps and further reforms in Rhode Island. Providing Rhode Island ratepayers with more efficient electricity rates that reflect the costs of electricity usage and help lower peak demand will be key to a smarter electricity system and integrating electric vehicles and heating.”

“Acadia Center would like to thank the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, National Grid, the Office of Energy Resources and other intervenors for all of the hard work and collaboration that went into this settlement,” said Erika Niedowski, policy advocate in Acadia Center’s Providence office. “Collaboration and an open exchange of ideas is crucial to developing policy solutions that meet the needs of a wide range of stakeholders. Establishing the Power Sector Transformation Advisory Group provides a new forum to continue this dialogue on key issues in the coming years.”


Media Contacts:

Erika Niedowski, Policy Advocate, Rhode Island Office
eniedowski@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x103

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

Victory for Consumers and Clean Energy in Connecticut Electric Rate Case

Approved Settlement Significantly Reduces Eversource Residential Customer Charges

HARTFORD, CT – On April 18, 2018, the Connecticut Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) announced its decision to lower the customer charge for Eversource residential customers from $19.25 to below $9.50. This 50% reduction follows the requirements of a 2015 law enacted by the Connecticut General Assembly to limit residential customer charges, the fixed fee that customers pay regardless of the amount of energy used. Acadia Center first raised this issue in Connecticut in Eversource’s previous 2014 rate case, and, since 2015, has participated in two rate cases and a generic proceeding to ensure the proper implementation of the law.

“Connecticut has taken an important step today towards a clean and consumer-friendly energy system,” said Daniel Sosland, President of Acadia Center. “The Office of Consumer Counsel, Attorney General’s Office, and the Connecticut General Assembly have made major progress in bringing relief to Connecticut’s electric customers, and Acadia Center looks forward to working with these partners as the state moves forward with further reforms to the energy system.”

Customer charges for residential electric customers typically range from $5 to $10 a month, but in some states are significantly higher. High customer charges disproportionately burden seniors and low-income customers, who typically use less electricity than average. They also reduce the incentive for customers to lower their electricity bills through conservation, investment in energy efficiency, or renewable energy technologies like solar power. Before the implementation of the new law, Connecticut’s residential customer charges for its two major utilities were $19 per month and $19.25 per month respectively.

Bill Dornbos, Acadia Center’s Advocacy Director, said, “Consumers everywhere prefer choice and control, and this lower monthly fixed charge will give customers substantially more control over their electric bills. The new rate design will also help promote energy efficiency and renewable energy, more closely aligning Connecticut’s electricity rates with its energy policy goals.”

“By enacting this significant reduction, Connecticut brings the state’s residential customer charges down to levels that are comparable with national best practices and recognizes that high fixed charges run counter to consumer interests and a clean energy future,” said Mark LeBel, staff attorney for Acadia Center. “This is a significant step at a time when states around the country, including neighboring New York, are debating how to move forward on this important issue.”


Media Contacts:

Mark LeBel, Staff Attorney
mlebel@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x104

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

Eversource Granted High Profit Margins, Automatic Annual Rate Increases, and Detrimental Charges for New Solar Customers

57 Consumer, Clean Energy, and Community Organizations Call on State Leaders to Address Counterproductive Decisions

BOSTON — Today, Acadia Center, Health Care Without Harm, MASSPIRG, Vote Solar, and 53 other organizations released a joint statement pointing to serious concerns over decisions by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) in Eversource’s recent electricity rate case. These decisions are inconsistent with the consumer-friendly clean energy future that Massachusetts is striving for. The 57 organizations bringing forward these concerns come from many different perspectives, including low-income and ratepayer advocates, environmental, health and clean energy public interest organizations, solar advocates, and clean energy businesses.

“Massachusetts is embracing many innovations on clean energy, including energy efficiency and offshore wind, that will boost the Commonwealth’s economy, benefit consumers, improve public health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” noted Daniel Sosland, President of Acadia Center. “Unfortunately, in four important ways, the DPU’s decisions in Eversource’s rate case represent a significant step away from embracing a clean energy future. Instead, these DPU decisions provide incentives for the company to invest in outdated and expensive energy infrastructure, reduce customer control, and impose significant unnecessary costs on consumers.”

Two of these decisions, unnecessarily high profit margins (known as the return on equity) and automatic annual revenue increases going forward, could collectively cost ratepayers an extra $460 million over five years. The other two decisions, unprecedented new demand charges on new residential solar customers and the elimination of optional residential on-peak/off-peak rates, would move away from electricity rates that are efficient and consumer-friendly.

“Hospitals typically have very small margins, so every unnecessary penny per kWh for Eversource means a lot less money for healing patients,” said Paul Lipke, Senior Advisor for Energy and Buildings at Health Care Without Harm. “Unless addressed, Eversource’s rate changes also increase pollution and shift costs from energy to health care. This conflicts directly with efforts to constrain the Commonwealth’s health costs, and at a time when households already spend six times on health care what they spend on energy. We can and must do better.”

“The Commission has decided to effectively raise costs, remove value and reduce customers’ understanding of and control over bills by approving Eversource’s new solar demand charge,” said Nathan Phelps, Regulatory Director for Vote Solar. “This decision is out of step with Massachusetts laws to encourage the state’s transition to a clean and reliable electricity system, and out of step with the DPU’s own prior leadership ensuring that solar customers are treated fairly for the local power they generate. We urge the Legislature and the Governor to reject this decision and reinstate Eversource customers’ right to lower their own utility bills with rooftop solar, protect the thousands of solar jobs serving our state, and deliver on the Commonwealth’s commitment to building a clean energy economy.”

“For many of us, our electricity bills are a significant monthly expense, and we rely on regulators to make sure utility companies like Eversource don’t overcharge ratepayers or adopt pricing practices that are deceptive or unfair,” said Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG’s Consumer Program Director. “In this case, the DPU has approved Eversource’s new pricing schemes that will result in hundreds of millions in excessive charges; while at the same time, Eversource has made it harder for consumers to monitor their electricity use and reduce their bills.”

“Residential on-peak/off-peak rates should be used as a key tool to manage peak demand. Historically, these have been underutilized because the utilities do not publicize them and make them difficult to sign up for,” said Mark LeBel, Staff Attorney for Acadia Center. “Instead of optimizing these rates and making them easier to access, the DPU let Eversource eliminate them.”

The decision on the return on equity is currently being appealed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court by Attorney General Maura Healey, and the decision on demand charges for new residential solar customers is being appealed by Vote Solar and other parties. The decision on demand charges is the subject of a bill recommended favorably by the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy at the Massachusetts legislature, and a requirement for optional on-peak/off-peak rates is included in several different bills. The DPU recently denied the Attorney General’s motion for reconsideration on the automatic annual revenue increases.


Media Contacts:

Mark LeBel, Staff Attorney
mlebel@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x104

Janice Gan, Public Engagement and Communications Associate
jgan@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x106