Archive

Critics say Rhode Island report overlooks potential of heat pumps

That go-slow recommendation comes as some environmental groups are advocating for widespread heat pump adoption in the Northeast to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Acadia Center, for example, recently put out an overview of specific policy measures that states can put in place to develop the market for and accelerate the transition to heat pumps.

Such programs are growing rapidly in the U.S., with current year budgets of nearly $110 million, a 70% increase over the prior year, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

“We know that heat pumps are the most straightforwardly carbon-free way to heat and cool a house, and there are also a number of health benefits associated with them,” said Matt Rusteika, a senior policy analyst in Acadia’s Boston office. “We’re focused on building up the policy interventions that are going to bring down the cost of heat pumps, which are still a pretty new technology.”

Rusteika co-wrote a commentary on the Natural Resources Defense Council blog criticizing the Rhode Island report for not recommending firm targets for heat pump acceleration. He and co-author Alejandra Mejia, a building decarbonization advocate for NRDC, argued that the report overstated the technology’s drawbacks using two “incorrect assumptions.”

The other is the report’s prediction that the high upfront cost of the technology, including installation, will only drop by about 2% per year. Mejia and Rusteika called that estimate too conservative, and said that state incentive programs and other market development activities would drive down the cost more quickly.

“We’ve seen it with solar,” Rusteika said. “A number of overlapping policies have created a favorable atmosphere, with net metering being a big one, as well as renewable portfolio standards. That’s how you get the ball rolling.”

Rusteika expressed hope that the state still might set specific targets for heat pump adoption, as Maine has done.

“We’ve been really impressed with the Raimondo administration’s willingness to tackle this issue in particular,” he said.

Read the full article from Energy News Network here.

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.

Northeast States Claim Top Spots in the 2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard

BOSTON – Northeast states performed well in the 2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, with Massachusetts taking the top spot for the 9th consecutive yearaccording to rankings released by the nonpartisan American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Rhode Island and Vermont tied for #3. New York and Connecticut ranked #5 and #6, respectively. 

Maine was ranked #15, and New Hampshire improved a spot to #20. 

The region’s strong showing is largely due to state policies requiring programs to pursue all energy efficiency that is cost-effective, rather than defining a proscribed level of funding. In addition, several states across the region have begun to implement policies that address new opportunities and challenges in energy efficiency, such as using additional efficiency investments to lower costs associated with peak times of demand for energy and a fuel-neutral approach that gives consumers access to incentives and savingsno matter whether they use electricity, heating oil, or gas in their homes. 

“Energy efficiency is a cornerstone of the clean energy economy in the Northeast and beyond. Efficiency has reduced the cost of doing businesslowered consumer energy billslimited the need to build costly new energy infrastructure, and provided healthier, more comfortable spaces to live and work,” said Daniel Sosland, Acadia Center president. “But there’s much more efficiency to be captured in the region, including for traditionally underserved sectors like low-income customers. States need to continue to support strong efficiency policies – and the next generation of energy efficiency – so the Northeast can capture these substantial benefits for consumers and the environment.” 

Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector. Over the last decade, strong efficiency policies and programs have helped the Northeast lower carbon pollution while providing a range of economic and public health benefits.  

The ACEEE rankings, released annually, are based on scoring in categories including state government initiatives, building efficiency policies, utility and public benefits programs, transportation policies, and appliance standards. ACEEE awarded Massachusetts a perfect score in the utility program category, particularly praising the programs’ contribution as the largest contributor to achieving the state greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. 

“Over the last nine years, Massachusetts’ strong customer-funded efficiency programs have grown the economy while saving ratepayers money and cutting emissions – and they’ll continue to do so. But Massachusetts could do more to take full advantage of other policies to ensure that our buildings, homes, and transportation are as efficient as possible,” said Amy Boyd, senior attorney at Acadia Center and a member of the Massachusetts Energy Efficiency Advisory Council. “One of the most effective ways to achieve efficiency savings – and more greenhouse gas reductions – is through improved appliance standards. Particularly with the Trump Administration’s freeze on updating the federal standards, it is even more important to push for higher efficiency in the standards that states control.” 

Rhode Island maintained the #3 spot for the third year. With strong state policy that prioritizes investments in energy efficiency over traditional energy supply, Rhode Island last year achieved electric savings of 2.75%, relative to total electricity salesone of the highest levels in the country. Efficiency programs have saved Rhode Islanders $1.32 billion in energy costs since 2008. Like Massachusetts, Rhode Island earned no points in the appliance standards category, as appliance standards legislation has repeatedly stalled at the statehouse. 

Vermont, meanwhile, moved up one spot, to tie Rhode Island at third, rounding out the top tier of states aggressively pursuing all cost-effective energy efficiency.  

Much More to be Done Across the Region 

As in recent years, there was a sizable gap between the top efficiency performers and the second tier of states, underscoring that other states in the region must do much more to reduce energy use and minimize consumers costs. 

New York moved into the #5 spot, scoring relatively well on transportation and building efficiency policy and in state government initiatives. But the state has significant room for improvement in maximizing and procuring new cost-effective energy efficiency through utility and public programs. New York in 2018 set a new energy reduction target of 185 trillion BTUs by 2025, but critically important utility energy savings targets and other details of implementation are still being worked outLike Massachusetts, New York is using a fuel-neutral approach designed to better align efficiency program goals with state policy goals such as decarbonization.   

Connecticut, which slipped one spot to #6, continued to suffer the effects of a massive fund raid in 2017 that seriously weakened energy efficiency programs and the efficiency workforce. 

“Connecticut’s well-established energy efficiency programs are capable of delivering significant energy and utility bill savings to customers,” said Amy McLean Salls, Connecticut Director at Acadia Center and a member of the state’s Energy Efficiency Board.“Connecticut’s path forward must include robust energy efficiency investments that make homes and businesses more efficient, support the transition from dirty heating fuels to high-efficiency electric heat pumps, and expand peak demand management. Next-generation efficiency policy should include larger heat pump incentives and strong customer and vendor education programs to help overcome barriers to heat pump deployment.” 

Maine’s #15 ranking reflects in part that it can do more to expand energy efficiency access and savings for Maine homes and businesses, including setting more aggressive energy savings targets and capturing additional cost-effective efficiencyMaine has led the nation in deployment of clean, efficient electric heat pumps and has a new goal of installing 100,000 heat pumps by 2025. Maine could also improve its programs – and rank  by adopting the most recent building energy code and passing appliance standards. 

New Hampshire implemented the first year of its Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) in 2018, putting it on a path to reduce energy waste. But at #20, the state still ranked relatively low this year due to several factors, including a lack of commitment to transportation efficiency and appliance standardsNew Hampshire has seen a modest increase in efficiency gains from utility programs but spending on energy efficiency has only begun to ramp up. The legislature failed to overturn a requirement that it approve any increase in the efficiency charge, creating an additional hurdle to achieve all cost-effective efficiency.   

 

The Scorecard is available at: https://aceee.org/state-policy/scorecard. 

 


Media Contacts: 

 Erika Niedowski, RI Director and Energy Efficiency Lead
eniedowski@acadiacenter.org, 401.276.0600 ext. 401 

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

New Hampshire Governor Vetoes Legislation That Would Bring Energy Savings to More Residents

CONCORD, N.H. – On Friday, Governor Sununu vetoed a bill (HB582) that would have increased funding for efficiency projects, particularly for low income customers, who currently experience a long wait list for the popular weatherization programs. With his veto, Governor Sununu prevented additional revenue from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative from being distributed to these programs.

“By vetoing this bill, the governor has ensured that New Hampshire will continue to have difficulty investing in the cheapest form of energy available in the state,” said Ellen Hawes, Senior Analyst at Acadia Center. “This is a huge missed opportunity for New Hampshire’s residents and economy, as well as the state’s progress toward climate safety.”

Energy efficiency investments make electricity cheaper for all ratepayers. By 2027, energy efficiency is projected to reduce the amount of electricity we need to generate by more than 22%. In New Hampshire, the NHSaves electric efficiency programs deliver energy savings at 77% lower costs than buying more power. New Hampshire’s current use of RGGI auction revenue continues to provide benefits for the state, but the relatively small portion of funds directed towards energy efficiency prevents New Hampshire from maximizing its benefits.

For the first time ever, the New England grid operator (ISO New England) is predicting a decline in peak demand over the next ten years, mostly due to projected gains in energy efficiency and on-site solar generation. ISO-NE projects that by 2020, energy efficiency will reduce demand on peak days by more than all of the region’s nuclear power plants combined can supply. States must have strong programs to sustain and advance these gains.

In addition to this most recent veto, on July 19th the Governor vetoed a bill (SB205) that would have allowed the Public Utilities Commission to continue to set energy efficiency investment levels at rates most beneficial to ratepayers. This bill would have also increased the public’s ability to engage with how efficiency funds are spent, by expanding membership of the Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Energy Board.

“By requiring legislative approval for this one portion of rates, the legislature will add delay, uncertainty and increased costs for utilities, stakeholders and the Public Utilities Commission, under Sununu’s erroneous and disingenuous assertion that it is a hidden tax,” said Hawes.


Media Contacts:

Ellen Hawes, Senior Analyst
ehawes@acadiacenter.org, 207-233-4182

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

New Massachusetts energy efficiency plan to push storage, heat pumps and ‘demand response’

The 2019-2021 energy efficiency plan, approved by the Department of Public Utilities on Jan. 29, would cut aggregate retail electricity sales by 2.7 percent and cut natural gas sales by 1.25 percent within the three-year period.

The plan provides new tools for Mass Save, the energy efficiency program run by the state’s utilities. Homeowners will see incentives to switch from oil and propane furnaces to electric heat pumps. Commercial and industrial energy storage will be encouraged; “strategic electrification” will get a boost; and “demand response” — where customers save money by curtailing or shifting consumption during periods of heavy power demand — will gain greater footing.

Read the full article from MassLive 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

Connecticut efficiency program turns focus to smaller commercial buildings

Poor energy performance is not unique to Stamford; the whole state is grappling with energy efficiency. Connecticut continues to have some of the highest energy costs in the country. Though Connecticut has made progress over the last two decades — primarily through its Conservation and Load Management energy efficiency program — it now risks falling behind other states in New England. According to the Acadia Center, a nonprofit advocating for a clean energy future, Connecticut invests in cost-effective electric efficiency at “roughly half the levels pursued in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.”

Read the full article from Energy News Network here.

Amid funding cuts, Enfield manufacturer finds energy-efficiency program a worthy investment

Fewer participants have found their way into EnergizeCT programs this year due to a $117 million raid by state lawmakers on the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, which is staked from a sliver of customers’ monthly light bills.

The controversial raid, which prompted a lawsuit from the energy-efficiency industry, helped plug a hole in the state’s General Fund budget.

However, it also “means Connecticut will do about half the electric efficiency it did in 2017,” according to William Dornbos, advocacy director at Acadia Center, a New England nonprofit promoter of clean, efficient energy use.

Read the full article from Hartford Business here.

National Rankings Highlight Leadership of Northeastern States’ Energy Efficiency Programs

Policy and Funding Challenges Remain

BOSTON – Northeast states continued their nation-leading performance in the 2018 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, released today by the nonpartisan American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Massachusetts ranked #1 for the eighth straight year, Rhode Island remained at #3, and Vermont, Connecticut and New York ranked #4, # 5 and #6, respectively.

Maine and New Hampshire ranked #14 and #21, respectively.

“Energy efficiency is a cornerstone of the clean energy economy in the Northeast and beyond. Leading states in the region are successfully demonstrating that non-polluting energy efficiency lowers consumer utility bills, reduces the cost of doing business, and provides healthier, more comfortable spaces to live and work,” said Daniel Sosland, Acadia Center president. “All states must continue to prioritize energy efficiency so that these benefits reach additional residents while sharply reducing emissions to meet climate targets.”

In addition to a strong overall performance on the Scorecard, New England states performed particularly well in the category of utility and public benefits programs, which are operated on behalf of utility customers. Together, these programs represent the single largest state policy-driven impact on greenhouse gas emissions in the region. Due in large part to energy efficiency gains, electric consumption in New England has declined over the past few years even as the population and economy have grown. Energy efficiency investments have brought billions of dollars in energy and utility bill savings to consumers and businesses and helped halt the growth of peak electric use. Increasing investments in efficiency has made nearly $500 million of expensive transmission line upgrades no longer necessary in New England.

Leading the charge with low-cost efficiency

Massachusetts and Rhode Island tied for first in the utility program category, followed by Vermont and Connecticut at third and fourth, respectively.

With strong customer-funded efficiency programs, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have achieved the country’s highest electric savings rates – at least 3% of retail sales last year – and demonstrated the significant potential that exists for cost-effective efficiency investments. Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 report shows that, on average, if all Northeast states achieved at least 2.5% annual efficiency savings, efficiency would reduce emissions from electricity generation in line with regional climate targets and offset the additional electricity from increased electric vehicle and heat pump adoption.

“Massachusetts has shown over the last eight years of first place rankings that making effective use of efficiency can grow the economy while saving ratepayers money and cutting carbon emissions. Even so, Massachusetts can do more to maximize this low-cost, clean resource,” said Amy Boyd, senior attorney at Acadia Center and a member of the Massachusetts Energy Efficiency Advisory Council. “Many residents – particularly renters – and businesses need more help lowering their energy costs, and the efficiency programs can play a crucial role in transitioning ratepayers off fossil fuels.”

Rhode Island held the #3 spot overall despite state government action in 2017 that diverted $12.5 million in ratepayer efficiency funds and forced an additional $10.7 million in program cuts this year. Rhode Island’s continued strong showing stems from a state law that prioritizes investments in energy efficiency over traditional energy supply when efficiency is cost-effective and less expensive.

Policy opportunities for lagging states

The gap between the elite efficiency performers and the second tier is significant, as in prior years. While Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont are fully embracing cost-effective efficiency, neighboring Northeast states could do more to show a sustained commitment to efficiency that would reduce energy consumption and minimize consumer costs.

Connecticut took a major step backwards on efficiency in 2017, for instance. Under extreme fiscal pressure, the state diverted $127 million in ratepayer funding for efficiency to the budget’s general fund.

“Connecticut has high-quality, award-winning energy efficiency programs that deserve real praise for helping the state earn the #5 ranking,” said Amy McLean Salls, Connecticut Director and Senior Policy Advocate with Acadia Center. “However, Connecticut can, and should, do more to improve its actual energy efficiency savings levels. Connecticut has slipped down regionally on this all-important metric and will need to ramp up its energy efficiency savings goals in coming years to protect its strong in-state efficiency industry and to meet its aggressive climate targets for 2020 and 2030. As a necessary first step to increasing Connecticut’s efficiency ambitions, the Governor and General Assembly should undo the devastating fund raid imposed by legislators last year.”

Although New York moved up a spot in the Scorecard to #6 overall, it too continues to lag best-practice states, with current annual utility savings levels roughly one-sixth of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In April, New York announced a plan to reduce energy consumption by 185 trillion BTUs from forecasted levels by 2025, but important details such as utility savings targets and funding sources have yet to be worked out. Acadia Center has offered four recommendations that, if implemented, would strengthen the likelihood of achieving the 2025 energy efficiency target.

“New York should be commended for seeking to jump-start its efficiency efforts,” said Cullen Howe, Acadia Center’s New York Director. “But now it needs to follow through by setting aggressive but achievable targets and ensuring that efficiency’s many consumer and environmental benefits are realized.”

Maine’s dip from #13 to #14 reflects the impact of inconsistent funding and regulatory uncertainty, despite the achievement of reasonable energy savings levels. Maine continues to lead the nation in deployment of clean, efficient electric heat pumps, thanks in part to leadership from Efficiency Maine, the independent administrator of the state’s efficiency programs. The three-year energy efficiency plan currently under review is an opportunity to secure steady, long-term commitments that expand energy efficiency access and savings for Maine homes and businesses and improve economic security.

Despite implementing the first year of the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) in 2018, New Hampshire maintained the same relatively low rank as last year, primarily because spending on energy efficiency has not fully ramped up. The EERS puts New Hampshire on a path to reducing energy waste, and the state should progress in future rankings as it pursues more efficiency.

The 2018 Scorecard did recognize New Hampshire’s efforts to target significant energy efficiency funding to low-income communities.

The Scorecard is available at: https://aceee.org/state-policy/scorecard


Media Contacts:

Erika Niedowski, RI Director and Coordinator, Energy Efficiency Initiative
eniedowski@acadiacenter.org, 401.276.0600 ext. 401

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

Settlement Puts Rhode Island in a Leading Role on Utility Reform

PROVIDENCE — Acadia Center applauds the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) approval today of an amended comprehensive settlement in National Grid’s distribution rate case and Power Sector Transformation proceeding. The PUC’s order represents the first steps toward utility business model reforms and power sector transformation activities that will further Rhode Island’s ability to achieve a clean energy future.

“Approval of the revised National Grid settlement will greatly benefit ratepayers and the state by putting Rhode Island firmly on a path toward expanding local clean energy resources and bolstering energy system reliability,” said Daniel Sosland, Acadia Center President. “Rhode Island has jumped into a leadership role among New England states seeking to reform utility regulations. Embracing the changes needed to modernize the energy system will deliver large economic, public health, consumer and environmental benefits to all Rhode Islanders.”

The agreement lowers National Grid’s return on equity and reduces the utility’s original base rate proposal by over $40 million. The agreement also provides more meaningful bill relief for low-income customers, up to a maximum discount of 30% for some qualifying customers. Importantly, the agreement also approves initial investments in a modern grid, electric vehicle charging, and energy storage as well as a study of Advanced Metering Functionality (AMF) and further grid modernization investment.

“Acadia Center commends the Public Utilities Commission, Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, National Grid, the Office of Energy Resources and other intervenors for the commitment and collaboration throughout this process,” said Erika Niedowski, Rhode Island Director for Acadia Center. “We look forward to working with our colleagues through the newly established Power Sector Transformation Advisory Group to advance further reforms including new utility performance mechanisms, grid flexibility and resiliency, and expansion of clean energy resources that benefit customers.”

Acadia Center engaged in every stage of Rhode Island’s Power Sector Transformation stakeholder process and provided expert testimony to the PUC on a variety of components in today’s settlement. Acadia Center has long recommended the types of reforms included in the settlement through reports and materials such as UtilityVision.

“Rhode Island is now leading the way in New England utility business model reforms,” said Mark LeBel, staff attorney at Acadia Center. “In the future, Rhode Island must do even more to shift investments away from expensive capacity building projects that primarily benefit the utility and toward projects that benefit the customer by maximizing energy efficiency, expanding distributed energy resources, and bolstering system reliability.”

Acadia Center will release a more detailed summary of the approved settlement in the coming days.


Media Contacts:

Erika Niedowski, Policy Advocate, Rhode Island Office
eniedowski@acadiacenter.org, 401-276-0600 x401

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