An EnergyVision for Puerto Rico
When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20, it plunged the island into a devastating power outage. This NOAA satellite photo shows visible lights in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands before the storm (July 24) and after (October 13). It took two months to restore more than half of normal peak load electricity, as of early-December, almost a third of households are still in the dark.
In May, Acadia Center released EnergyVision 2030: Transitioning to a Low-Emissions Energy System, a comprehensive analysis that demonstrates how seven Northeast states can spur use of market-ready technologies that empower consumers, control energy costs, and advance economic growth while lowering carbon pollution. EnergyVision 2030 presents a practical path to a clean energy future where electricity produced by solar, wind, and other renewable technologies powers our cars and provides efficient heating; where residents and businesses anchor an integrated grid, with power flowing between consumers and among smart appliances and batteries, within energy efficient buildings; and where community energy provides equitable access to renters, low-income ratepayers, and those who cannot site clean energy at their own homes. EnergyVision 2030 is ambitious, optimistic, and achievable.
In September, Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico, leaving 3.4 million people without power, clean water, food, or cell phone service. Almost three months later, a third of the island is still in the dark. While officials warn that it will take many more months and many billions of dollars to repair the island’s electricity transmission and distribution system and restore some sort of normalcy, creative thinkers are asking what might be possible if—instead of fast-tracking huge investments in rebuilding Puerto Rico’s troubled, traditional grid— Puerto Rico builds an affordable clean energy system of the future.
This clean energy future would be a significant departure from Puerto Rico’s pre-hurricane energy system, which depended heavily on fossil fuels and resulted in the highest retail electricity prices for American citizens outside of Hawaii. Despite including both the Caribbean’s largest solar farm and its largest wind farm, renewable energy supplied only 2.4% of Puerto Rico’s electricity in 2016. That’s far short of the 2010 Renewable Portfolio Standard (“RPS”) requiring the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (“PREPA”) to get 12% of its electricity from renewable sources starting in 2015, scaling up to 15% by 2020 and 20% by 2035. Missing the RPS target is not PREPA’s only problem. The agency’s debt tops $9 billion, its infrastructure is old and failing, and service is often unreliable. The bottom line is that Puerto Rico was ripe for grid modernization even before Hurricane Maria wiped out the grid.
Weaving strategic grid modernization into emergency response will require sensitivity, and Acadia Center’s EnergyVision lays the foundation for ambitious, achievable reforms anchored by clean energy technologies in four core areas:
Grid Modernization: Advocates on Puerto Rico and the mainland are abuzz with the potential of a modern system of microgrids. These localized grids incorporate renewable generation and battery storage to avoid the need for expensive long-distance transmission and distribution lines, and are more resilient than traditional, centralized grids. The impact of Hurricane Maria bears this out: though the storm took out 80% of transmission lines, it damaged only 10-15% of solar panels. Functioning panels weren’t able to deliver power to the now-destroyed grid, but interconnecting those panels through local microgrids would be particularly useful, especially given Puerto Rico’s terrain of forests and mountains through which it is difficult to maintain power lines. Renewable energy companies have stepped up since the hurricanes: German energy storage manufacturer Sonnen already has six microgrids up and running, with nine more installations planned in coming weeks; Tesla deployed solar and storage to restore power at San Juan’s Children’s Hospital and has announced six new battery projects on two Puerto Rican islands. Taxpayer-funded disaster relief should encourage innovations like these to lend immediate support to traumatized Puerto Ricans and to demonstrate the potential of a smart, clean, modern grid.
Electric Generation: Puerto Rico has ample renewable resources, yet last year, petroleum supplied nearly half of the island’s electricity, and natural gas supplied nearly one-third. Solar power is the fastest source of clean, renewable generation. As of June 2017, Puerto Rico had five utility-scale solar farms with 127 megawatts of capacity, and more than 8,500 customers with nearly 88 megawatts of distributed capacity connected with net metering. Expanding grid-scale and distributed renewable generation to achieve and surpass RPS targets will mitigate high fuel costs, advance energy independence, reduce emissions, and support a more resilient energy system.
Buildings: Energy efficiency and clean building-cooling and water-heating technologies have already provided cost savings and emissions reductions in Puerto Rico. The island utilized funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to weatherize more than 15,000 homes, cutting electricity use by an average of 15%, and to install more than 11,000 solar hot water heaters. As it rebuilds, Puerto Rico should maintain its requirement that all new single-family homes have solar hot water heaters, and also require minimum efficiency standards for homes, municipal, and commercial buildings.
Transportation: Hurricane Maria severely damaged Puerto Rico’s critical transportation infrastructure, including highways, bridges, traffic signals, and fuel stations. Immediate recovery efforts focused on clearing and repairing roads and reopening gas stations to facilitate relief efforts and restore local and regional bus service. Longer term efforts should recognize the potential of electric vehicles and innovations in mobility options to improve transportation efficiency and resiliency, and strive to build a robust network of electric vehicle charging stations.
EnergyVision 2030 calls for a resilient, low-emissions energy system that benefits communities every day, and especially in the face of extreme weather events and volatile global fuel markets. Acadia Center advocates in the Northeast for a consumer-friendly grid, clean distributed generation, and efficient buildings and transportation, but this can and should be pursued everywhere. Puerto Rico needs this critical help now.
Maine Grassroots Climate Change Action Conference draws activists statewide
One of the well-attended sessions was titled “Maine’s Clean Energy Future: A Vision for 2030 Fossil Fuel Free and Non-Transmission Alternatives.”
Kathleen Meil, of Acadia Center, an advocate for clean energy, said Maine is a leader in utilization of heat pumps.
“Heat pumps are paying off,“ she said.
Her presentation also emphasized that further introduction of natural gas into Maine is not an effective strategy.
“We are done with natural gas,” Meil said. “Natural gas is not the future.”
Read the full article from the Sun Journal here.
New Reports Show Electric Vehicle Market Is Taking Hold
Confidence in electric vehicles (EVs) is growing. Several recent announcements demonstrate that many industries are convinced EVs will play a major role in the future of personal vehicles. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) recently forecasted that EVs will make up about 58% of vehicle sales in the U.S. by 2040. This month, Volvo committed to producing exclusively EVs and hybrids by 2019. And even OPEC, the representative body of oil producing nations, has begun to predict a significant impact from EVs—Bloomberg Technology just reported that the oil group quintupled its 2040 EV forecast from last year.
These updated EV predictions are largely driven by rapidly declining battery costs, which in turn drive down the cost of these clean vehicles. BNEF’s forecast shows that battery prices have dropped by 73% since 2010 to about $200/kWh, and they predict this trend will continue. These estimates may even be conservative for some manufacturers, as they are based on average battery prices. Tesla announced in 2016 that they were already below the $200/kWh threshold, and they expect further cost reductions from large-scale production at their Gigafactory. With these battery cost predictions, BNEF forecasted that the cost of manufacturing EVs would match conventional vehicle costs by 2025.
EVs already have lower lifetime costs than conventional vehicles, and consumers are catching on to these benefits. In the U.S., EVs sales in the first six months of 2017 have increased about 35% compared to the same period last year. In the Northeast, which comprises about 25% of the EV market, the annual growth rate of EV sales has been about 40% since 2013. Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 highlights the current fuel cost savings and emissions benefits of EVs in the Northeast region. The lower EV purchase prices predicted from decreasing battery prices will further increase consumer savings.
New EV Sales in the U.S. and the Northeast, 2011-20161
But batteries are not the only driver of EV costs. BNEF also highlights the importance of supportive policies in the next six to eight years to maintain the momentum around EVs. Some existing policies are facing uncertainty because of actions by the Trump administration. Without them, market dynamics for EVs could change, resulting in slower cost reductions and delayed adoption. In the wake of Federal uncertainty, states should continue to act in strong support of EVs. Acadia Center’s Charging Up report—coauthored with Sierra Club and Conservation Law Foundation—outlines policies that states in the Northeast can adopt to show they are ready for and supportive of the growing EV market.
EnergyVision 2030 for Massachusetts
Massachusetts has a strong record addressing climate-changing pollution. In the early 2000s, Massachusetts was a founding partner in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state, bipartisan cooperative that has contributed to a 50% drop in power plant emissions. Passage of the Green Communities Act in 2008 led to nation-leading energy efficiency policies that reduce energy waste and save consumers billions of dollars. Last year, the Baker Administration and Legislature collaborated on landmark legislation to launch the U.S. offshore wind industry, enable further growth of onshore wind and solar power, import Canadian hydroelectricity, and place the Commonwealth at the forefront of the booming energy storage industry. Most recently, Gov. Baker committed Massachusetts to the United States Climate Alliance, a partnership of 13 states honoring the tenets of the Paris Agreement.
The Commonwealth must follow through on policies and commitments to achieve a 25% reduction in carbon pollution by 2020, which is legally mandated under the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). The GWSA additionally requires an 80% reduction by 2050, which will require the replacement of virtually all fossil fuels with clean, renewable electricity to power and heat buildings, and to ‘fuel’ electric vehicles.
Acadia Center’s recently-released EnergyVision 2030 describes the technology and policy benchmarks that Massachusetts and the broader region will need to achieve over the next 13 years to stay on track for deep emissions reductions. Massachusetts is already making progress toward most of these goals, aided by declining technology costs, changes in consumer preferences, and policy leadership.
Here’s what needs to happen next:
Set Ambitious Renewable Energy Targets
The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) determines the share of renewables in Massachusetts’ (and the region’s) energy mix, and should be doubled from the current 25% requirement by 2030 to 50% or more. Renewables displace carbon pollution from fossil fuel power plants and stabilize costs, and cleaner electricity provides greater emissions savings from electric vehicles and heat pumps (more below).
Bulk Up on Clean Energy
Large-scale long-term contracts are needed to finance the up-front cost of developing clean energy projects and move energy to demand centers. Massachusetts is implementing separate procurements for 1) land-based renewables and hydroelectricity, and 2) offshore wind. Partnering with neighboring states to implement these procurements will achieve greater economies of scale, and encouragingly, Rhode Island and Connecticut have taken steps to join the solicitation issued by Massachusetts utilities to develop the region’s world-class offshore wind resource. Additionally, Massachusetts should jump-start efforts to build a renewable-ready bulk transmission grid to unlock potential for onshore wind in northern Maine and New York, and to facilitate continued development of offshore wind as more states commit to harvesting the abundant energy resource and capturing a share of the economic development that will follow.
Set Solar Free
Caps on solar net metering (the rate compensation mechanism for solar energy sent back to the grid) are stifling deployment and should be removed. 2016 legislation made changes including reducing solar incentive payments to account for lower technology costs and providing options for the Department of Public Utilities to establish payment mechanisms to support grid maintenance. Acadia Center takes issue with some of these changes, but regardless of policy details, lower incentives and assured payments for grid upkeep mean that net metering caps are no longer justified.
Put a Price on Pollution
Climate pollution imposes significant costs on society, and pricing pollution to reflect these costs will drive changes in market behavior while raising revenue to reinvest in complementary programs and/or rebate to consumers. By charging power plants for pollution permits, the successful RGGI program has helped clean up the air while raising billions of dollars for Massachusetts and other states to reinvest in energy efficiency programs. Building on this success, Massachusetts should continue leading regional partners to set ambitious targets for the program through 2030. Pollution pricing must also be expanded beyond the power sector. This can be achieved through innovative carbon pricing proposals that packed a Statehouse auditorium at a recent hearing. Regional progress on transportation emissions can simultaneously be achieved through the Transportation Climate Initiative, a multi-state collaborative to reduce transportation climate pollution through market-based policy and other means.
Get Off Gasoline
With current sources of electric generation, driving on electricity already reduces pollution, and as the share of renewable generation increases the climate benefits of electric vehicles increase in step. Massachusetts has committed to putting 300,000 EVs on the road by 2025. To achieve this target and accelerate uptake of EVs through 2030, the Commonwealth will need to ensure long term funding for consumer rebates, implement a robust public charging network, and enact discounted “off-peak” electricity rates, which will both reduce strain on the grid and lower fueling costs for EV drivers.
Modern, efficient heat pumps—a form of efficient electric heating for residential and commercial buildings—are now capable of heating buildings during the coldest New England winters, providing a substitute for natural gas and oil. Heat pumps are also more efficient than traditional air conditioners, providing year-round savings. Heat pumps are offered within MassSave energy efficiency programs and through state grants, and the benefits of this mature clean technology should be extended to more customers through targeted low-income programs, contractor education, and through inclusion in the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. Switching from oil to heat pumps does not require expensive and disruptive construction of natural gas mains, and by drawing ‘fuel’ from an increasingly clean grid, heat pumps produce significant GHG reductions.
Modernize the Grid
Massachusetts needs a modern, flexible grid that can accommodate new consumer-based resources and can rely on clean local technologies over centralized power stations and traditional utility infrastructure. Utility financial incentives set by regulators should be structured to promote innovation, consumer empowerment, and reduction in overall energy system costs. Forward-looking utility proposals for electric vehicle charging infrastructure and energy storage should be encouraged within the context of broader efforts to modernize the grid. Massachusetts’ existing Grid Modernization proceeding has produced inadequate and inconsistent utility proposals. Legislation to promote local energy investment and infrastructure modernization would ensure consistent state-wide planning for a modern grid and level the playing field for clean, local energy resources.
Avoid Unnecessary Pipelines
Putting Massachusetts and the region on the EnergyVision 2030 track would reduce demand for natural gas heating and demand for electricity from natural gas power plants such that no additional pipeline capacity would be needed. By lessening the region’s dangerous overreliance on natural gas, the Commonwealth would reduce pollution and protect consumers from risks of cost overruns, price volatility, and stranded expenditures associated with subsidized natural gas pipelines.
We have the technologies, and we know the policies needed to achieve a sustainable, low-pollution energy system. 2030 will be here before we know it, so let’s get to work.
This post was also published on CommonWealth magazine.
Massachusetts must fill void left by U.S. withdrawal from Paris Agreement (Guest viewpoint)
Op-ed by Daniel Sosland and Peter Rothstein in Mass Live.
Since President Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, business leaders, environmental organizations and public officials across the nation have expressed concern for the impact on our climate and economy. The momentum we’ve achieved in building our nation’s renewable and clean energy sector must now be picked up by forward-looking states, cities and businesses around the country. Massachusetts is in a unique position to be a leader in this effort.
Massachusetts has a long history of using policy to bolster renewable and advanced clean energy deployment and innovation. Massachusetts was one of the first states in the nation to enact a comprehensive regulatory program to address climate change with 2008’s Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). Last year, the Commonwealth built upon this leadership with the Energy Diversity Act, supporting offshore wind and other clean energy generation.
These progressive policies and investments in the state’s growing clean energy hub have paid off with strong economic results. A report from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center found that the Commonwealth’s clean energy economy currently employs more than 105,000 people at over 6,700 companies, representing $11.8 billion in investment.
We know the policy tools and technologies needed to reduce climate pollution and accelerate clean energy adoption. Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 shows that deploying a range of market-ready consumer technologies such as electric vehicles and efficient heat pumps to warm and cool buildings can deliver deep emissions reductions over the next 13 years when paired with policies to clean up the power grid.
A report from NECEC found that strengthening one of these policies – a requirement for utilities to purchase clean energy under the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) – would create thousands of jobs across the region, lower wholesale electricity prices and put us on track to meet our ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Boosting the RPS will also provide long-term market stability and position the Commonwealth to build on its strengths in innovation and advanced manufacturing to capture a significant part of the trillion-dollar global clean energy market.
Massachusetts also needs to modernize its energy grid to support the growth of renewables and empower consumers and communities to control energy usage and costs by adopting clean technologies. Customers need to be provided with information on building energy usage to inform decisions. Barriers to electric vehicles, clean heating technologies and solar energy (in the form of net metering caps) must be removed. And policies must make the benefits of these technologies accessible to all consumers, including low-income families. Pricing carbon will unleash the power of the market to reduce emissions, particularly in the transportation sector, which is now Massachusetts’ largest source of climate pollution. For new and promising technologies such as energy storage, meaningful targets must be paired with enforcement mechanisms and tax incentives to speed deployment.
Policymakers are not solely responsible for driving the clean energy economy. The private sector recognizes that renewable energy is not only good for the planet – it’s good for a company’s bottom line. Renewable energy saved Boston-area hospitals $15 million in just a four-year period – enough to pay for 1,357 of the state’s Medicare enrollees. Big energy consumers like Cambridge-based cloud computing service Akamai are choosing renewables, which will power half the company’s global network operations by 2030.
Here in Massachusetts, we’ve already shown the rest of the country and the world what we can do when city and state governments work hand-in-hand with the business community and the support of the public to pursue clean and cost-effective energy solutions. Given the diminishing support from the federal government to advance a clean energy future, we must work even harder to implement smart energy policies at the state and regional level that grow jobs, drive regional competitiveness and build on the Northeast’s reputation as a clean energy and climate leader. With the leadership void left by our federal government, this work is more important than ever.
Peter Rothstein is president of the Northeast Clean Energy Council.
Daniel Sosland is president of Acadia Center.
New Era of Natural Gas Exports Raises Concerns for Northeast
President Trump’s “Energy Week” address today is expected to express strong support for U.S. exports of natural gas, currently on the rise. For the Northeast, these exports exacerbate the risks of the region’s already-dangerous overreliance on a fossil fuel that has a history of volatile prices and will not allow the region to reach its commitments to reduce greenhouse gases.
With the arrival two weeks ago in Taiwan of a liquified natural gas (LNG) tanker ship loaded with American natural gas, June has been a month marked with milestones for the nascent export industry in the United States. Preceding this delivery by a few days were the first ever U.S. LNG shipments to Poland and the Netherlands. U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry deemed those events significant enough to warrant a statement from his office. These deliveries from a new LNG export facility in Louisiana signify a new era for the natural gas industry in this country, and residents of Northeastern states should be paying attention to these events.
This export plant, the Sabine Pass LNG Terminal, is the first of several such facilities planned to be constructed or converted from import use. When it is fully online, it will be able to liquify nearly 1,300 billion cubic feet (bcf) per year of natural gas. Five other facilities under construction in Hackberry, Louisiana, Freeport, Texas, Corpus Christie, Texas, Elba Island, Georgia, and Lusby, Maryland, will be able to liquify twice that volume. In total, these facilities will be able to liquify and export the equivalent of 15% of current U.S. natural gas consumption. Several additional projects have been approved but are not yet under construction.
Having this large a portion of U.S. natural gas consumption subject to world market prices will likely have an impact on markets at home. Such a rapid surge in demand will likely increase domestic natural gas prices. What does this mean for Northeastern states? They need to carefully scrutinize analyses of any projected benefits from natural gas conversions or new natural gas infrastructure projects in the region. The levels of promised savings may never materialize if rapidly increasing LNG exports drive up natural gas prices. The risk of these projects as proposed is almost always borne by ratepayers—the utilities or other project developers will earn their guaranteed return on investment, paid for eventually by electric or gas ratepayers, but the savings are not guaranteed.
Natural gas already stands as one of the main obstacles to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the region, and concerns have been raised that subsidized pipelines could facilitate exports from facilities in Eastern Canada that—like Sabine Pass—were first built for imports. Tying domestic prices to volatile international markets layers on more risk.
The region’s policymakers should continue to proceed cautiously before committing their ratepayers to years of payments for large fossil fuel infrastructure projects whose tenuous savings can easily be wiped out by changing market conditions. All proposed projects should be evaluated against the possibility that other available resources can meet the Northeast’s energy needs without growing the region’s overreliance on natural gas. Northeast states need to consider energy efficiency, solar and wind generation, and conversion of fossil fuel heating and transportation systems to electric-powered alternatives. Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 project shows the benefits of embracing energy sources that are indigenous to the Northeast region. With the expansion of U.S. natural gas in world markets, the economic benefits of local clean energy will likely only grow.
One Month In – Advocating for Clean Energy Policies in Connecticut
In this blog post, Acadia Center’s new Policy Advocate in Connecticut, Kerry Schlichting, shares her experience one month into her tenure at the organization.
I recently joined the Hartford team in late May, after eight years in Washington, D.C., working on energy policy issues with a national perspective, and was eager to apply my experience to challenges at both the federal and state level. As a new staff member, my experience over the past month in Connecticut’s exciting and fast-paced environment has shown me the depth and breadth of Acadia Center’s work and how much is possible in the state and regionally. With just over two weeks left in Connecticut’s legislative session, Acadia Center’s Hartford-based team made a final push for policies protecting and promoting the state’s clean energy goals while also fighting a proposal to divert funds from the state’s crucial energy efficiency programs. Meanwhile on the national stage, the decision to leave the Paris Climate Accord was announced, with lasting implications for climate and economy locally, regionally, and globally.
On just my second day, we organized a sign-on letter opposing proposed budget raids of ratepayer funds for energy efficiency and clean energy programs to send to CT officials. Over 70 signees—representing business, community, consumer, low-income, public health, environmental, and clean energy interests—came together against the harmful impacts that would flow from proposed raids on ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs. The letter opposes two budget proposals, one made by Senate Republicans that would raid ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs and another made by the Senate and House Democrats that would sweep ratepayer-derived revenues from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. These programs generate immense economic value for the state, from billions of dollars in electricity and natural gas bill savings to helping low-income families reduce the difficult burden of high energy costs, while also protecting the health and prosperity of our local communities. Budget negotiations are ongoing through the end of this month, and we continue to respond to changing proposals that threaten these important programs.
My second week saw the next major challenge as we learned of the threatened withdrawal of the Trump Administration from the Paris Climate Agreement. By pulling out of the Paris Agreement, the Trump Administration weakens our country’s position as an energy leader. This action also undermines progress being made globally, as well as at the national and state level, to address the growing harms of carbon pollution. The announcement by the White House underscores how much more important state leadership will be in advancing a clean energy future. The day of the White House’s announcement, representing Acadia Center, I spoke at U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal’s press conference to decry this shortsighted decision that risks our country’s global climate leadership and hurts our economic interests around clean energy.
Yet, this moment also offers states and regions an opportunity to aim high and lead the transition to a clean energy future. During my third week, Acadia Center joined other advocates to thank Governor Malloy for committing Connecticut to the Paris Agreement’s climate pollution goals and to pursue policies that will help achieve those goals, as well as for being a leader in the new U.S Climate Alliance, a bipartisan commitment by governors throughout the country to commit to reducing climate pollution. A recent analysis by Acadia Center, EnergyVision 2030, shows that Northeast states can be on the path to a low-carbon future by the year 2030 if they commit to and embrace clean energy technologies. With further strategic action and expanding adoption of modern, market-ready technologies, Northeast states can reduce climate pollution emissions 45% by 2030: a target needed to put the region on the path to meet scientifically directed emission reductions of 80% by 2050.
With a special legislative session called to address the state budget, Acadia Center’s Connecticut team continues to advance policies that benefit consumers and the environment. To reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions as well as to accelerate the growth of our clean energy economy, creating new jobs and state revenue, the state needs policies that support our award-winning energy efficiency programs. Additionally, we need policies that make us competitive with our neighboring states in pursing clean energy resources. This includes strengthening the state’s commitment to renewable energy procurement and encouraging electrification of the transportation sector and increased deployment of electric vehicles.
Both federal and state policies can affect the state’s clean energy economy, and it is from that perspective that I look forward to the many opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. My experiences this past month have made me look forward even more to being part of a team advancing the clean energy future through fact-based, solutions-oriented advocacy and collaboration.
EnergyVision 2030: What the numbers tell us about how to achieve a clean energy system
What impact will current efforts to expand clean energy markets in the Northeast have over time? Where can we do more to advance these markets? What specific increases in clean energy are needed to adequately reduce carbon pollution and meet targets for deep reductions in climate pollution? What does the data show about claims that more natural gas pipeline capacity is needed?
A few years ago, Acadia Center released a framework entitled EnergyVision, which shows that a clean energy future can be achieved in the Northeast by drawing on the benefits of using clean energy to heat our homes, transport us, and generate clean power. Many studies have shown that a clean energy future will improve public health, increase consumer choice, and spur economic growth by keeping consumer energy dollars in the region. States have started to move towards the future put forward in our EnergyVision framework supporting key clean energy technologies like rooftop solar, electric vehicles, and wind, and increasing investments in energy efficiency and upgrades to the grid.
But other voices have tried to slow or even block progress toward a clean energy future. Claims that the region needs more natural gas capacity continue to be made, most recently by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and states are not uniformly moving forward in all areas of clean energy development. Efforts to reform the power grid vary from state to state, and the data needed to identify what our energy system could look like in a few years and what contribution clean energy can make has not been gathered.
To fill these important information gaps and help answer these questions, Acadia Center undertook a comprehensive analysis of the Northeast’s energy system. Using a data based approach, we looked at where current state and regional efforts to expand clean energy stand and what emissions reductions and growth in markets for clean energy technologies those efforts will produce. We then examined what expansions in clean energy are needed to attain state goals to reduce climate pollution. The result is EnergyVision 2030, an analysis of the energy system that provides a clear pathway towards a clean energy future that empowers consumers in the Northeast.
EnergyVision 2030 demonstrates that the Northeast region can be on track to a clean energy system using technologies that are available now. In the last several years, clean technologies have advanced rapidly, and they offer states an unprecedented opportunity to transform the way energy is produced and used. For example:
- The nation’s first offshore wind project has recently come online in Rhode Island
- Electric heat pumps that work in the cold climates of the Northeast are now readily available
- There has been a dramatic increase in the number of electric vehicle options on the market
- Efforts to modernize our electric grid are underway in several states
- Onshore wind is now the lowest-cost electric resource in some reports
- Massachusetts and Rhode Island have redefined the levels of energy efficiency that can be consistently achieved.
And the list goes on.
To determine what growth in key clean energy technologies is needed, Acadia Center used a well-respected model1 to analyze the energy system as it might look in the year 2030 under different conditions. First, EnergyVision 2030 shows what the energy system would look like under current trends, and then if policies were put in place to expand markets for newer technologies more quickly—at rates leading states are already achieving.
With this approach, EnergyVision 2030 finds that the first generation of climate and energy policies has successfully built a foundation for progress. Energy efficiency, renewable portfolio standards, and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) have all contributed to declining emissions since the early 2000s.
To be on track to meet state targets for emissions reductions the region needs to achieve a 45% emissions reduction by 2030.2 We used this 45% reduction as a target to develop our “Primary Scenario,” which features individual targets for clean energy technologies that together would reduce emissions 45%. We also modeled what it would take to get to a 50% reduction, in our “Accelerated Scenario.”
Policy changes drive both of these scenarios, which would see lagging states catch up to leaders like Massachusetts in energy efficiency and other areas, expand and extend renewable portfolio standards as New York has recently done, and grow markets for newer clean energy technologies like electric vehicles and cold climate heat pumps. In other words, if all states did what leading states are doing in each area—if they expanded building heat pumps like Maine, electric vehicles and solar like Vermont, energy efficiency like Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and utility reform like New York—the Northeast would achieve its emissions goals.
The table below shows how much selected clean energy technologies will expand by 2030 under current trends and in the Primary and Accelerated Scenarios.
To foster these clean energy markets, states can redouble their efforts and create a second generation of clean energy policies building on their initial success. The following policy recommendations will help make this possible. A more complete list is available at 2030.acadiacenter.staging.wpengine.com.
- Extend and increase rooftop and community solar
- Expand Renewable Portfolio Standards
- Strengthen market for electric vehicles through consumer incentives and better electric rate design
- Increase the market for heat pumps through incentives and education
- End policies that promote natural gas pipeline expansion
- Modernize and optimize the energy grid
- Reform utility incentives and regulation to better align them with state policy goals
EnergyVision 2030 combines detailed data analysis and policy recommendations to provide a tool for policymakers, advocates, and other stakeholders to demonstrate both why state-level policy changes are needed and what we can do to make those changes happen, putting us on the path to a clean energy system. As with the first generation of clean energy policies, results can take significant time to accumulate, so action is needed now to ensure the region is ready to meet 2030 goals. EnergyVision 2030 gives us the targets and tools we need to begin working toward those policy changes today.
EnergyVision 2030 is available as an interactive website and in printable formats at 2030.acadiacenter.staging.wpengine.com.
EnergyVision 2030 FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions about EnergyVision 2030
What is EnergyVision 2030?
EnergyVision 2030 is a data-based analysis of options to expand clean energy resources in New York and the six New England states. It examines where current efforts can lead, how consumer adoption and market penetration rates can grow, and what increases in clean energy efforts are needed to attain emissions goals.
EnergyVision 2030 shows that advances in technologies that are now readily available, from heat pumps to electric cars to solar panels, create the means for states to advance a consumer-friendly energy system by increasing adoption in four key areas—grid modernization, electric generation, buildings, and transportation.
Why did Acadia Center prepare it?
Acadia Center prepared EnergyVision 2030 to provide a pathway for policymakers and others in the Northeast to show how market-ready clean energy technologies can modernize the energy systems, give consumers better options to control energy costs, and advance economic growth, while dramatically reducing climate pollution.
What are the key takeaways from the study?
States can achieve a modern clean energy system using available technologies, achieving a 45% emissions reduction by 2030, if policies are enacted now to foster and expand adoption of clean energy resources.
How does EnergyVision 2030 present the data?
EnergyVision 2030 uses the results from Acadia Center’s modeling to describe how much states should increase each clean energy technologies to shift the energy system. EnergyVision 2030 then offers detailed policy recommendations with policy options that states can use to achieve these results.
How can the information be used?
Information presented in EnergyVision 2030 shows the incremental gains needed in key clean energy areas for the region to achieve reductions in climate pollution and build robust clean energy economies. Advocates, stakeholders, and policymakers can use the information presented in EnergyVision 2030 to focus on where to expand current policies that will have the most impact or oppose policies that will move the region off this path. In many cases, states already have the policy tools they need to increase adoption of these technologies; they must simply improve and accelerate existing mechanisms to achieve the goals set in EnergyVision 2030.
What was the methodology?
EnergyVision 2030 uses the Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning System (LEAP) model from Stockholm Environment Institute to project a detailed forecast of energy consumption in all sectors and an emissions trajectory. Acadia Center incorporated the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) forecast, the ISO New England and New York ISO electric ’s Capacity, Energy, Loads, and Transmission (CELT) forecasts, and other data sources as appropriate. The LEAP model contains an electric dispatch model to simulate the electric system, determine the generation mix and ensure that there are sufficient resources to satisfy peak demand for power in summer and winter.
Why a 45% emissions reduction?
The scientific consensus is that to avoid the worst impacts of global warming, the U.S. needs to reduce emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. States must reduce emissions 45% by 2030 to be on a trajectory to meet that goal, i.e. if a straight line were drawn from the present emission levels to the required 2050 levels, the region would hit a 45% reduction in 2030.
Most states in the region have committed to reduce emissions 80% by the year 2050 in some form, and several have goals for emissions reductions in the interim period. Building markets takes time and has cumulative impacts, so acting now is critical. 2030 is closer than it seems but offers states sufficient time to reach the clean energy levels outlined in EnergyVision 2030 if they take action in the next two to three years.
What does EnergyVision 2030 tell us about the economy?
In developing EnergyVision 2030, Acadia Center did not model how increases in clean energy technologies and processes will impact local economies. Numerous studies, including some by Acadia Center, show the economic benefits of shifting from paying for imported fossil fuels to investing in local clean energy improvements like those presented in EnergyVision 2030. These benefits include stronger local economies, local job growth, and significant consumer savings.
Does EnergyVision 2030 address calls for more natural gas as a “bridge fuel”?
EnergyVision 2030 analysis shows that the current and planned pipeline capacity in New England will be sufficient to meet the region’s needs as expanding clean generation and energy efficiency reduce demand. Adding new pipeline capacity to the region would cost ratepayers billions of dollars and would lock the region into higher-emission gas generation for decades.
New Analysis Shows New England and New York Can Achieve a Clean Energy Economy and Dramatically Reduce Carbon Pollution
Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 Details How States Can Build on Clean Energy Efforts in Four Key Areas
BOSTON—In a new comprehensive analysis, Acadia Center—a non-profit, research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future—demonstrates how seven states in the Northeast can spur use of market-ready technologies that empower consumers, control energy costs and advance economic growth while lowering carbon pollution.
Using detailed market data, EnergyVision 2030: Transitioning to a Low-Emissions Energy System shows that efforts by New York and New England to modernize their energy systems and expand clean energy resources are paying off—and by redoubling these efforts, Northeast states will be on the path to a low-carbon economic future and reduce carbon pollution emissions 45% by 2030.
“It’s never been clearer that state leadership is needed to capture the benefits of a clean energy future for residents,” noted Daniel Sosland, president of Acadia Center. “EnergyVision 2030 offers good news: Northeast states are in a position to create a truly modern, clean energy future and provide the economic, consumer and public health benefits associated with a clean energy system,” said Sosland. “The Northeast can exert national leadership in how to reduce pollution, advance consumer options and reinvest energy dollars in the local economy.”
EnergyVision 2030 shows that readily available products, from heat pumps to electric cars to solar panels, create the means for states to advance a consumer-friendly energy system by increasing adoption of clean energy technologies in four key areas—grid modernization, electric generation, buildings and transportation. In many cases, states already have the policy tools they need to increase adoption of these technologies; they must simply improve and accelerate existing mechanisms to achieve the goals set in EnergyVision 2030.
“EnergyVision 2030 presents a practical, “can-do” way forward. It is one of many paths states can choose to take, and provides a vision that states can follow with achievable changes in policy and regulation to secure their place as clean energy leaders,” said Jamie Howland, Director of Acadia’s Climate and Energy Analysis (CLEAN) Center.
EnergyVision 2030 describes exactly how much of each technology needs to be used to shift the energy system. States can support development of renewables by updating their renewable energy requirements to reflect the increased potential and competitive position of clean energy. For example, electric vehicles can grow from present levels to 17% of cars on the road, an average of 41% growth per year—a level certain states are already demonstrating is feasible, like Massachusetts, where electric vehicle sales grew 40% annually from 2014 to 2016.
EnergyVision 2030 can be viewed as an interactive website and in printable formats covering each key area of the energy system and focusing on goals for New York and New England separately and as a region. Access the website at 2030.acadiacenter.staging.wpengine.com. Acadia Center will hold a 15-minute press briefing today, May 9, at 11am in which we will present a summary of the report and give additional time to respond to questions. To sign up for the press briefing click here.
Jamie Howland, Director, Acadia’s Climate and Energy Analysis (CLEAN) Center
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Krysia Wazny, Communications Director
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