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Power over solar: R.I. seeks to strike a development balance

Among the other efforts are new incentives released last month by the Office of Energy Resources that include increasing funding for solar projects on former industrial sites, raising the cap in a key state renewable energy program for rooftop solar, and creating a class in the same program for solar carports installed in parking lots.

Nearly everyone involved in the issue agrees that changes need to be made.

“There absolutely is an urgency, and I think that it would be great if we had all of the solutions immediately,” said Erika Niedowski, policy advocate for the Acadia Center, an environmental group. “But I think we have made progress and we are set up to make continued progress.”

Read the full article from the Providence Journal here.

Op-Ed: Climate policy could boost R.I. transportation

While the millions of dollars in VW settlement money is a promising start, building a clean, modern, resilient and equitable network of transportation options will take much larger – and longer-term – investments. A number of policies could provide funds and market signals to accelerate and guide transportation investments; one such policy would be a regional cap-and-invest program. In Rhode Island and regionally, a cap-and-invest policy can reduce emissions while raising revenue for local reinvestment in transportation improvements to better serve residents and businesses.

Read the full article from Providence Business 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

Massachusetts and Rhode Island Select Offshore Wind Projects Totaling 1200 MW

BOSTON – Today, Massachusetts utilities, in coordination with the MA Department of Energy Resources, selected Vineyard Wind’s offshore wind proposal and will begin contract negotiations. Simultaneously, Rhode Island selected one of the other two bidders in the competitive selection process, Deepwater Wind, to build a new wind farm for the state. The decision moves large-scale offshore wind one step closer to construction in the Northeast, and it expands Rhode Island’s offshore wind capacity by more than ten times. Vineyard Wind’s winning project in Massachusetts will provide 800 MW of electricity to the state—enough to power about 440,000 homes—with the first phase coming online as early as 2021. The Deepwater Wind project will provide 400 MW of electricity, powering about 225,000 homes.

“Acadia Center congratulates Massachusetts and Rhode Island for taking these crucial steps that cement them as leaders on offshore wind,” said Deborah Donovan, Acadia Center’s Massachusetts Director. “Massachusetts is now leading the region and the country in offshore wind development and is making strides to fulfill its promise to clean energy. The Commonwealth is locking in its position as the offshore wind hub for the Northeast, and both states will reap early economic benefits from their commitment to this clean energy technology.”

In addition to providing clean energy, the Vineyard Wind proposal contains several provisions to boost the Massachusetts economy, including use of the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal and $15 million of investment in a Massachusetts Offshore Wind Accelerator Program. Vineyard Wind expects the project to generate about 3,600 jobs. The proposal also includes innovative community partnerships, support for low-income ratepayers and a demonstration of battery energy storage benefits. Acadia Center urges the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to advance the process to secure these benefits by submitting negotiated contracts to the Department of Public Utilities for approval on schedule, by July 31, 2018.

Rhode Island’s selection of Deepwater Wind’s Revolution Wind project will also create hundreds of local and indirect jobs. Erika Niedowski, Acadia Center Policy Advocate in Rhode Island, said of the project, “With the Block Island wind farm, Rhode Island became the first state in the nation to produce electricity through offshore wind. Today’s announcement shows the state’s commitment to making clean energy generation available to all residents while spurring the economy and reducing climate pollution.”

“Massachusetts and Rhode Island are setting the example for how the Northeast states can commit to and follow through on large-scale offshore wind developments,” said Emily Lewis, policy analyst at Acadia Center. “Today’s announcement should inspire all the Northeast states to set their own offshore wind commitments, and states with existing processes should keep things moving forward. We hope to hear from Connecticut on their RFP in June as planned, for example.”

Following Massachusetts’ announcement that it would bring 1600 MW of offshore wind to the state by 2027, New York committed to 2400 MW by 2030 and New Jersey to 3500 MW by 2030. Currently, as part of its commitment, New York is soliciting input to inform an upcoming request for proposals. Connecticut is currently evaluating three offshore wind proposals for up to 200 MW. Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 suggests that New England and New York should develop 6400 MW of offshore wind by 2030 to stay on track to meet their emissions reduction targets.


Media Contacts:

Deborah Donovan, Massachusetts Director
ddonovan@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x103

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

RI Biomass Bill Sparks Debate Between Environmentalists, Green Energy Developers

Rhode Island lawmakers want biomass to be a part of that program, but environmentalists are against the idea.

“Burning biomass produces carbon dioxide, of course, and a host of other pollutants, including particulate matter and nitrous oxide,” Erika Niedowski, policy advocate for Acadia Center, said.

Read or listen to the full report from Rhode Island Public Radio here.

Our Turn: Erika Niedowski and Meg Kerr: Addressing rural concerns about clean energy development

Renewable energy siting challenges are not unique to Rhode Island, but they are particularly pronounced given the state’s small size and high population density. Rhode Island has made ambitious commitments to clean energy deployment and carbon emissions reductions, including 45 percent reductions by 2035 and 80 percent by 2050.

As the state progresses towards its renewable energy goals, pressures are increasing to develop land with solar or wind resources, causing concern in some communities, especially rural ones. With smart local siting policies, both “green” goals of clean energy and land conservation can be achieved: Rhode Island communities can enjoy both the benefits of renewables and be good stewards of our landscapes and habitats.

The Renewable Energy Siting Stakeholder Committee is discussing ways to prioritize the siting of renewable energy in places that minimize environmental impacts, including rooftops and previously altered environments like landfills. Unlike Massachusetts, Rhode Island does not have policies that specifically encourage siting in such places.

Read the full article from the Providence Journal here.

Rhode Island Issues Blueprint for Developing Modern, Consumer-Friendly Grid

PROVIDENCE—Acadia Center applauds the state of Rhode Island for its blueprint to create a modern electric grid that is cleaner, more efficient and more reliable. The Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, the Office of Energy Resources, and the Public Utilities Commission initiated the Power Sector Transformation Initiative in March 2017 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. “To achieve that future, states need to reform outdated rules that govern the energy system. With the release of the Power Sector Transformation Phase One report, Rhode Island is embracing that future and has taken a leadership position regionally and nationally.”

The Power Transformation Initiative’s goals are to control long-term electric system costs, to give customers more energy choices, and to build a flexible grid that incorporates more clean energy resources. The agencies jointly released the Rhode Island Power Sector Transformation Phase One report, with accompanying recommendations, earlier this month. Today, National Grid will file a new rate case at the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission, which is the first opportunity to implement these proposed reforms.

“The Power Sector Transformation Initiative has laid out an ambitious path forward to benefit Rhode Island residents, businesses, communities and the environment,” said Erika Niedowski, policy advocate in Acadia Center’s Providence office. “Acadia Center would like to thank the agencies for running a thorough stakeholder process, which has led to a thoughtful and innovative set of recommendations. Acadia Center also looks forward to reviewing National Grid’s soon-to-be filed rate case proposal for its consistency with the recommendations from Power Sector Transformation.”

Acadia Center, which participated extensively in the Power Sector Transformation’s seven-month public stakeholder process, has long advocated for states to embrace these reforms through materials such as UtilityVision and supports the key reforms recommended in the report:

“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.”

“Acadia Center looks forward to the implementation phase of the Power Sector Transformation Initiative and finding the best path forward on cutting edge issues,” said Mark LeBel, staff attorney at Acadia Center. “Rhode Island should work with New York and Massachusetts to lower the cost to Rhode Island ratepayers of back office investments that can be shared across jurisdictions and define a reasonable role for the utility to advance electric vehicle charging.”

See the report at: http://www.ripuc.org/utilityinfo/electric/PST%20Report_Nov_8.pdf


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

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

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

Joint release with People’s Power & Light

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Media Contacts:

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

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

$12.5 million plunder of Energy Efficiency Fund threatens to hurt consumers and economy says environmental groups

The proposed 2018 RI State Budget will “raid $12.5 million from ratepayer-funded, cost-effective energy efficiency programs” says nonprofit organizations Acadia Center and People’s Power & Light (PP&L) setting a “dangerous precedent.”

In a press release the two groups “emphasize that these are not state funds, they are rate-payer funds collected specifically to bring much-needed energy savings to all Rhode Islanders. Diverting the funds from the efficiency programs will cost Rhode Island ratepayers more money.”

[…]

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

Acadia Center is a non-profit, research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. People’s Power & Light’s mission is to make energy more affordable and environmentally sustainable in New England.

Read the full story from RIFuture.org here.

Environmental Advocates Regroup After House Diverts Energy Efficiency Funds

Dozens of environmental groups, including the Acadia Center, signed a letter that was sent to state lawmakers Wednesday expressing their concerns about the scoop of energy efficiency funding, which is about 10 percent of the total funds collected for the programs.

Niedowski said the funds for Rhode Island’s energy efficiency programs are collected from electricity ratepayers. She said the state needs to keep using that money for its intended purpose.

“If you divert those ratepayers’ funds to another purpose, that essentially amounts to an energy tax because this money is collected from ratepayers and then would be transferred and used for other purposes,” Niedowski said.

Niedowski said Rhode Island has been a leader in energy efficiency, but that could change if funding for those programs is cut.

“The less energy efficiency we do here in Rhode Island will make it more difficult and (maybe even impossible) to reach our climate goals in the state,” Niedowski said.

Read and listen to the full story from Rhode Island Public Radio here.