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Regulator cuts Eversource rate request by more than half to $124.7M

PURA approved a fixed customer charge of $9.50, down from $19.25, which adheres to a law passed by state lawmakers in 2015.

High fixed charges burden seniors and low-income customers and reduce customers’ incentives to conserve electricity, Acadia said.

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

Read the full article from Hartford Business here.

Eversource Customers To See Rates Rise Under PURA Decision

PURA’s decision also lowers the fixed fee Eversource customers are charged, regardless of how much electricity they use, from $19.25 to under $9.50 a month.

Katz said that reduction will primarily benefit lower-income Eversource customers and consumers that significantly reduce their electricity use. She said most residential consumers will see their overall Eversource bills rise by that $5.40 per month.

“By enacting this significant reduction, Connecticut brings the state’s residential customer charges down to levels that are comparable with national best practices and recognizes that high fixed charges run counter to consumer interests and a clean energy future,” said Mark LeBel, staff attorney for the activist group Acadia Center.

The 50 percent cut in fixed charges was mandated under legislation passed by the 2015 General Assembly to limit residential customer charges.

Read the full article from the Hartford Courant here.

Victory for Consumers and Clean Energy in Connecticut Electric Rate Case

Approved Settlement Significantly Reduces Eversource Residential Customer Charges

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

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

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

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

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


Media Contacts:

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

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

Central Hudson Agrees to Reduce Its Residential Customer Charge, Benefiting Consumers and Clean Energy

NEW YORK — On April 18, Central Hudson Gas and Electric proposed a settlement in its ongoing rate proceeding, in which it agrees to reduce its current electric and gas residential customer charge from $24 to $19.50 over three years. Central Hudson’s customer charge reduction makes it the first New York utility to reduce its customer charge in more than a decade.

Jen Metzger, Director of Citizens for Local Power, said: “Central Hudson’s historically high fixed charges have been a burden on many seniors and low- and moderate-income households, which tend use less energy. We welcome this important step in the right direction to alleviate this burden and make rates fairer by tying them more closely to how much energy customers actually use.”

Cullen Howe, Acadia Center’s New York Director, said: “Central Hudson’s agreement to reduce these regressive fees will benefit the majority of its residential customers. As the state looks to ramp up its efforts on energy efficiency and clean energy, Acadia Center believes it is crucial that New York utilities and regulators provide the right incentives to invest in these resources. Though Central Hudson’s fixed charge is still high and must continue to be lowered, other utilities should follow its example and begin reducing their customer charges as well.”

Also referred to as basic service or fixed charges, customer charges are flat fees that every customer pays, regardless of the amount of electricity or gas used. Across the country, fixed charges for residential electric customers typically range from $5 to $10 a month, but in some states — notably New York — these charges are significantly higher. Central Hudson’s current customer charges are the highest in New York and among the highest in the nation.

High electric customer charges disproportionately burden low-income customers, who typically use less electricity than average and generally benefit from lower customer charges. They also conflict with New York’s goals for a clean, modern, consumer-friendly electric system by removing any incentive for customers to lower their electricity bills through conservation, investment in energy efficiency, or renewable energy technologies like solar power.

While these reductions are an important step, other New York utilities have continued to maintain, or seek increases to, these charges. On March 15, for example, the Public Service Commission approved a decision allowing National Grid to maintain its existing monthly customer charge at $17, and Orange & Rockland County Utilities recently filed a rate proceeding seeking to increase its current $20 customer charge to $22. The New York Customer Charge coalition has set up a web site at www.lowerfixedcharges.org to continue advocating for lowering these charges and providing rate relief to low-income and low-usage New York energy consumers.

Jessica Azulay, Program Director at Alliance for a Green Economy, said: “We hope the Central Hudson agreement is the first step in a process to reduce fixed charges for all utilities across New York State. New York has set ambitious energy affordability and climate goals. Reduction in fixed charges is a major tool that utility regulators can and should use to accomplish both of those goals. We urge the Public Service Commission to use this tool aggressively to ease energy burdens for residential customers and incentivize conservation, energy efficiency, and investments in distributed renewable energy.”

Richard Berkley, Executive Director of the Public Utility Law Project of New York, said: “We are grateful to Central Hudson for taking the lead in beginning what will hopefully be a statewide reduction of New York’s extremely high customer charges. In a state where approximately half of residential energy consumers have trouble paying their utility and other vital bills such as food, medicine, mortgages or rent, taking concrete steps toward greater affordability by reducing these regressive charges is something we can all support, and we are equally grateful to our coalition partners and to the Department of Public Service for its assistance in bringing about the first reductions of these charges.”

“Fixed customer charges in New York are too high and are bad policy. This settlement marks an important step toward reducing the harmful effects that these charges have on customers, and in aligning rates with the New York vision for electricity markets,” said Karl R. Rábago, executive director for the Pace Energy and Climate Center and a former utility regulatory commissioner. “We are pleased that our years of work in rate cases in New York against these unfair utility charges is bearing fruit.”

Jonathan Bix, Executive Director of Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, said, “This nearly 20% reduction in Central Hudson’s fixed charge will increase affordability and decrease shutoffs for low-income customers. Although this reduction is a critical victory, Central Hudson and other utilities must continue to lower their regressive fixed charges, including Orange & Rockland Utilities through their current rate proceeding.”


Media Contacts:

Cullen Howe, Senior Attorney & NY Director
chowe@acadiacenter.org, 212-256-1535 x501

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

For Fairer Electric Bills, Lower Fixed Charges

Residential electricity rates are typically comprised of two basic parts — a volumetric charge based on energy used and a monthly fixed charge, which is typically referred to as a customer charge. Customer charges are flat fees that every customer pays, regardless of the amount of electricity or gas used. Because utilities have a fixed revenue requirement, higher customer charges lead to lower volumetric charges, and vice versa.

Over the past several years, utilities across the country have pushed for higher customer charges, in part because they provide a guaranteed revenue stream. Acadia Center has developed materials showing that fixed charges for residential electric customers in most states typically range from $5 to $10 a month, but are much higher in New York, averaging close to $18. Central Hudson Gas and Electric’s current customer charge of $24 is the highest in New York and among the highest in the nation.

Why lower customer charges?

High customer charges don’t align with state goals

Importantly, high customer charges reduce the incentive for investment in energy efficiency. This is problematic as New York seeks to ramp up its efforts to improve statewide energy efficiency by announcing a plan to set a 2025 energy efficiency target by Earth Day. As Acadia Center has pointed out in its recently released EnergyVision 2030 Progress Report for New York, New York’s electric energy efficiency annual savings level is only 0.5%, compared to savings levels of 3.24% in leading states such as Massachusetts. As New York seeks to establish ambitious energy efficiency targets, it needs to set the right incentives to invest in these resources by ensuring that utilities reduce these charges.

Working toward rate relief

Things may be starting to change. On April 18, thanks in part to Acadia Center’s advocacy, Central Hudson Gas and Electric agreed to reduce its current electric and gas residential customer charge to $19.50 over three years in its ongoing rate proceeding, becoming the first New York utility to reduce its customer charge in more than a decade.

Acadia Center has set up a website with several other organizations at www.lowerfixedcharges.org to continue advocating for lowering customer charges to levels that provide rate relief to New York energy consumers and set New York on a path to meet its clean energy and energy efficiency goals.

Consumer and environmental advocates release statements opposing National Grid settlement proposal

After months of negotiations, a Joint Proposal was filed Friday, January 19, in the National Grid rate case, representing the settlement position of some parties in the case. The new proposed increases are as follows:

Under the agreement, the fixed charge for electricity would remain at $17.00 per month. The fixed customer charge is the portion of the bill that does not change, no matter how much electricity the customer uses. For more information see: www.lowerfixedcharges.org.

The Joint Proposal will now be open for public comment and consideration by the Public Service Commission. In response to the filing, some parties to the case who do not support the settlement released the following statements:

Cullen Howe, Acadia Center’s New York Director, said: “Acadia Center is disappointed that the Joint Proposal filed today does not address National Grid’s high fixed charges of $17 per month for residential customers.  In contrast to its high fixed charges in New York, National Grid has a residential fixed charge of only $5 in Rhode Island and $5.50 in Massachusetts.  These high fixed charges reduce customers’ ability to lower their electricity bills by using less energy, and they are ultimately incompatible with the energy future envisioned by New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision, which anticipates wide deployment of distributed energy resources and increased energy efficiency.  By not addressing these charges, these goals are much more difficult to achieve.”

Jessica Azulay, Program Director of Alliance for a Green Economy, said: “We are disappointed that we were unable to reach an agreement with the parties in this case that would prevent a rate hike and support the State’s environmental goals. While there are some improvements made in the filed agreement as compared to National Grid’s original proposal, it does not go far enough to protect low-income households and the environment. In particular, we oppose any rate increase at a time when there is already an untenable affordability and economic crisis in Upstate New York, and we further call on the Public Service Commission to reduce the fixed charges on our bills. These fixed charges, which customers must pay regardless of how much energy they use — disproportionately hurt low-income customers by impeding their ability to control their bills through conservation, efficiency, and renewable energy participation. Finally, we oppose the provisions in the proposal that support ratepayer investments and incentives for gas expansion. The climate crisis demands that we stop investing our public money into gas infrastructure and that we support renewable-based heating options instead.”

Clarke Gocker, Director of Policy and Strategy at PUSH Buffalo, said, “Low income National Grid customers in Buffalo and Western NY struggle to afford the high cost of utility bills and want nothing more than to take control over their energy consumption, whether it’s through conserving energy, participating in no cost or cost-effective energy efficiency programs, or accessing rooftop and community solar opportunities that afford them real decision making power and actual savings. The Joint Proposal filed today with the Public Service Commission in the National Grid rate case fails to deliver the kind of direct benefits that can permanently reduce household energy burdens and create the conditions for energy democracy in marginalized communities. While settlement negotiations in the case, together with fallout from the recent federal tax cut plan, have appeared to reduce the potential rate impact for customers, any increase in utility rates is extractive and unaffordable for low income customers in our community, and for that reason PUSH Buffalo opposes the terms reached in the Joint Proposal.”

Rich Puchalski, Executive Director of Syracuse United Neighbors, said: “The Joint Proposal fails to once again look at the historic policies that have forced high electric and gas rates on low income families in Syracuse for all too long. Those living in 1, 2 and 3 family poorly insulated wood frame homes are shelling out hundreds of dollars especially in the last couple of months of below freezing temperatures.  Shutoffs will escalate. Credit will be ruined, and the poor can’t manage their way out of the bills they get from National Grid. And this is a 3-year plan! HELP.”

The public can submit comments to the Public Service Commission on the Joint Proposal at this web address: http://documents.dps.ny.gov/public/Comments/PublicComments.aspx?MatterCaseNo=17-E-0238

Comments can also be submitted through the following websites, which have samples and talking points available to aid in comment writing:
www.allianceforagreeneconomy.org/new-year
www.lowerfixedcharges.org

All documents related to the case can be found here:
http://documents.dps.ny.gov/public/MatterManagement/CaseMaster.aspx?MatterCaseNo=17-E-0238&submit=Search


Media Contacts:
Cullen Howe, Senior Attorney & New York Director
chowe@acadiacenter.org, 212-256-1535 x501

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

Clean Energy and Consumer Organizations Launch Campaign Calling for Lower Monthly Mandatory Electric Charges

NEW YORK — Acadia Center, Alliance for a Green Economy, Citizens for Local Power, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Public Utility Law Project of New York, and Vote Solar today launched a campaign to decrease one of New York’s most regressive and unfair charges for utility service: the fixed charge, an unavoidable monthly fee that all residential electric customers must pay regardless of the amount of electricity they use.

New York has very high fixed customer charges compared to other states, which can make energy unaffordable for many households and discourages investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

For example, National Grid has a residential fixed charge of $17 in New York, but only $5 in Rhode Island and $5.50 in Massachusetts. Central Hudson has even higher fixed charges at $24, which it is seeking to increase to $25, as well as add an additional tiered “service size charge” for many customers. Acadia Center found that current average residential customer charges for major investor-owned utilities are higher in New York than in all of its neighboring states.

A newly launched website, www.lowerfixedcharges.org, explains why a majority of utility customers would substantially benefit from lower fixed charges and contains original analysis and supporting information, including:

Cullen Howe, Acadia Center’s New York director, said: “Fixed charges remain a stubborn and pressing problem in New York as it looks to modernize its energy system and give customers more control over their energy bills. Most states across the country use a definition for residential fixed charges that is much narrower than New York’s approach. This new web campaign gives New Yorkers valuable information on why residential fixed charges are too high and what they can do to address this problem.”

“We see no reason why utility customers in New York should be paying fixed charges that are three times higher than those paid to the same company by customers in other states,” said Jessica Azulay, program director of Alliance for a Green Economy. “It’s high time to reduce these charges so that low-income customers, low energy users, and people who want to invest in energy efficiency and renewables are no longer overburdened with these regressive and unfair costs.”

“A key goal of the Governor’s Reforming the Energy Vision Initiative is to empower New Yorkers to manage their energy use in a way that both supports the State’s clean energy goals and also reduces their bills,” said Jen Metzger, Director of Citizens for Local Power. “Lowering utility fixed charges must be part of this reform effort because high fixed charges prevent customers from realizing the savings that they should when they use less energy or install solar panels on their homes.”

Miles Farmer, a clean energy attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said: “For New York to lead in developing utility regulation for the future, it must end its practice of high unavoidable fixed charges and instead design utility rates to encourage customers to save energy and install advanced technologies that will help them use energy even smarter.”

“New York has an energy affordability crisis, where as much as 50% or more of energy consumers chronically struggle to pay their vital bills like heat, light or medicine, due in large part to high energy prices,” said Richard Berkley, Executive Director of the Public Utility Law Project of New York. “High fixed charges worsen those affordability problems for low- and fixed-income and low-usage customers, and they disincentivize conservation. Both of those results are contrary to the State’s low-income affordability program and REV program goals. This coalition is dedicated to lowering high fixed charges to address those affordability concerns for New York’s vulnerable households, and also to help the State meet its renewable energy goals by helping consumers get ‘more green for less green.’”

Nathan Phelps, Program Manager at Vote Solar, said: “Families and business owners should be reaping the benefits of solar and wind energy, which are more affordable than ever, especially compared to traditional fuels. Instead, New Yorkers pay unnecessarily high fixed fees on their utility bill, regardless of how much electricity they use. Instead of passing on savings to customers, New York utilities are making it more expensive for them to invest in private solar, efficiency, and other clean energy technology. This brand new resource will shed light and offer solutions to New York’s high customer fee problem.”


Media Contacts:
Cullen Howe, NY Director
chowe@acadiacenter.org, 212-256-1535 x501

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

Commentary: A way New York can cut electric bills

Since 2014, New York has been pursuing ambitious reforms to its energy system. Collectively called Reforming the Energy Vision or “REV,” this process has propelled New York to a position of regional and national leadership. REV has put New York on a path to modernizing its electric grid, dramatically increasing renewable energy sources and giving consumers more control over their energy use and costs. With these cutting-edge goals, New Yorkers are right to think that the state is poised for an exciting clean energy future.

However, New York cannot hope to achieve its goals for consumers, energy efficiency, and clean energy if it doesn’t confront a stubborn problem: how to reform the outdated ways consumers pay for electricity.

One immediate opportunity is to reform the use of high fixed monthly charges collected by utilities. Also referred to as basic service charges or customer charges, these fixed charges are flat fees that every customer pays, regardless of the amount of electricity she uses. Across the country, fixed charges for residential customers typically range from $5 to $10 a month, but in some states — notably New York — these charges are significantly higher.

New York’s fixed charges are actually some of the highest in the nation. Acadia Center found that current average residential customer charges for major investor-owned utilities in New York range from $15.92 to $24 per month, higher than all neighboring states. National Grid has a residential fixed charge of $17 in New York, but only $5 in Rhode Island and $5.50 in Massachusetts. Central Hudson’s is even higher — $24, which it is seeking to increase to $25. Remarkably, New York’s fixed charges are higher than those in Wisconsin, a state that has been widely criticized for approving large fixed charge increases since 2014.

High fixed charges conflict with REV’s goals for a clean, modern, consumer-friendly electric system. They give customers less opportunity to lower their electricity bills by using less energy. This reduces the incentive to invest in energy efficiency and technologies like solar power. With less incentive to save energy, customers also tend to increase their electricity use, requiring utilities to spend more money to keep the lights on. Energy efficiency makes it easier for New York to meet its strong commitments to clean energy. When high fixed charges hinder new efficiency investments, they imperil those commitments.

High fixed charges also disproportionately burden low-income customers — directly contradicting goals for a modern, equitable energy system. Low-income consumers typically use less electricity than average, so they generally benefit from lower fixed charges. While a high fixed charge might still represent only a small fraction of a bill for higher-income consumers, these charges can represent a large portion of a low-income consumer’s bill, making energy costs proportionately greater for those on whom the burden is already greatest. New York needs electricity pricing that works to alleviate this injustice, not exacerbate it.

Connecticut, like New York, has high fixed charges, but with action from a broad coalition of consumers, labor and clean energy advocates, it has begun the process of reform. In late 2016, the residential customer charge for The United Illuminating Company, the smaller of Connecticut’s two utilities, was reduced from $17.25 to $9.67 per month. An upcoming rate case is likely to reduce the residential fixed charge of Eversource Energy, Connecticut’s larger utility.

New York should follow suit. While New York’s Public Service Commission should be commended for rejecting proposed increases in fixed charges since 2015, the PSC needs to take the next step and begin reducing utilities’ already too high fixed charges. In National Grid’s current rate case, the utility has proposed to keep its customer charge at $17. Acadia Center has filed expert testimony in that proceeding stating that a reasonable range for customer charges would be between $5.57 and $8.30.

A reduction to this range has broad and deep support. Recently, 52 organizations released joint principles in favor of reforming and lowering residential fixed charges in New York. Policymakers should take up this strong call to ease energy bill burdens for consumers and help ensure that REV’s ambitious reforms will succeed and benefit everyone.

Cullen Howe is New York state director and senior attorney at Acadia Center, a non-profit regional research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future.

This op-ed was published in the Albany Times Union here.

45 Organizations Call for New York to Lower Monthly Mandatory Electric Charges

New York, N.Y. — Today, Acadia Center, Alliance for a Green Economy, Natural Resources Defense Council, Vote Solar, and 41 other organizations joined to support a common set of principles to address one of New York’s most regressive charges for utility service: the unavoidable monthly fee that all residential customers must pay regardless of the amount of electricity consumed. “Joint Principles on Residential Fixed Charges in New York” calls on New York utility regulators to lower these inefficient and regressive rates. The 45 organizations come from many different perspectives, including low-income and consumer advocates, environmental and clean energy public interest organizations, solar advocates, and clean energy industry groups, and span national organizations as well as community organizations across New York.

“In order to achieve a cleaner, more modern and consumer friendly energy system, New York needs to reform and lower fixed charges. The current regressive approach was adopted in the 1990s and places barriers in the way of consumer adoption of modern technologies like solar and energy efficiency” said Daniel Sosland, president of Acadia Center, which has successfully advocated for lower residential fixed charges in Connecticut. “The diverse array of groups who have endorsed lowering fixed charges show that this would be a win for ratepayers, clean energy, and communities across New York.”

New York has very high fixed customer charges compared to other states. For example, National Grid has a residential fixed charge of $17 in New York, but only $5 in Rhode Island and $5.50 in Massachusetts. Central Hudson has even higher fixed charges at $24, which it is seeking to increase to $25, as well as an additional tiered “service size charge” for many customers. Acadia Center found that current average residential customer charges for major investor-owned utilities are higher in New York than all of its neighboring states. New York’s fixed charges are even higher than Wisconsin, a state that has been widely criticized for approving large fixed charge increases since 2014.

Mark LeBel, Attorney and Associate Director of Acadia Center’s Grid Modernization and Utility Reform Initiative, said: “Most states across the country use a definition for residential fixed charges that is much narrower than New York’s approach. Our testimony in the National Grid rate case demonstrated that residential fixed charges are currently far too high and that reform would benefit the majority of residential ratepayers. Large consumers would pay more, but 61% of monthly bills would go down with lower residential fixed charges.”

“We see no reason why utility customers in New York should be paying fixed charges that are three times higher than those paid to the same company by customers in other states,” said Jessica Azulay, program director of Alliance for a Green Economy. “It’s high time to reduce these charges so that low-income customers, low energy users, and people who want to invest in energy efficiency and renewables are no longer overburdened with these regressive and unfair costs.”

“High unavoidable charges on electricity bills have a disproportionate impact on lower income customers who use less energy and decrease the incentive for customers to make energy efficiency improvements or invest in clean energy through actions like participating in a community solar project or installing solar panels,” said Miles Farmer, a Clean Energy Attorney at Natural Resources Defense Council. “New York utilities should reduce fixed charges and instead focus on designing rates that empower customers.”

“Vote Solar is proud to stand with dozens of organizations working for customer rights, community health, environmental justice and clean energy progress in the call for lower fixed charges,” said Nathan Phelps, program manager of DG regulatory policy at Vote Solar. “In order for New York to succeed in its ambitious and laudable clean energy vision, it must empower families and businesses to take control of their own electric bills. Lowering fixed charges is a critical step to achieving that vision.”

Cullen Howe, Acadia Center’s New York Director, noted, “Acadia Center supports the overall vision that has been laid out by the Public Service Commission and Cuomo Administration over the last several years. Lower residential fixed charges will help enable the goals of Reforming the Energy Vision, including increased energy efficiency and vibrant markets for clean energy.”


Media Contacts:

Cullen Howe, Senior Attorney & New York Director
chowe@acadiacenter.org, 212-256-1535

Mark LeBel, Attorney & Associate Director, Grid Modernization and Utility Reform Initiative
mlebel@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x104

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

Acadia Center Strengthens New York Office and Hires New York State Director

Cullen Howe, New York Office Director

It is an exciting time for clean energy issues in New York. New York’s ongoing Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding, its goal of 50% renewable energy by 2030, and its continued participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative provide key elements for the future of the state’s energy system. Acadia Center’s recently completed report, EnergyVision 2030, shows that New York can reduce emissions 45% and be on a path to a clean energy system by the year 2030 if the state acts now to further strengthen its commitment to clean energy technologies. To facilitate the action necessary to achieve this vision for all New Yorkers, Acadia Center has taken the next step, strengthening its staffing capacity in New York and hiring a full-time staff director of its New York program.

Acadia Center has been active on selected issues in the state for several years, participating with colleague organizations in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and other energy and climate issues. New York’s REV process—one of the most comprehensive reassessments of energy policy occurring in the country—has offered opportunities for Acadia Center’s experience in energy policy, energy efficiency and climate mitigation to be applied in New York forums. Fully active in the many REV proceedings, Acadia Center has focused on energy efficiency, power grid modernization, and climate policy. In 2015, by invitation of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Acadia Center hosted a multiday meeting at the Pocantico Conference Center focusing on utility reform and grid modernization issues. Beginning in 2015, the organization helped to protect the integrity of New York’s new Clean Energy Standard by successfully arguing against counting large hydropower as a renewable resource eligible for ratepayer support. In addition, it participated in the settlement phases of Con Edison’s most recent rate case and successfully advocated for the utility to increase its investments in energy efficiency.

This past July, this work ramped up when Acadia Center hired me as Senior Attorney as its inaugural New York Director, joining Acadia Center’s New York project team of lawyers and energy policy experts. I’ve joined the team at an exciting moment for the organization and the state. I came to Acadia Center from the New York City Council, where I had been a legislative counsel and was responsible for drafting and negotiating a wide variety of legislation focused on energy efficiency, clean energy, and sustainability. Before that I was an environmental law specialist at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer’s New York City office, where I focused on federal and state environmental issues involving climate change, energy efficiency, and green buildings. My work at Acadia Center largely focuses on policies that I’ve been working on throughout my career—policies that move us toward a future fueled by clean energy and energy efficiency.

One of my first tasks has been representing Acadia Center in a rate case brought by National Grid. The utility is seeking to increase customer rates by $331 million beginning next year. Acadia Center has focused on National Grid’s high fixed customer charges, which are charges all customers pay regardless of the amount of electricity they use. In most states, fixed charges range between $5 and $10 a month for residential customers, but in some states, including New York, these charges are much higher.

Since I started in the role of director, Acadia Center has released a paper explaining the problems with high utility fixed charges, which detrimentally impact consumer incentives to invest in energy efficiency and solar power, and the organization has filed testimony in the rate case stating that a reasonable range for customer charges would be between $5.57 and $8.30. We have also focused outreach efforts on educating consumers about the issue of high fixed charges and about opportunities to make their voices heard. This work will continue as Acadia Center expands its reach in New York, advocating for sustainable solutions across the energy system.