Maine is at a crossroads in its climate and energy future. For the state to move forward and embrace a consumer-friendly, low-polluting clean energy future, its biggest utility, Central Maine Power (CMP), must dramatically change the way it does business and do much more to support consumer and community access to solar, wind, building weatherization, and clean technologies like electric vehicles and heat pumps. Up to this point, CMP has frequently blocked these measures. It is time for CMP to change.
As a whole, Maine has struggled to make progress toward a clean energy future, falling behind its New England neighbors despite strong calls from Mainers and their communities for more clean solutions. Governor Mills understands the threats climate change poses to Maine’s economy and way of life. She has committed the state to the Paris Climate Accords among other steps. But for her attempts to gain ground, the state’s utility companies must also reform and stop putting roadblocks in the path to progress.
For instance, Maine prevents its communities from adopting advanced building energy codes. Maine bars community choice aggregation and has consistently blocked efforts to more fairly compensate solar customers for the power they create. CMP must align its investments and rates with consumer interests so that they have access to clean energy options like rooftop and community solar.
CMP’s request for a certificate from the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for a proposed power line to transmit hydroelectricity from Canada to New England has raised a host of issues directly tied to core Maine concerns: the urgent need to reduce climate pollution from energy generation; reforming the role of the state’s utilities, particularly Central Maine Power; and whether the intrusion of this project in the Maine forest is appropriate.
Acadia Center is involved in issues surrounding the project because of the importance of these issues to Maine’s energy, economic, and consumer future. In the PUC proceeding, Acadia Center has joined with other parties to recommend that if the PUC issue a certificate for the project, it should impose a set of commitments on CMP to support clean energy and consumer access to new technologies. These conditions would require CMP to:
Provide measurable benefits to Maine ratepayers and affected communities.
Support Maine’s efforts to expand its clean energy economy.
Increase access for Maine residents to clean transportation and clean distributed energy resources such as solar.
Make CMP’s planning and decision-making more transparent to expand opportunities for alternative investments in solar, storage, and efficiency.
Support a study examining pathways to achieve regional decarbonization goals.
Outside of the issues before the PUC, a review of whether the land use and siting impacts of the project are tolerable is pending at the Department of Environmental Protection. Acadia Center looks to the efforts underway by organizations engaged in the Department of Environmental Protection permit review process to determine if the impacts to Maine’s forests and natural landscape are acceptable. Acadia Center does not believe this project should proceed unless there is satisfactory resolution of the land use issues, in addition to consumer benefits, and the need by the state’s largest utility to work in concert with clean energy and climate values.
In addition, the energy companies involved—CMP, Avangrid, and Hydro-Quebec—must change in their willingness to provide transparent information, to allow the public to determine that the regional climate benefits of the project are real and will bear out over time.
Conditioning the PUC certificate with added requirements on CMP is only the beginning of the changes in direction CMP must undertake. The company cannot cite the climate benefits of this proposal while also blocking clean energy options for Maine consumers and communities. In order to decide if the project is good for Maine, the Northeast, and the global climate, the public needs to know more.
Acadia Center’s statements on the line and the proposed settlement filed with the PUC are available here.
Acadia Center continues to push for more climate, clean energy and consumer benefits
ROCKPORT, ME – Parties in a proceeding reviewing whether the Maine PUC should issue a certificate for Central Maine Power’s proposed hydropower line through Maine have entered into a settlement that requires significant consumer and clean energy commitments. Acadia Center engaged in the settlement negotiations as a means to seek increased cooperation from CMP in transitioning to a clean energy future. The settlement provisions submitted to the Maine PUC today incorporate conditions that Acadia Center and Conservation Law Foundation sought directly from CMP under a Memorandum of Understanding. The MOU provisions are necessary to advance climate and clean energy efforts in Maine, amplify benefits for the state, and address changes needed at CMP.
“The greatest threat to Maine’s forest and traditions like fisheries and winter recreation is a warming climate,” noted Acadia Center president, Daniel Sosland. “Maine’s utilities must realign their management practices to support a rapid shift from fossil fuels like oil and natural gas to sources that produce less climate pollution, such as solar, wind and many kinds of hydropower. It is past time for CMP to embrace clean energy and climate efforts, not obstruct them. The provisions in this settlement begin to take steps in that direction.”
The settlement will deliver consumer and community benefits to Mainers ranging from energy efficiency for low-income households, general rate relief, expansion of broadband infrastructure, and support for impacted host communities. Under the provisions of the Memorandum of Understanding, CMP will begin to adopt more clean energy, resilience and other consumer-friendly and clean transportation measures for Maine. The proposed settlement only applies to the PUC-issued certificate and will be subject to further review. Issues addressing critical siting and land use impacts are being addressed in separate proceedings at the DEP.
Acadia Center believes that the project proponents must avoid, minimize or mitigate land use impacts and ensure clear, transparent accounting to verify regional climate benefits. Further, Acadia Center believes that CMP, Avangrid and its parent company Iberdrola must build on the commitments in the MOU and the settlement and move away from prior positions such as blocking expansion of solar and other clean energy technologies that will benefit Maine’s communities, homes and businesses.
“As the legislative session draws to an end, state lawmakers are considering bills that would increase the annual growth rate of the Massachusetts Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). As these proposals move ahead, it is important that decision-makers not be deterred by unsubstantiated claims made by opponents that an RPS increase is incompatible with procurements of hydroelectricity required by statute (Section 83D) or will undermine compliance with the state’s Clean Energy Standard (CES). This argument against an increase is a red herring based on a mischaracterization of the relationship between clean energy policies designed to fulfill different, but complementary objectives.”
Read the full article from CommonWealth Magazine here.
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.org.
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.org.
1 Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning (LEAP) system from Stockholm Environment Institute 2 45% emissions reduction from 1990 levels
Peter Shattuck, the Massachusetts director of the Acadia Center, an environmental advocacy group, said the RFP should be changed. “As written, the RFP would favor large hydro over the wind and solar that we need to diversify the energy mix, drive in-region economic development, and achieve renewable power requirements,” he said.
Read the full article from Commonwealth Magazine here.