Over the past few years, electric consumption has been declining in New England even as the population and economy have grown. This is due in large part to energy efficiency (EE) gains, which have dramatically reduced the amount of electricity consumed in the region and are projected to do so even more in the future.
Declines in peak demand
The hour of highest electricity demand in New England determines the region’s infrastructure needs. The system is built to ensure it can reliably supply electricity during that hour, which usually occurs on a hot summer weekday.
For the first time ever, ISO New England (the region’s electric grid operator) is predicting a decline in peak demand over the next ten years, mostly due to projected gains in EE and on-site solar generation. Known as the 90/10 peak summer demand forecast, this projection models electric needs during a once-in-ten-years hot weather event and serves as the basis for regional system reliability planning.
The green line represents the ISO peak demand forecast, which factors in solar and energy efficiency.
The 2018 forecast also includes improvements that help it more accurately reflect recent history. Predicted winter peaks (the highest hour of use in the winter) have shifted downward, and projected needs in 2024 are nearly 700 megawatts lower than in last year’s forecast. This is equivalent to the power produced by the retiring Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts.
Acadia Center looks forward to seeing these revised winter figures incorporated into the updated modeling of ISO’s fuel security study. The initial fuel security study asserted shortages could occur under severely stressed system conditions and sparked calls for new pipelines to carry additional natural gas into the region to fuel power plants. The new forecast should result in significant changes to those predictions.
Beneficial to ratepayers
Since the electric grid is designed and built to meet needs on the peak hour, increases in energy efficiency reduce the need for expensive new construction, which would be paid for by utility customers if built.
Crucial for the future
ISO projects that by 2020, energy efficiency will reduce demand on peak days by more than all of the region’s nuclear power plants combined can supply. By 2027, energy efficiency is projected to reduce the amount of electricity we need to generate by more than 22%.
These figures not only highlight the benefits of the region’s past and planned efficiency, but also give insight into what could be accomplished with more efficiency. Lagging states can continue to expand their efforts, and efficiency improvements could be better targeted at summer and winter peaks if avoided infrastructure costs are more accurately calculated.
BOSTON — The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a national nonpartisan organization, released its 2017 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard today, with Massachusetts holding the #1 rank for the seventh straight year, Rhode Island climbing to #3, Vermont at #4, and Connecticut at #6. Maine and New Hampshire were ranked #13 and #21, respectively.
New England states’ rankings in the category of utility and public benefit efficiency programs are even more impressive. Together, these programs represent the single largest state policy-driven impact on greenhouse gas emissions in the region. The efficiency investments driven by these programs have brought tremendous energy and bill savings to the region’s residents. They have also halted the growth of peak electric usage and its associated need for expensive new transmission projects. Rhode Island was first in this category, followed by Massachusetts, Vermont, and Connecticut. Maine was ranked twelfth, and New Hampshire sixteenth.
“Maximizing efficiency is a major step toward putting the region on the path to the clean energy future detailed in Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 report. The New England states are showing that deploying least-cost, non-polluting measures effectively reduces the need for expensive fossil fuels. The leading states are successfully using this approach to spur economic development while also benefitting the environment and consumers, who enjoy lower costs and healthier, more comfortable spaces in which to live and work,” said Dan Sosland, Acadia Center President.
Massachusetts is leading the way with a current 3-year efficiency plan (2016‑2018) that is expected to deliver $8.1 billion in economic benefits and energy savings, as well as environmental benefits equivalent to removing approximately 408,000 cars from the road. The plan sets annual savings goals (2.93% of sales for electric and 1.24% of sales for natural gas) that are the highest in the nation, yet again. In 2016, Massachusetts programs far exceeded these goals, achieving savings of 3.34% of sales for electric efficiency.
“Massachusetts holds the first-place ranking alone this year—and for an amazing seven years running—but there is still plenty of work to do to make the most of this low-cost, clean resource,” said Amy Boyd, Senior Attorney at Acadia Center. “We should applaud our success, but not rest on our laurels. We must return to the hard work that it takes to accelerate strategies to reach the homes and businesses that still need help lowering their energy costs,” Boyd said. “Making smart use of all the data that new technologies can provide will reduce costs, make processes more transparent and keep us on track to stay on top of the evolving ACEEE scoring criteria.”
Rhode Island’s Least Cost Procurement law is primarily responsible for the state’s continued leadership on energy efficiency. First implemented a decade ago and extended for another five years in 2015, the policy states that distribution companies cannot acquire new electric or natural gas supply until “all cost-effective” energy efficiency measures have been exhausted. However, recent actions by Rhode Island state government, including a diversion of $12.5 million in ratepayer funds collected for energy efficiency, will make it difficult for the state to maintain its ranking next year.
“By investing in low-cost energy efficiency instead of expensive electricity and natural gas, Rhode Island lowers energy bills and spurs economic growth,” said Erika Niedowski, Rhode Island Policy Advocate with Acadia Center. “Energy efficiency reduces the cost of doing business in Rhode Island, and when residents spend less money on energy, they have more left in their paycheck to spend locally on other things.”
A widening gap has emerged between the electric efficiency programs of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont and other states, with Vermont achieving 65% more savings than Connecticut. These three leading states have fully embraced efficiency as a resource, just like electric generation, and are choosing the lower-cost option of efficiency. The second tier of energy efficiency performers, Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire, finished the year with a mix of improved performance in some areas and need for improvement in others. Maine continues to achieve respectable savings levels and leads the nation in the deployment of clean, efficient heat pumps, despite a difficult political environment for clean energy. New Hampshire’s new Energy Efficiency Resource Standard promises to finally put that state on a path to reducing energy waste. Even with this progress, New Hampshire, as well as Connecticut and Maine, have plans to achieve only about half the electric efficiency savings that Massachusetts did in 2016.
“Connecticut dropped a spot to #6 this year, an indication that its historical commitments to energy efficiency are not enough. As other states are making big gains, Connecticut is only cutting half the energy waste it can,” said Kerry Schlichting, Connecticut Policy Advocate with Acadia Center. “Leaving these savings on the table is a loss for residents and businesses. Officials should reevaluate opportunities for future efficiency gains through increasing savings targets, addressing languishing appliance standards and tackling energy waste in state buildings.”
“It is unfortunate to see that Maine’s ranking dropped for the first time in five years, falling two spots to #13,” said Acadia Center Maine Policy Advocate Kathleen Meil. “As other states ramp up their commitment to energy efficiency, Maine’s drop demonstrates that standing still means falling behind.”
“Despite the temporary dip in savings and spending in 2016 for both the electric and natural gas programs, New Hampshire’s new Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) promises to finally put that state on a path to reducing energy waste,” said Ellen Hawes, Senior Analyst at Acadia Center.
“New England is on the right path, far ahead of some other regions, but there is still work to do to make the most of this clean resource. The states need to find better ways to weatherize older buildings, integrate new technologies, and accelerate strategies to reach all types of homes and businesses,” said Jamie Howland, Director of Acadia Center’s Energy Efficiency and Demand Side Initiative.
As a member of efficiency stakeholder boards in multiple states, Acadia Center looks forward to working with fellow members, utilities and other stakeholders to make sure that the plans are implemented effectively to deliver cost savings through lower utility bills, emissions reductions, and clean energy job growth, in addition to broader economic benefits.
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
Jamie Howland, director of the Climate and Energy Analysis Center at the Acadia Center, an advocacy organization, said this is all still a work in progress. “It is going to take some time to know how well it’s working.”
Meanwhile, he worries about what New York hasn’t done to prime the economy. “New York has to import all its fossil fuels, so for every dollar spent on energy efficiency, the economy grows by five dollars. And New York can clearly do more on energy efficiency. It is lagging states like Massachusetts and Rhode Island.”
Read the full article from InsideClimate News here.
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.org. 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.
To request an interview, contact Krysia Wazny at 617-742-0054 x107 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visuals related to the study can be accessed here.