Kathleen Meil, Maine policy advocate for the nonprofit Acadia Center, which focuses on clean-energy issues, called the transportation sector’s contribution to the challenge “astounding.”
“As other sectors become less carbon-intensive, the piece of the pie for the transportation sector has grown,” said Meil. “The other part of it is we have not taken the (concrete) initiatives with transportation emissions that we have with other sectors.”
In a recent report titled “Building a Stronger Maine: Memorandum to the Next Governor,” the Rockport-based Acadia Center said modernizing Maine’s transportation system could create up to 8,700 new jobs with more than $1 billion in new wages. The Acadia Center has recommended Maine work toward goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030 by, among other things, using 500 electric-powered buses and moving toward 17 percent of passenger cars running on electricity.
New Analysis Released to Incoming Maine Administration
ROCKPORT, ME – Today, Acadia Center released new analysis showing the impact a shift toward better transportation infrastructure and cleaner energy would have in improving Connecticut’s economic and environmental future. Acadia Center’s “Memo to the Next Governor of Maine” recommends concrete steps that will deliver significant economic, consumer and public health benefits to the state. The analysis shows that modernizing the state’s transportation system alone could produce over $3.8 billion in new economic benefits, add 8,700 new jobs, and create $2.3 billion in public health and other benefits. All told, Acadia Center’s analysis indicates that the state could generate $6.5 billion dollars in consumer and economic benefits and create about 13,500 new jobs in the process.
“Maine must update and improve its energy and transportation systems, and doing so presents a significant opportunity to strengthen its economic future,” said Daniel Sosland, president of Acadia Center. “This analysis recommends five transportation and energy reforms that will have the most direct impact on Maine’s economy while enhancing quality of life for Maine people and communities. The time is now for Maine’s leaders to act to bring these benefits to residents.”
The memo calls on the new administration to undertake five reforms to achieve these goals and benefits:
1. Modernize transportation infrastructure to improve safety, access, and convenience;
2. Transition power generation to cheaper, cleaner, and more resilient local sources;
3. Improve energy performance in buildings to reduce costly energy use and emissions;
4. Reform energy grid rules to reduce high energy costs and speed energy innovation;
5. Give communities and consumers more control over their energy choices.
“Maine has many immediate needs that must be met to put the state on a path to success in the years to come,” said Kathleen Meil, Acadia Center’s policy advocate in Maine. “This new analysis shows how smart it is to tackle these challenges through the lens of a broader strategy to revitalize key infrastructure and avoid climate pollution.”
“Governor-elect Mills has indicated that advancing the clean energy future and enhancing community resilience are top priorities, and Acadia Center’s recommended reforms lay out a roadmap that promises concrete benefits for all Mainers. These key steps will fix roads and bridges, move the state away from its dependence on oil and gas, and increase accessibility of jobs and services-all while reducing emissions, increasing energy independence, and boosting local industries,” said Meil.
When National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Secretary Elaine Chao and acting Environmental Protection Administration Secretary Andrew Wheeler announced their agencies’ rollback of federal clean car standards in August, they pledged to “ Make Cars Great Again.” In doing so, they have threatened our air, water and public health — and will increase costs for consumers.
After a protracted primary campaign and a long week of ranked-choice tabulation, Maine’s gubernatorial slate is set. As voters assess their options for state leadership, two intertwined issues need to rise to prominence: Maine’s economy and environment. To advance both, Maine’s next governor must prioritize a clean energy future.
The good news is that this future is close at hand. With smart energy policy reform based on proven results in other states, Maine can lower energy costs; save residents and businesses money on their utility bills; boost its own economy; grow its workforce with good-paying efficiency, HVAC and solar jobs; and dramatically reduce air pollution.
Read the full article from Bangor Daily News here.
Kathleen Meil, policy advocate with the Acadia Center, says the nine RGGI states agreed last fall to new, tighter pollution limits for 2021 to 2030. “Maine is now the first RGGI state to officially usher in the strengthened program,” she says. “It really represents a strong step forward for Maine to continue to reap the benefits of RGGI participation.”
Read the full article from Public News Service here.
When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20, it plunged the island into a devastating power outage. This NOAA satellite photo shows visible lights in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands before the storm (July 24) and after (October 13). It took two months to restore more than half of normal peak load electricity, as of early-December, almost a third of households are still in the dark.
In May, Acadia Center released EnergyVision 2030: Transitioning to a Low-Emissions Energy System, a comprehensive analysis that demonstrates how seven Northeast states can spur use of market-ready technologies that empower consumers, control energy costs, and advance economic growth while lowering carbon pollution. EnergyVision 2030 presents a practical path to a clean energy future where electricity produced by solar, wind, and other renewable technologies powers our cars and provides efficient heating; where residents and businesses anchor an integrated grid, with power flowing between consumers and among smart appliances and batteries, within energy efficient buildings; and where community energy provides equitable access to renters, low-income ratepayers, and those who cannot site clean energy at their own homes. EnergyVision 2030 is ambitious, optimistic, and achievable.
In September, Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico, leaving 3.4 million people without power, clean water, food, or cell phone service. Almost three months later, a third of the island is still in the dark. While officials warn that it will take many more months and many billions of dollars to repair the island’s electricity transmission and distribution system and restore some sort of normalcy, creative thinkers are asking what might be possible if—instead of fast-tracking huge investments in rebuilding Puerto Rico’s troubled, traditional grid— Puerto Rico builds an affordable clean energy system of the future.
This clean energy future would be a significant departure from Puerto Rico’s pre-hurricane energy system, which depended heavily on fossil fuels and resulted in the highest retail electricity prices for American citizens outside of Hawaii. Despite including both the Caribbean’s largest solar farm and its largest wind farm, renewable energy supplied only 2.4% of Puerto Rico’s electricity in 2016. That’s far short of the 2010 Renewable Portfolio Standard (“RPS”) requiring the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (“PREPA”) to get 12% of its electricity from renewable sources starting in 2015, scaling up to 15% by 2020 and 20% by 2035. Missing the RPS target is not PREPA’s only problem. The agency’s debt tops $9 billion, its infrastructure is old and failing, and service is often unreliable. The bottom line is that Puerto Rico was ripe for grid modernization even before Hurricane Maria wiped out the grid.
Weaving strategic grid modernization into emergency response will require sensitivity, and Acadia Center’s EnergyVision lays the foundation for ambitious, achievable reforms anchored by clean energy technologies in four core areas:
Grid Modernization: Advocates on Puerto Rico and the mainland are abuzz with the potential of a modern system of microgrids. These localized grids incorporate renewable generation and battery storage to avoid the need for expensive long-distance transmission and distribution lines, and are more resilient than traditional, centralized grids. The impact of Hurricane Maria bears this out: though the storm took out 80% of transmission lines, it damaged only 10-15% of solar panels. Functioning panels weren’t able to deliver power to the now-destroyed grid, but interconnecting those panels through local microgrids would be particularly useful, especially given Puerto Rico’s terrain of forests and mountains through which it is difficult to maintain power lines. Renewable energy companies have stepped up since the hurricanes: German energy storage manufacturer Sonnen already has six microgrids up and running, with nine more installations planned in coming weeks; Tesla deployed solar and storage to restore power at San Juan’s Children’s Hospital and has announced six new battery projects on two Puerto Rican islands. Taxpayer-funded disaster relief should encourage innovations like these to lend immediate support to traumatized Puerto Ricans and to demonstrate the potential of a smart, clean, modern grid.
Electric Generation: Puerto Rico has ample renewable resources, yet last year, petroleum supplied nearly half of the island’s electricity, and natural gas supplied nearly one-third. Solar power is the fastest source of clean, renewable generation. As of June 2017, Puerto Rico had five utility-scale solar farms with 127 megawatts of capacity, and more than 8,500 customers with nearly 88 megawatts of distributed capacity connected with net metering. Expanding grid-scale and distributed renewable generation to achieve and surpass RPS targets will mitigate high fuel costs, advance energy independence, reduce emissions, and support a more resilient energy system.
Buildings: Energy efficiency and clean building-cooling and water-heating technologies have already provided cost savings and emissions reductions in Puerto Rico. The island utilized funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to weatherize more than 15,000 homes, cutting electricity use by an average of 15%, and to install more than 11,000 solar hot water heaters. As it rebuilds, Puerto Rico should maintain its requirement that all new single-family homes have solar hot water heaters, and also require minimum efficiency standards for homes, municipal, and commercial buildings.
Transportation: Hurricane Maria severely damaged Puerto Rico’s critical transportation infrastructure, including highways, bridges, traffic signals, and fuel stations. Immediate recovery efforts focused on clearing and repairing roads and reopening gas stations to facilitate relief efforts and restore local and regional bus service. Longer term efforts should recognize the potential of electric vehicles and innovations in mobility options to improve transportation efficiency and resiliency, and strive to build a robust network of electric vehicle charging stations.
EnergyVision 2030 calls for a resilient, low-emissions energy system that benefits communities every day, and especially in the face of extreme weather events and volatile global fuel markets. Acadia Center advocates in the Northeast for a consumer-friendly grid, clean distributed generation, and efficient buildings and transportation, but this can and should be pursued everywhere. Puerto Rico needs this critical help now.
Maine’s climate and transportation policymaking is at a critical juncture. Last week, the Governor’s Energy Office convened an expert task force of private, public, and non-profit stakeholders to consider the challenges and opportunities ahead and to develop the Maine Energy Roadmap. The group faced complex and seemingly contradictory goals.
Through one lens, maturing transportation technologies are transforming the marketplace. Most major automakers already offer electric vehicles, dozens of additional long-range, reasonably-priced models are in development, and Volvo will sell only hybrid or electric vehicles starting in 2019. As options expand, battery ranges increase, and costs fall, Maine consumers will increasingly choose EVs for their lower driving and maintenance costs and lighter environmental impact. Fossil fuels burned for transportation are responsible for 40% of Maine’s greenhouse gas emissions—the largest share of any sector—and Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 project shows that electric vehicle adoption is crucial to reducing climate pollution and meeting Maine’s climate targets. Clearly, we should do everything we can to support consumer access to electric vehicles.
Changes in vehicle technology are revealing that traditional transportation funding is out of step with an evolving marketplace and that new approaches are needed so Maine can enjoy a first class transportation system. Maine’s current funding for transportation infrastructure relies primarily on taxing gasoline. Without significant revision, this mechanism will not support a system in which drivers choose vehicles that do not depend on gasoline or diesel fuels. Proposals to impose fees on EVs and hybrids in an attempt to capture lost gas-tax revenue is not the answer—EVs and hybrids only make up about 1% of all the cars in Maine and have had little impact on overall transportation funding. Imposing fees and taxes that target a new, innovative, lower cost technology will not solve Maine’s transportation revenue needs and only act to burden consumers. Clearly, Maine policy should not stand in the way of consumer choice.
The Governor’s Energy Office doesn’t have to choose between accelerating EV adoption and strengthening infrastructure investments. If it’s willing to think differently, rely on accurate data, and distinguish between fair and equal contributions to transportation funding, the Maine Energy Roadmap could set a course to do both.
Recommendations for the Maine Energy Roadmap
Electric vehicles benefit all Mainers. Electric vehicles are a practical way for consumers to control their transportation expenses. Even with low gas prices, fuel efficiency is one of the top 9 reasons consumers choose a vehicle, and electric vehicles offer the additional benefit of lower maintence costs. Even drivers of convential vehicles benefit from expanded EV adoption, thanks to reduced greenhouse gas emissions, lower conventional pollution, and economic contributions to the state budget—from sales tax on electricity and electric systems benefits charges t0 elevated excise and sales taxes compared to conventional vehicles due to their higher value.
Maine should actively support EV adoption. Ramping up EV adoption will require clear goals and concrete policy actions. Maine should join the cooperative, Multi-State Zero Emissions Vehicle Memo of Understanding, which would commit Maine to putting close to 51,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025. Consumer incentives toward the purchase of new electric vehicles and EV charging equipment would support this ambitious goal.
Maine should explore consumer-friendly transportation funding mechanisms. Transportation funding mechanisms must evolve to keep pace with a changing marketplace and ensure that all drivers contribute fairly to infrastructure maintenance. The energy sector’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Inititative offers a successful mechanism to create revenue for reinvestment in Maine projects while capping climate pollution emissions. Acadia Center is working with regional partners to adapt this proven, market-based approach to transportation. Additional transportation funding solutions may be implemented as EV technology continues to mature and reaches market maturity.
Meeting Maine’s climate and emissions reduction goals should not undermine our ability to invest in our roads and highways. The Maine Energy Roadmap can facilitate these complex, crucial goals.