Massachusetts expands electric vehicle rebates to nonprofit, business fleets
Massachusetts has expanded its electric vehicle incentives to include nonprofit and business fleet vehicles, a move intended to maximize the environmental impact of the program at a time when a slumping economy has slowed vehicle sales across the state — and progress toward the state’s carbon emissions goals.
“It’s a big step forward,” said Jordan Stutt, carbon programs director at the Acadia Center, a nonprofit focused on the clean energy economy. “There’s no pathway in which we hit our climate targets without rapid electrification of vehicle fleets.”
“We really need to be working to address equity directly in every facet of our clean transportation plan,” Stutt said.
Read the full article from Energy News Network here.
E-Bikes: Another Path to Clean Mobility
Since 2015, the Massachusetts Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Commission has been working to expand access to non-polluting vehicles and chart a course towards a cleaner transportation future. At last Thursday’s ZEV Commission meeting, Acadia Center, Conservation Law Foundation and Sierra Club delivered recommendations to accelerate that transition to a clean transportation future (on behalf of 17 Massachusetts organizations) which included recommendations to increase access to another electric mobility option: e-bikes.
E-bikes (electric bicycles) are bicycles equipped with a battery, giving riders an electric assist as they pedal. The boost from an e-bike’s battery helps riders cover longer distances and climb hills more easily than they could on a standard bicycle. That makes cycling to work, school, transit, and other destinations a possibility for more people, including those who would otherwise be unable to make those trips due to physical limitations.
Research shows that increased use of e-bikes can significantly reduce vehicle miles traveled. In a recent survey of e-bike users conducted by the University of Tennessee and Portland State University, respondents most frequently cited replacing car trips as a reason for their purchase of an e-bike. One survey response said, “Before the e-bike I would normally only commute to work 2-3 days a week (because of the weight of my laptop, clothes, lunch, etc.). The extra weight, combined with the amount of elevation gain, would leave my legs too tired to commute more than that. However, I can now easily commute 5 days a week.”
That holds true for a new convert to e-bikes: Acadia Center’s Connecticut Director, Amy McLean-Salls (pictured below). She’s already ditching the car for trips to the grocery store, and once the Hartford office re-opens she can ride the e-bike 12 miles instead of driving to work. Amy saves on gas money and gets more exercise, and everyone else benefits from the avoided tailpipe pollution and one fewer car sitting in Hartford traffic.
However, our policies need to encourage widespread adoption of this mobility option. While e-bikes can take their riders farther than traditional bicycles, they also tend to cost more. That cost gap can be addressed, in part, through rebates, similar to the state and federal incentives currently in place to help address the cost gap between electric vehicles and traditional cars.
Cyclists, clean transportation advocates and other stakeholders are calling on states to deliver support for e-bikes. Last Monday, Acadia Center joined our partners at the Transport Hartford Academy at the Center for Latino Justice in calling for the expansion of Connecticut’s CHEAPR EV rebate program to include rebates for e-bikes. And at the Massachusetts ZEV Commission meeting last Thursday, Acadia Center called for a $300 rebate for e-bike purchases, and a $500 rebate for low-income consumers and those living in environmental justice communities. Those communities suffer from inequitable exposure to transportation pollution and have less access to transit; delivering improved transit service and more mobility options should be a top priority.
Though there are many significant benefits to e-bike usage, Massachusetts currently has outdated laws that were created before the technology that is now widely used in these devices. These laws make it difficult for consumers to maximize the benefits of e-bikes by limiting access to bike paths, requiring licenses, and preventing anyone under 16 from riding legally.
Our friends at MassBike are leading an effort to bring Massachusetts e-bike regulations up to date with other states’ more modern laws. S.2071 and H.3014, which are currently sitting in the Joint Committee on Transportation, would classify e-bikes by their maximum assisted speed and whether or not the motor provides assistance if the rider is not pedaling. Classifying e-bikes as bicycles instead of mopeds is much more consistent with the technology that they use and will allow Massachusetts residents to take advantage of this innovative transportation option at a time when creative mobility solutions are desperately needed to prevent an uptick in car usage.
As offices re-open and the Commonwealth’s residents start returning to work, Massachusetts should do whatever possible to help them get to work safely, sustainably, and in ways that help avoid a return to Boston’s worst-in-the-nation traffic congestion. E-bike rebates should be part of that plan, as should updating the Commonwealth’s outdated regulations that treat low-speed e-bikes the same as high-powered mopeds. With a first-in-the-nation, state-sponsored e-bike rebate program and the passage of H.3014/S.2071, more Massachusetts residents will have access to electrified mobility options.
What you can do:
- Submit comments to the MA ZEV Commission, letting the Baker Administration know that you support e-bike rebates and other policies to advance clean transportation.
- Contact legislators on the Joint Committee on Transportation (by July 1st!), letting them know that you support e-bike legislation (H.3014/S.2071) to align our regulations with other states.
Shifting to An Online Work World
In an unprecedented time of change and uncertainty, the suspension of many functions of government and imposition of social distancing has resulted in a surprising amount of creative and effective interactions among stakeholders, government agencies, and coalitions. Moving to online, virtual meetings has presented opportunities to interact with new audiences and deepen relationships with stakeholders.
Acadia Center’s experience with online collaboration across its offices has prepared the organization well for this transition to virtual public hearings and stakeholder processes. The crisis has reinforced our commitment to advance effective, equitable reform solutions across the region and has prompted our staff to generate new ideas for innovative virtual engagement opportunities where physical barriers may have previously been limiting.
In Connecticut, just as the historic health and safety directives were put in place in March to cancel all in person events, Acadia Center and allies shifted a long-planned forum on the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) to an online webinar format. The result was excellent: the forum was attended by over 80 diverse participants, including business, community leaders, legislators, and administration officials. The event focused on how the TCI program structure could work, how to extend its benefits to all people in the state, and emphasized economic and employment benefits, exceeding its goal to move the discussion forward on implementing a sound transportation and climate policy for the state.
Official government work also shifted to online formats. In Rhode Island, Acadia Center RI Director Hank Webster participated in an “Energy 101” panel for members of the recessed General Assembly and spoke to Leadership Rhode Island’s first ever virtual “Government Day” about the legislative process and climate/energy issues. Hank also commented during the first-ever video conference meeting of the Executive Climate Change Coordinating Committee. An important state stakeholder process designed make recommendations to Governor Raimondo on ways to transform building heating in the state to cleaner resources also moved online, allowing stakeholders including Acadia Center the opportunity to provide verbal and written comments ahead of a final report. And in Maine, the Governor’s Climate Council process – an ambitious effort to engage numerous stakeholders to recommend an effective climate plan for the state –shifted rapidly online as the state phased in social distancing requirements, allowing the tight schedule for the process to remain in place. Acadia Center responded by working remotely with coalition partners on policy development, outreach, and communications strategies related to buildings, energy, forestry, and transportation.
In Massachusetts, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Katie Theoharides hosted an online briefing and coalition communications have continued without significant interruption. Acadia Center steered advocacy within coalitions such as the Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions (ACES), the Global Warming Solutions Project (GWSP), and the Massachusetts Offshore Wind Power Coalition. Acadia Center continued to lead input in shaping the Baker Administration’s approaches to offshore wind and state carbon targets. Acadia Center and a broad coalition have been focused on ways to strengthen the Global Warming Solutions Act, leading to passage of a strong Senate bill and a commitment from the Baker Administration in January of 2020 to a net-zero carbon target in 2050. Acadia Center will closely track and comment on the forecasts and roadmap development that continues to progress as stakeholder engagement uses remote formats.
The New England Power Pool (NEPOOL), the governance body engaged in overseeing the region’s electricity grid, maintained its regular schedule using virtual tools. As a member of NEPOOL, Acadia Center is engaged in the upcoming Transition to the Future Grid analysis being undertaken to address the barriers faced by clean energy resources in the current electricity grid design. Acadia Center’s Deborah Donovan coordinated with other clean energy advocates to ensure NEPOOL’s rejection of a flawed proposal to modify energy markets in ways that would harm consumers and further bias clean energy.
Acadia Center also raised its voice to address directly ways the crisis was affecting key programs. For example, all residential energy efficiency and weatherization work was ordered to be stopped early in March in Connecticut, causing a wide range of impacts including on the vendor community performing the efficiency installations. No resources were being offered to assist the contractors or workers but as chair of the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Board (CEEB), Acadia Center Connecticut Director Amy McLean was able to raise questions about ways to relieve the burden of the contractors and keep them from going under during the pandemic. As a result of action at the CEEB, the state issued a formal ruling on April 24, 2020 outlining compensation eligibility for energy efficiency vendors.
$2B offshore wind farm gets RI approval
Vineyard Wind cleared a major hurdle on Tuesday when Rhode Island coastal regulators determined the $2-billion wind farm proposed in offshore waters to be consistent with state policies.
Although the 84-turbine project is planned in Atlantic Ocean waters south of Martha’s Vineyard where the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management holds lead permitting authority, it needs consistency certifications from the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council and its counterpart in Massachusetts primarily because it would affect the states’ fishing industries.
With the Massachusetts approval still under consideration, the decision from the Rhode Island coastal council represents a step forward for a project that has divided opinion and would have come as a relief to Vineyard Wind.
Read the full article from the Providence Journal here.
New Massachusetts energy efficiency plan to push storage, heat pumps and ‘demand response’
The 2019-2021 energy efficiency plan, approved by the Department of Public Utilities on Jan. 29, would cut aggregate retail electricity sales by 2.7 percent and cut natural gas sales by 1.25 percent within the three-year period.
The plan provides new tools for Mass Save, the energy efficiency program run by the state’s utilities. Homeowners will see incentives to switch from oil and propane furnaces to electric heat pumps. Commercial and industrial energy storage will be encouraged; “strategic electrification” will get a boost; and “demand response” — where customers save money by curtailing or shifting consumption during periods of heavy power demand — will gain greater footing.
Read the full article from MassLive here.
Massachusetts’ New Energy Efficiency Plan Ensures It Will Continue to Lead, But DPU Nixes Crucial Improvements for Consumers and Climate
BOSTON – On January 29, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) approved the 2019-2021 Energy Efficiency Plan, which will deliver more benefits than ever to Massachusetts’ electricity and natural gas customers. The three-year plan outlines goals and strategies to save energy and reduce bills for Massachusetts homes and businesses through the MassSave programs. It promises to deliver $7.6 billion in benefits, and reduce carbon emissions by 2.6 million short tons, as much as removing 500,000 cars from the road. It sets savings goals of 2.7% of sales for electric savings and 1.25% of sales for natural gas savings—the highest natural gas savings goal ever set in Massachusetts. It also introduces an active demand management program featuring energy storage and allows strategic electrification for the first time.
As groundbreaking as this efficiency plan is, it could have been even better. In its approval of the Plans, the DPU rejected three key pieces created in settlement between stakeholders and the utilities through the energy efficiency advisory council process. These pieces represented the future of expanding equitable access to the programs, appropriately valuing the carbon reductions efficiency can create, and leveraging the efficiency programs to further consumer—rather than utility—control.
“Massachusetts has consistently led the nation in its returns on investment in energy efficiency, bringing unprecedented benefits to consumers and the climate, and this plan will continue that leading trajectory,” said Deborah Donovan, director of Acadia Center’s Massachusetts office. “Unfortunately, while stakeholders, government agencies, Massachusetts’ advocates, and the utilities all agreed to build on that success with innovative approaches, the DPU undermined their efforts.”
Massachusetts’ energy efficiency programs consistently lead national rankings released by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, hitting number one overall for eight years running. Massachusetts’ commitment to invest in as much low-cost energy efficiency as possible has allowed it to reduce business costs and create more jobs. By efficiently powering homes and businesses, Massachusetts has improved its economy, public health, and carbon footprint, all while keeping more energy dollars in the state.
“Massachusetts has been very successful in meeting—and exceeding—the targets it sets for itself, but to fully achieve its goals for the climate and bring benefits to all consumers, our efficiency programs have to keep improving,” said Amy Boyd, Acadia Center senior attorney and environmental representative on Massachusetts’ Energy Efficiency Advisory Council. “The DPU could have done much more to allow the efficiency programs to take on some of the biggest obstacles to deeper savings and equitable service and set an example for other states across the country. Instead, the DPU rejected a compromise between stakeholders and the utilities that would have incentivized utilities to ensure they were serving renters, established the full value of compliance with the Global Warming Solutions Act, and let consumers on Cape Cod combine solar, electrification, and energy storage to have more control over their energy use.”
Boyd continued, “The DPU did require utilities to report far more data on historically underserved populations. Through the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council process, Acadia Center will encourage the utilities to use this additional data to identify and better address the needs of underserved populations and increase transparency.”
Amy Boyd, Senior Attorney
firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-742-0054 x102
Krysia Wazny McClain
email@example.com, 617-742-0054 x107
As States Join Forces on Transportation Policy, Massachusetts Could Raise over $5.5 Billion for Transportation Investments
BOSTON – Today, Acadia Center released a new report illustrating the benefits of a new approach for Massachusetts to reduce transportation pollution while improving the system to better meet its citizens’ needs. This new analysis shows that, if designed well, a regional cap-and-invest policy could enable the state to make over $5.5 billion in crucial transportation investments by 2030, which would generate over 52,000 long-term jobs and $17.5 billion in economic activity.
“Massachusetts could generate tremendous value for its residents through a cap-and-invest program for transportation,” said Deborah Donovan, Massachusetts Director and Senior Advocate at Acadia Center. “By capping transportation emissions and auctioning allowances, this innovative policy simultaneously creates funds for transportation infrastructure and improvements, reduces harmful pollution, and supports a clean economy.”
This analysis comes on the heels of a December announcement from nine states and Washington, D.C. that they will create a regional program to cap transportation emissions and spur investment in transportation improvements. Massachusetts has been a leader in this effort, from hosting listening sessions to gather public feedback to Governor Baker’s creation of the Commission on the Future of Transportation. Last month, that commission released a sweeping report that included the recommendation that Massachusetts lead the effort to create a regional transportation cap-and-invest program to reduce pollution and fund investments in public transit, rural mobility, and electric vehicle infrastructure.
Acadia Center’s analysis highlights the benefits that Massachusetts could achieve by putting cap-and-invest proceeds to work.
“This new analysis demonstrates that putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions and reinvesting the proceeds would be a driver of economic growth for Massachusetts,” said Emily Lewis, Senior Policy Analyst at Acadia Center. “The cap-and-invest approach received strong support at public listening sessions in Massachusetts and across the Northeast, and these findings show why.”
To estimate the economic opportunity for a market-based transportation climate policy, the report examined a sample investment portfolio including commuter rail updates and expansion, electric vehicle rebates and charging infrastructure, bus fleet electrification and expansion, and walking and biking infrastructure. To determine how funds from this type of program are ultimately invested, participating states will need to develop a process that includes input from all impacted parties, in particular low-income and disadvantaged communities.
“Cap-and-invest programs work best when they are designed to complement other policies,” said Jordan Stutt, Carbon Programs Director at Acadia Center. “This analysis illustrates how cap-and-invest proceeds could bolster the Commonwealth’s existing efforts to deliver modern, accessible, low-carbon transportation options.”
Jordan Stutt, Carbon Programs Director
firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-742-0054 ext. 105
Emily Lewis, Senior Policy Advocate
email@example.com, 860-246-7121 ext. 207
Locational value of DER is essential to grid planning. So why hasn’t anyone found it?
Initially, there was an incentive for customers to build DER at locations where congestion was anticipated, LeBel added. But setting that locational value “has proved to be more administratively complicated than expected and commission staff has proposed eliminating it.”
The utilities did “guesstimates and concluded congested locations should get 50% more than other locations,” he said. “They are not coming to terms with the details.”
Lebel agreed. Getting to that vision “would be a massive change for the utilities,” he said. “But it has happened. It took decades to get from PURPA to restructuring. Maybe, in the 2030s, we will look back at the 2014 start of the New York REV and see a similar transformation. And maybe things will still be changing.”
Read the full article from Utility Dive here.
Op-ed: Merrimack Valley tragedy offers climate change opportunity
The significant investments required in the energy infrastructure of the impacted communities present an opportunity to re-think what energy options are available to best meet the needs of these communities, not only for this winter but for many years to come. Doing so can lead to practical, cost-effective actions that will provide a host of benefits for the residents and businesses in these communities: reduced energy costs for ratepayers; safer, more resilient homes and businesses; improved indoor air quality; and, meaningfully, less climate pollution.
Read the full article from CommonWealth Magazine here.
Another fleet of EV chargers approved in Mass.
National Grid can also collect on a performance incentive of $750,000 if 75 percent of the target number of chargers are successfully installed, and $1.2 million for 125 percent of the target. That feature drew criticism from groups including the state attorney general and the Acadia Center, which said the bonuses should be tied to metrics like increased electric vehicle adoption, emissions reductions and reduced costs.
Massachusetts is aiming to get 300,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025, and the number of EV chargers has been ticking steadily upward. As of a year ago, 1,158 Level 2 ports and 128 fast chargers were available, according to the DPU, compared to 963 Level 2 ports and 83 fast chargers in the prior year.
Read the full article from E&E News here (article may be behind paywall).