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Stop investing in natural gas. Invest more in renewable energy.

Opinion

With increasing renewable energy mandates in almost every New England state and growing amounts of imported power, there is only so much of the energy pie left for natural gas. Ten years ago, some might have called natural gas a “bridge fuel.” But it’s 2020. A better analogy is that we’re already halfway across the river.

That’s based on the results of a recent study from Acadia Center, The Declining Role of Natural Gas Power in New England. It shows that new natural gas power plants like NTE Energy’s proposed plant near Killingly — and the pipelines to supply them — are going to be hard to justify.

My colleagues and I who wrote the report question the value and economic rationale for additional gas plants, with our scenarios suggesting that by the end of the decade, natural gas would only be needed to meet about a quarter of the demand that it does now.

We looked at two scenarios: continued expansion of natural gas supply and generation capacity, and no additional investment in gas infrastructure. Both show similar reductions in the amount of natural gas-fired electricity, leading eventually to the region’s gas power plants being used at less than 10% of their capacity by the end of this decade.

Read the full Op-Ed at The Hartford Courant here.

Solar and wind power are pushing down electricity prices in New England, but carbon fuels still dominate

The capacity market is separate from the larger energy market in which generators and others compete daily to provide power. To Deborah Donovan, senior policy advocate at the Acadia Center, a clean energy advocacy group, the prices in the most recent auction are a “leading indicator” of trends to come.

Read the full article from the Hartford Courant here.

Eastern States Introduce a Plan to Cap Tailpipe Pollution

“When we’re going backward at the federal level, for states to step up and take action on climate, take steps to modernize our transportation system, it’s just an unprecedented opportunity,” said Jordan Stutt, carbon programs director at the Acadia Center, a research and public interest group in New England that is pushing for cleaner energy. “If designed well, this can be the most significant sub-national climate policy ever.”

Read the full article from The New York Times here.

Energy Efficiency Is Working in New England

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.

Is cap and trade the climate solution? The jury’s still out

Acadia Center Policy Analyst Jordan Stutt said the most impressive thing about RGGI is that it has proved “ambitious emissions reductions” and “economic growth” can be achieved together. “A major part of that is the benefits from the reinvestment of auction proceeds,” he told Utility Dive.

Read the full article from Utility Dive here.

Acadia Center Applauds New England’s Continued Nation-Leading Progress on Energy Efficiency

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.

See the Scorecard at: http://www.aceee.org/state-policy/scorecard


Media Contacts:

Jamie Howland, Director, Energy Efficiency and Demand Side Initiative
860-246-7121 x201, jhowland@acadiacenter.org

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

$12.5 million plunder of Energy Efficiency Fund threatens to hurt consumers and economy says environmental groups

The proposed 2018 RI State Budget will “raid $12.5 million from ratepayer-funded, cost-effective energy efficiency programs” says nonprofit organizations Acadia Center and People’s Power & Light (PP&L) setting a “dangerous precedent.”

In a press release the two groups “emphasize that these are not state funds, they are rate-payer funds collected specifically to bring much-needed energy savings to all Rhode Islanders. Diverting the funds from the efficiency programs will cost Rhode Island ratepayers more money.”

[…]

“Rhode Island’s ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs have provided $2.3 billion in economic benefits to residents and businesses since 2008, a fourfold return on investment,” said Erika Niedowski, Policy Advocate at Acadia Center. “Rhode Island has worked hard over the last decade to become a national leader on energy efficiency, and diverting these funds would cost ratepayers money and represent a big step backwards for our economy.”

Acadia Center is a non-profit, research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. People’s Power & Light’s mission is to make energy more affordable and environmentally sustainable in New England.

Read the full story from RIFuture.org here.

EnergyVision 2030: What the numbers tell us about how to achieve a clean energy system

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:

 

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.

Clean Energy:

 

Electric Vehicles:

 

Lower-Cost Heating:

 

Electric Grid:

 

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

The last large coal plant in New England has shut down

The coal plant was the state’s number one emitter of toxins into the environment, and hot water discharged into the bay was killing fish. A decade ago, plant owner Dominion Energy spent a $1 billion to clean up its act and comply with court rulings, but it was too little too late.

Peter Shattuck, director of the Acadia Center’s Clean Energy Initiative, says Dominion didn’t realize there was a revolution going on in energy production — away from coal to natural gas, renewable resources and efficiency.

Read the full article from Daily Kos here.

In Somerset, Last Coal-Burning Power Plant In Mass. Shuts Down

Peter Shattuck, director of the Acadia Center’s Clean Energy Initiative, says Dominion didn’t realize there was a revolution going on in energy production — away from coal to natural gas, renewable resources and efficiency.

“The owners really got caught flatfooted, though,” he said. “They put a ton of money into that facility and basically had to drop it a couple of years later.”

[…]

“We’re putting all of our eggs in a big natural gas basket, and it’s risky,” said Shattuck, of the Acadia Center.

He warns we’ve become dangerously over-reliant on natural gas to generate electricity, adding that we need to look to alternatives.

“Brayton is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show we can go straight from coal to clean energy,” Shattuck said. “We know how to do this. We have the tools: offshore wind, energy storage — these are the technologies of the future. We just need to use them in a smart way to make the grid stronger.”

Read and listen to the full story from WBUR Public Radio here.