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.
OurTransportationFuture.org: New Broad-Based Advocacy Effort Boosts Regional Initiative to Reduce Vehicle Pollution
42 Groups Join Together to Help Lawmakers, City Officials and Business Leaders Develop 21st-Century Clean Transportation Network Offering More Options and Serving the Needs of All in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic
WASHINGTON, D.C. AND BOSTON – Forty-two local, regional and national groups today launched a new coalition, Our Transportation Future, established to help Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states develop a regional clean transportation system that protects public health, curbs climate-changing pollution, expands economies and improves the flow of commerce. The coalition will support states’ efforts to address a transportation system that is unworkable, outmoded and is the leading source of carbon pollution driving climate change.
Our Transportation Future (OTF) is committed to finding solutions and modernizing transportation across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. The coalition aims to help transform the region’s transportation system into a model for the nation that gets people in rural, suburban and urban communities where they need to go safely, more efficiently and with less exposure to harmful pollution.
OTF experts are taking an active role to educate state policy makers and the media. The new OTF website will provide important news, information and announcements about the ongoing efforts to modernize transportation across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. A monthly round-up of media coverage and commentary about regional clean transportation is available at OTF with a free subscription.
OTF supports the policy objectives of the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), a collaboration of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia working to reduce transportation pollution and invest in a modern, clean transportation future for the region. In December 2018, nine TCI states and D.C. committed to working over the course of 2019 to design and create a market-based program to limit transportation pollution while improving public transit, expanding electric vehicle use, establishing more bikeways and pedestrian walkways and fostering economic growth.
Jordan Stutt, carbon programs director, Acadia Center, said: “This broad group of organizations has united around a shared reality: it’s time to invest in our transportation future. Our air is polluted, our public transit is outdated, and traffic is choking our cities. Through TCI and other clean transportation policies, we can invest in solutions for cleaner air, healthier people, and a thriving economy.”
Our Transportation Future is a coalition of local, regional and national organizations committed to modernizing transportation across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. OTF is focused on improving our transportation system — the ways we move people and goods in the region – to spur economic growth, make us healthier and safer, clean up the environment, and improve our quality of life.
An improved transportation system means more clean cars and trucks, more reliable mass transit, more walkable and bikeable communities, and investments that connect everyone, including those in underserved and rural areas.
OTF members include: A Better City, Acadia Center, Ceres, Clean Air Council, Climate Law and Policy Project, ClimateXChange, ConnPIRG, Connecticut Public Interest for the Environment, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), Energize Maryland, Environment America, Environment Connecticut, Environment Massachusetts, Environment Maryland, Environment Maine, Environment New Hampshire, Environment New Jersey, Environment New York, Environment Rhode Island, Environment Virginia, Environmental Advocates of New York, Environmental League of Massachusetts, Green Energy Consumers Alliance, Green For All, Health Care Without Harm, Maryland PIRG, Mass Climate Action Network, MassPIRG, NJPIRG, Northeast Clean Energy Council, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), PennEnvironment, Sierra Club, Transportation for America, Transportation for Massachusetts, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Union of Concerned Scientists, USPIRG, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, Vermont Natural Resources Council, and 350 MASS for A Better Future.
Krysia Wazny McClain, Communications Director
617-742-0054 x107, firstname.lastname@example.org
Connecticut’s Emissions Reduction Opportunity
Connecticut’s transportation system – the network of highways, trains, public transit, and walking and biking corridors – is vital to the state’s economy as it facilitates movement of goods and connects people to jobs and opportunities. However, the system needs critical updates to continue to support the state.
At the same time, the transportation system is the largest source (41%) of Connecticut’s greenhouse gas emissions (“GHGs”), which must be reduced for the state to meet its climate commitments.
These two challenges of improving the transportation system and reducing GHGs can be addressed by applying a policy model that has been successfully used to clean up electricity generation and raise funds through emissions reductions.
The Cap and Invest Model
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (“RGGI”) established in 2009 put a price on carbon emissions from electricity generation and used the proceeds to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Since the program began:
- CO2 emissions in the region have dropped by 50%
- $4 billion of economic activity has been generated
- Tens of thousands of jobs have been created.1
Connecticut was a founding member of this regional cap-and-invest program, and as of 2017 had spent about $201 million of RGGI proceeds on clean energy projects. As of 2014, the latest figures available, RGGI expenditures added about $245 million to Connecticut’s economy, created 2,200 job-years, and helped avoid $13 million in health impacts.2
A similar regional cap-and-invest program could be applied to transportation to raise revenues, reduce emissions, and stimulate the economy. To better understand this opportunity, Acadia Center looked at a scenario that reduced Connecticut’s transportation GHGs 4%, or nearly 4 million metric tons of CO2, by 2030 compared to the baseline scenario from EnergyVision 2030.3 This level of emissions reductions is aligned with Georgetown Climate Center’s estimate for market-based policy compared to existing Federal policies.4
Revenue and Reinvestment Strategies
Based on a $15/ton carbon price,5 the state could generate about $2.5 billion in revenue between 2019-2030 by capping emissions. Connecticut could allocate these funds in many ways to improve transportation and reduce GHGs. For example:
- Maximizing transportation GHG reductions by designating 100% of the program proceeds to emissions reduction measures, such as transit expansion, consumer electric vehicle and charging infrastructure rebates, and electrification of medium and heavy-duty vehicles like transit or school buses.
- Designating funding for infrastructure maintenance and transit operations, which could also reduce GHGs (by reducing traffic congestion, for example) as an ancillary benefit.
To provide an example of the revenue that could be generated by a cap-and-invest program, Acadia Center examined a 50/50 portfolio, with half of the program proceeds going to maintenance of infrastructure and half going to specific GHG reduction measures (Table 1). This portfolio is only provided as a point of reference, not a recommendation, and it does not include the full suite of activities that could be funded with proceeds.
Table 1: Simplified Reinvestment Portfolio for Connecticut’s Proceeds from Transportation Climate Policy
Benefits from Reinvestment
By examining the benefits of similar transportation expenditures in Connecticut and the U.S., Acadia Center has estimated some of the economic activity and other monetary benefits a 50/50 portfolio could generate (Figure 1). The total benefits from both tracks of spending are estimated at:
- $10.3 billion in economic output.
- $4.3 billion in added personal income.
- $11.6 billion in other benefits including fewer hours spent in traffic (not including the value of reduced GHG emissions).
- Over 3,000 long-term jobs created (i.e. not temporary construction jobs).
- $86 million in savings from avoided GHG emissions7 avoided costs.
Figure 1: Increased Economic Activity and Other Benefits from Reinvesting Transportation Climate Policy Revenues8
For more information:
Emily Lewis, Policy Analyst
email@example.com, 860-246-7121 x207
2See: Acadia Center’s Clean Energy Investments at Stake in Connecticut
3See Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 Technical Appendix for modeling details. The Baseline scenario includes existing EPA/DOT fuel efficiency standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles, as well as the existing Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards through 2025.
4See: Georgetown Climate Center’s Technical Appendix Emission Reduction Strategy Analysis from “Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Transportation: Opportunities in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic”
5Georgetown Climate Center’s analysis estimates a carbon price for market-based transportation climate policy between $5-$30/ton CO2.
6See: Economic Analysis Reports for the 1-84 Viaduct, the I-84/Route 8 Mixmaster in Waterbury, and the New Haven Rail Line, available in the November 2015 Briefing for the Transportation Finance Panel, and NREL’s National Economic Value Assessment of Plug-In Electric Vehicles.
7See: EPA’s Social Cost of Carbon methodology
8Other benefits calculated as present value. Output and income are cumulative totals over the project lifespans.
Albany Listening Session For Clean Transportation Is Positive First Step In Regional Commitment To Modernization
Jordan Stutt, policy analyst, Acadia Center, said: “The states are convening these conversations at an opportune time. Congested roads, outdated infrastructure and heavily polluting vehicles are a drag on the economy and our health. By working together, these states can implement regional solutions for clean and modernized transportation that will improve quality of life and reduce health risks from pollution.”
Read the full article from PR Newswire here.
New Hampshire, Northeast states mull building Quebec-to-D.C., EV charging network
That infrastructure is “certainly a region-wide priority,” said Mark Lebel, staff attorney at the Acadia Center, a clean energy nonprofit with offices across the Northeast. “Many of the plans are still in development, and they’ll have to solicit public comment, but there’s great interest in maximizing use of the 15 percent,” said Kathy Kinsey, a senior policy adviser at NESCAUM, a nonprofit association of air quality agencies in the Northeast.
Read the full article from the New Hampshire Business Review here.
Envisioning Our Energy Future: Making It Work for Consumers and the Environment –A Strategy Retreat
On the heels of its release of UtilityVision, a framework for advancing a modern clean energy grid, Acadia Center took the next step to work through various challenges to implementation. On March 23 and 24, Acadia Center hosted Envisioning Our Energy Future: Making it Work for Consumers and the Environment—a strategy retreat at The Pocantico Center of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund* in Tarrytown, New York. The objective was to move closer to resolving key questions regarding how the utility business model must change to achieve a clean energy future that is friendly to both consumer and the environment. The agenda was structured around two key questions:
1. What reforms are needed to maximize the utility transition to a clean, affordable distributed energy future?
2. Broad-based consumer support will be critical to achieving the reforms needed. What is needed to ensure that all consumers tangibly benefit from the future energy system?
The retreat brought together a small group of individuals who are leaders in thinking about the future of the electric power system. Attendees included representatives from utilities, clean energy businesses, academia and consulting, state energy officials, and consumer and sustainable energy voices from California, New England, and New York.
The discussions covered these three categories: a) the roles of planning and competitive markets to achieve a sustainable power grid; b) how to align utility financial incentives with public policy objectives; and c) ways to design revenue recovery to both empower consumers and provide utilities with the appropriate level of certainty. Some of the key questions discussed included the following:
- What is the utilities’ experience with using geographically-targeted energy efficiency and demand response to avoid transmission and distribution upgrades?
- What is the experience with performance incentive mechanisms, from the U.S. and United Kingdom?
- Can competitive markets deliver greater innovation and respond to consumer needs more quickly and with greater nimbleness than utilities?
- What are different ways utilities can earn the revenue required to support the advanced technological investments needed to create a market platform?
- Can the utility’s obligation-to-serve and net metering co-exist?
- Can we shift to widespread time-of-use distribution rates or demand charges while ensuring that consumers have the knowledge and tools to manage their electricity bills?
The group at The Pocantico Center of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund* came much closer to agreement than expected on key questions concerning the utility business model, the role of markets and regulation, strategic grid planning, and utility rate design and compensation for distributed generation. The next steps discussed include drafting and refining a straw proposal for grid reforms, providing lessons learned from utility pilot experiments, and possibly reconvening in the future. Acadia Center will be developing a proposal for facilitating these next steps.
*Please Note: As is the case with all materials resulting from meetings held at The Pocantico Center, the views expressed in this report are not necessarily those of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, its trustees, or its staff.
67 Signers Call for EV Action in Northeast and Mid-Atlantic
BOSTON, MA- A broad coalition of sixty-seven businesses and organizations, including utilities, other private companies, business groups, electric vehicle advocacy groups, and environmental groups, urges the Governors and Governors-Elect in the eleven Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states to make policies that support electric vehicles (EVs) a top priority for their administrations going forward.
In a letter sent this week, the groups indicate that, “EVs provide major benefits for consumers, the regional economy, energy independence, public health, and the environment.” They urge the state leaders to use a new or existing high-level state task force to pursue the following:
1. Providing financial and non-financial incentives for consumers, such as rebates and sales tax waivers for EV sales and leases and HOV lane access, and other categories of EV-related investment;
2. Creating an electric utility framework to increase EV adoption and to achieve benefits to drivers and the electricity system, with programs to promote low-cost charging at night when overall electricity usage is low, grid planning, and targeted infrastructure investments;
3. Facilitating the build-out of EV charging stations to effectively serve a growing EV base;
4. Educating consumers, businesses, workplaces, dealerships, and municipalities on the benefits and opportunities of promoting EVs; and,
5. Leading by example by purchasing EVs and installing charging stations for state fleets.
“Electric vehicles have established a solid foothold in the market over the last few years,” said Mark LeBel, Staff Attorney for Acadia Center.** “Even at current gas prices, an average driver can save over $400 per year in fuel costs by switching from gasoline to electricity. Each of these states has a wide range of steps that they can take to support progress on EVs and ultimately make them affordable for everyone.”
The signers are calling for policies that address the needs and concerns of current and would-be EV drivers. “To support the current and future growth of the EV industry, we need policies that make it even easier for drivers to get behind the wheel of an EV and when they do, ensure they have access to charging wherever they go,” said Colleen Quinn, Vice President of Government Relations and Public Policy for ChargePoint. “ChargePoint is excited to join environmental groups, utilities and other stakeholders to support a collaborative approach to driving EV adoption and increasing the deployment of charging infrastructure.”
Electric utilities in the region will continue to build on the role that they are playing to help increase the adoption of EVs. “We support the development of the EV market, in order to help the region’s drivers reduce their fuel costs, to advance the Northeast’s carbon reduction goals, and to reduce reliance on imported fuel sources,” explained Ed White, National Grid’s Vice President of Customer Strategy and Environmental. “By helping expand the charging infrastructure for EVs and investing in our company EV fleet, National Grid is helping advance the market and meet the evolving needs of our customers and communities.”
Advancing EVs will support states’ long-term goals, including public health and climate protection. The letter states:
Since EVs have little or no conventional tailpipe emissions, they can be a key component to improving health outcomes and reducing costs to treat illnesses caused or worsened by this pollution. EVs also have significant climate benefits. With the current electricity generation mix in the region, a car that only uses electricity from the grid will be responsible for 50-70% less greenhouse gas pollution than a comparable gasoline-only vehicle. As we shift to cleaner sources of electricity, public health and environmental benefits of EVs will only increase over time.
EVs can be key part of a low-carbon, consumer-friendly energy future. This letter shows that many stakeholders are ready to support state leaders as they take the next important steps.
The letter can be found at http://acadiacenter.staging.wpengine.com/document/ev-letter-121814.
Mark LeBel, Staff Attorney, Acadia Center, 617-742-0054×104, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gina Coplon-Newfield, Director of Electric Vehicles Initiative, Sierra Club, 617-571-4523, email@example.com
Kate Kiely, Natural Resources Defense Council, 212-727-4592, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Rushlow, Staff Attorney, Conservation Law Foundation, 617-850-1763, email@example.com
**ENE (Environment Northeast) is now Acadia Center. To more accurately reflect the organization’s geographic scope and evolving approach, we are excited to announce the adoption of a new name, logo and website (http://www.acadiacenter.staging.wpengine.com). Our team, goals and commitment to results have not changed, and we look forward to continuing our work and partnership with you and all of our networks.
Acadia Center is a non-profit, research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. Acadia Center is at the forefront of efforts to build clean, low carbon and consumer friendly economies. Acadia Center provides accurate and reliable information, and offers a real-world and comprehensive approach to problem solving through innovation and collaboration.
Boston, MA | Hartford, CT | New York, NY | Providence, RI | Rockport, ME | Ottawa, ON, Canada