Transportation & Climate Initiative would be a win for Vermont

TCI is a cap-and-invest program similar to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) that Vermont participates in to reduce carbon pollution from electricity generation. In 2005, Republican Gov. Jim Douglas signed on together with six other Northeast states. Vermont is still a part of it today, and it has been successful in multiple ways. Analysis from Acadia Center shows that since 2008:

  • GDP of the RGGI states has grown by 47%, outpacing growth in the rest of the country by 31%;
  • Electricity prices in RGGI states have fallen by 5.7%, while prices have increased in the rest of the country by 8.6%;
  • RGGI states have generated $3.4 billion in allowance auction proceeds, the majority of which have been invested in energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, including incentives for advanced wood heat and solar panels;
  • CO2 emissions from RGGI power plants have fallen by 47%, outpacing the rest of the country by 90%.

Read the full article from VTDigger here.

Power plant emissions down 47% under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

According to a 10-year report by the northeast regional advocacy group Acadia Center, proceeds since the time of the first two auctions (a year before RGGI officially got under way) had totaled nearly $3.3 billion by the end of June 2019.

The Acadia report also says emissions from the plants covered by RGGI are down 47% – outpacing the rest of the nation by 90%. The gross domestic product of the RGGI states, all in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions, also grew by 47% – again outpacing the rest of the country, which grew by 31%.

“I’m not shocked by the direction of the impact here,” says Jordan Stutt, carbon programs director at Acadia. “But I am surprised by just how strong the direction is. The fact that we’re outpacing the rest of the country in electric sector emission reductions by 90% is staggering. … It’s an important demonstration that taking on climate change doesn’t mean economic sacrifice.”

Read the full article from the Connecticut Mirror here.

New Hampshire Governor Vetoes Legislation That Would Bring Energy Savings to More Residents

CONCORD, N.H. – On Friday, Governor Sununu vetoed a bill (HB582) that would have increased funding for efficiency projects, particularly for low income customers, who currently experience a long wait list for the popular weatherization programs. With his veto, Governor Sununu prevented additional revenue from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative from being distributed to these programs.

“By vetoing this bill, the governor has ensured that New Hampshire will continue to have difficulty investing in the cheapest form of energy available in the state,” said Ellen Hawes, Senior Analyst at Acadia Center. “This is a huge missed opportunity for New Hampshire’s residents and economy, as well as the state’s progress toward climate safety.”

Energy efficiency investments make electricity cheaper for all ratepayers. By 2027, energy efficiency is projected to reduce the amount of electricity we need to generate by more than 22%. In New Hampshire, the NHSaves electric efficiency programs deliver energy savings at 77% lower costs than buying more power. New Hampshire’s current use of RGGI auction revenue continues to provide benefits for the state, but the relatively small portion of funds directed towards energy efficiency prevents New Hampshire from maximizing its benefits.

For the first time ever, the New England grid operator (ISO New England) is predicting a decline in peak demand over the next ten years, mostly due to projected gains in energy efficiency and on-site solar generation. ISO-NE 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. States must have strong programs to sustain and advance these gains.

In addition to this most recent veto, on July 19th the Governor vetoed a bill (SB205) that would have allowed the Public Utilities Commission to continue to set energy efficiency investment levels at rates most beneficial to ratepayers. This bill would have also increased the public’s ability to engage with how efficiency funds are spent, by expanding membership of the Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Energy Board.

“By requiring legislative approval for this one portion of rates, the legislature will add delay, uncertainty and increased costs for utilities, stakeholders and the Public Utilities Commission, under Sununu’s erroneous and disingenuous assertion that it is a hidden tax,” said Hawes.


Media Contacts:

Ellen Hawes, Senior Analyst
ehawes@acadiacenter.org, 207-233-4182

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

Our View: Fewer cars, cleaner air should be goal for Maine transit

But lowering emissions will show that Maine is serious about contributing to a very important fight.

It will make us healthier, too – according to the Rockport-based Acadia Center, passenger vehicle emissions were responsible for $500 million in health costs in Maine in 2015.

The Acadia Center also figures that modernizing and making green Maine’s transportation system would be a boost to the economy. By prioritizing electric cars and buses – and by implementing a vehicle emissions cap-and-trade plan based on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – Maine can raise $1 billion in new wages, create 8,700 long-term jobs and reduce emissions by 45 percent.

Read the full article from the Portland Press Herald here.

As states look to cut transportation emissions, RGGI offers a model — and room to improve

As a group of Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states begins to design a system to curb regional transportation emissions, planners are expected to turn to the decade-old Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative as a model. Experts say the initiative can provide a good starting point, but that important questions must be answered to translate the concept to transportation.

“We can’t simply cut and paste [the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative] and apply it to the transportation sector,” said Jordan Stutt, carbon programs director at environmental nonprofit the Acadia Center. “There are a lot of considerations that need to be made which are specific to the way we move people and goods.”

Read the full article from Energy News Network here.

New Jersey looks to rejoin RGGI to tackle greenhouse gas emissions

But Jordan Stutt, carbon programs director at Acadia Center, a clean-energy research and advocacy organization with offices throughout the northeastern United States, said those fears are unfounded.

“The doomsday concerns about electricity prices and competitiveness in the region have not come true,” he said.

Emissions from power plants have dropped 51 percent from 2008, a year before the program started, to 2017, he said. Electricity prices in the region have fallen nearly 6 percent, while they have increased by nearly 9 percent in the rest of the country.

Read the full article from WHYY here.

A Regional Push to Clean Up Cars, Trucks and Mass Transit

The effort isn’t unprecedented: California already has a plan to curb transportation emissions, and many East Coast states are members of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Since 2009, the initiative known as “Reggie” has capped the overall carbon dioxide produced by power plants and required plant operators to buy permits for their emissions.

Power plant emissions have fallen by 51 percent in the region since the program began, according to an analysis of RGGI data by the Acadia Center, an environmental nonprofit with offices in five Northeast states. States have used the permit proceeds to weatherize homes and to give consumers rebates on their electric bills. But the region faces significant hurdles in replicating that reduction with transportation emissions.

Read the full article from Stateline here.

‘RGGI for transportation’ could be in the works in Massachusetts

Jordan Stutt, director of the carbon program at the Acadia Center, a Boston nonprofit that promotes clean energy solutions, is glad to see the discussion focusing on ways to invest carbon pricing revenue to needed projects. Even a charge of $10 per ton on transportation-related carbon emissions would generate close to $300 million, much of which could be used for much-needed improvements in the state’s transit system, he said.

“It’s not enough to completely replace the need for other funding, but it’s enough to make some real progress,” he said.

Read the full article from Energy News here.

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

Simplified Reinvestment Portfolio

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

Benefits of reinvesting TCI revenues


For more information:

Emily Lewis, Policy Analyst
elewis@acadiacenter.org, 860-246-7121 x207


1See: Analysis Group’s The Economic Impacts of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative on Nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States: Review of RGGI’s Third Three-Year Compliance Period (2015-2017)

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.

How big can New England’s regional cap-and-trade program get?

Acadia Center, an environmental and renewable energy advocacy group, has been part of RGGI’s development since its inception. Its assessment, based in part on work by the Duke Nicholas Institute, found 2017 emissions were 51% below levels in 2008, at the beginning of RGGI auctions, Stutt told Utility Dive.

That includes an 18% year-on-year drop from 2016 to 2017, the biggest drop-off in emissions since the region’s use of coal leveled off, Stutt added. The newest cuts in emissions come from the accumulating potency of the energy efficiency and clean technology investments made with auction proceeds.

The RGGI states have also seen significant cumulative economic benefits, according to the Analysis Group’s review of RGGI’s 2015 to 2017 compliance period, released April 17.

Read the full article from Utility Dive here.