Over the past 10 years, the Northeast has greatly expanded its investment in energy efficiency as a “first fuel.” This period has seen a dramatic escalation in energy efficiency primarily as the result of two steps: the adoption of state requirements for electric and gas utilities to purchase all cost-effective energy efficiency resources when cheaper than new power plants; and the creation of stakeholder-driven energy efficiency advisory boards to negotiate and design programs, budgets, and savings goals. The result has been a five-fold increase in efficiency funding, the most aggressive savings goals in the nation, and the highest per capita spending on energy efficiency in the country. Most importantly for consumers, since 2012, the New England energy efficiency programs have resulted in $26 billion in lifetime benefits, and 800 billion BTUs of lifetime energy saved, equivalent to over 12 years of electricity generated at New England’s two nuclear energy facilities. These programs are highly cost effective – on average, every $1 invested returns $3 in benefits. Acadia Center is proud to have been a key advocate and catalyst over the past decade for the policies that have boosted energy efficiency, and to have made the commitment to stay at the table.
Acadia Center advocates for forward-looking efficiency policies in state legislatures across the region and through its seats on state energy efficiency stakeholder bodies such as the:
- Massachusetts Energy Efficiency Advisory Council
- Connecticut Energy Efficiency Board
- Rhode Island Energy Efficiency Technical Working Group, and for many years as a leading member of its Energy Efficiency and Resource Management Council
- Maine Climate Council’s Buildings, Housing, and Infrastructure Working Group, and previously, as the proponent of the creation of Efficiency Maine
- New Hampshire Energy Efficiency Resource Standard Committee
While the efficiency programs of the Northeast have produced enormous benefits, savings for consumers, and public health improvements, as well as delivering the largest reductions in greenhouse gas across the region, Acadia Center works to ensure that they can do much more. Building heating, cooling, and lighting continue to produce over a third of emissions in the Northeast. Acadia Center is evaluating how the laws, rules, and stakeholder systems we helped create should evolve to more directly embrace climate mitigation; remove barriers to better connect programs with underserved building stock in historically disadvantaged communities; and grow efficiency as a regional energy resource.
Energy efficiency will play a big role in Make the Next Decade Count TM. Acadia Center believes that by putting climate, equity and technology at the center of the efficiency programs, a redoubled effort can do over the for the next 10 years can build from and greatly expand what the all-cost effective energy efficiency policies have achieved over the past 10 years. We call this evolution the Next Generation Energy Efficiency framework. Acadia Center will seek to work with coalitions and many partners to:
- Prioritize Climate Mitigation. Efficiency programs should be more directly aligned to address climate mitigation – not only reduce consumption. This will require (i) updating and changing energy efficiency statutes and regulations, including benefit-cost tests that currently emphasize energy savings, not climate savings; (ii) ensuring that Public Utilities Commissions consider climate and health impacts when evaluating energy efficiency program spending; and (iii) ensuring that laws, regulations, and planning processes allow fuel-switching from fossil fuels to clean electrification (“strategic electrification”).
- Prioritize Poorer Quality Housing. Because efficiency treatment of poorer building stock is more expensive and entails longer payback periods, current benefit-cost tests have slowed retrofits, particularly for older building stock. The Next Generation Energy Efficiency project will identify the reforms needed to find more value in retrofits and electrification and seek a fundamental shift to enable longer-term payback periods, more in line with the life of equipment and buildings. Such reforms will allow programs to refocus on poorer quality housing in buildings that leak climate pollution and burden inhabitants with poor air quality and comfort. Acadia Center’s analyses on retrofits, all-electric homes, multifamily housing, and the potential for weatherized buildings to be a grid resource will enable and inform this transition.
- Prioritize Clean Heating and Whole-House Electrification. All-electric homes are cheaper to run, healthier to live in, and, when combined with distributed renewable energy, better for the grid and climate. Acadia Center will use its expertise in energy efficiency stakeholder proceedings to push for whole-building electrification, clean heating resources, integration with distributed renewable generation, and demand response as a grid resource.
- Sustain Investments in Efficiency as the Leading Energy Resource in the Power Grid. Our nation-leading energy efficiency funding levels and savings goals must be sustained and increased to capture more savings, treat more homes and businesses, and avoid backsliding by states. It is essential that regional and state energy planning continues to embrace efficiency as a first fuel – offsetting dirtier energy resources and reducing the need for power plants and infrastructure, while supporting the growth of renewables on the grid. Acadia Center will work to ensure that decision-makers at all levels – including the regional grid operator ISO-New England – recognize the value of the efficiency efforts in reducing system costs.