Overview

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 acceleration of energy efficiency programs primarily as the result of two steps: 1) 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 2) 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, 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.

 

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 gases 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 serve buildings in historically disadvantaged communities; and grow efficiency as a regional energy resource.

Energy efficiency will play a major role in making the next decade count. Acadia Center believes that by putting climate, equity, and electrification at the center of the efficiency programs, a redoubled effort 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 work with coalitions and partners to:

  • Strengthen the role of efficiency in improving housing quality. Efficiency programs in the Northeast have not delivered benefits equitably across all communities and income levels. Underserved groups, including renters, low- and moderate-income communities, and non-English speakers, often face the worst impacts of climate change and poor housing quality but have been unable to access the benefits of efficiency programs. Both poor insulation and emissions from heating and cooling systems negatively impact indoor air quality, exposing residents, especially in poorly ventilated buildings, to toxic pollutants.
  • Reduce emissions and support environmental justice. Energy efficiency programs are a crucial tool for reducing emissions in the Northeast. However, because program investments are screened through outdated cost-effectiveness tests that only measure certain benefits and costs, efficiency programs are increasingly misaligned with other important state policies. It is time to update cost-effectiveness testing to fully account for the emissions, equity, and public health benefits of efficiency.
  • Align energy efficiency and electrification. Efficiency programs must be better aligned with opportunities to electrify buildings—a key strategy for accelerating the deployment of clean energy resources and transitioning away from fossil fuels. Acadia Center will use its expertise in energy efficiency stakeholder proceedings to push for policy reforms to ensure that program designs and cost-effectiveness tests are fully aligned with accelerating building electrification.
  • 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.