Northeast & Beyond
The Power of a Regional, Multi-State Perspective
Acadia Center is at its core a regional organization: we develop deep relationships in the places we work while bringing a broad perspective that considers the interconnections and opportunities to raise the bar in each state. There are numerous examples of how regional, multi-state approaches are critical to progress and present effective ways to enlarge the impact of necessary reforms.
- Many stakeholders, businesses, and political and economic systems are often interdependent and do not follow state or national boundaries. Climate pollution and natural ecosystems do not follow political boundaries. Trade from fisheries to forest products to intellectual property circulates across political lines. Our highways, airports and trains transport people from jobs in one state to homes in another. Especially in the Northeast, where states are relatively small compared to the rest of the nation, people cross state lines more frequently than elsewhere.
- Comparative perspective: Regionalism allows Acadia Center to be aware of best (and worst) practices. When a reform advances in one state, we have the information to take the data to neighbors and press for change. Conversely, when a regressive action occurs, we can point to evidence from neighboring states to demonstrate the negative consequences of backtracking on clean energy.
- Electric and gas utilities operate across state lines: Eversource, the largest utility in New England, operates electric and gas companies in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. National Grid is a major utility in New York and Massachusetts, and is the sole utility in Rhode Island. Avangrid runs companies from Rochester, NY to Downeast Maine to the Connecticut shore.
- ISO-New England (Independent System Operator – New England) operates a uniform electric grid and associated combined power markets in 6 states, and has a policy to charge ratepayers in all 6 states for regional transmission projects.
Regionalism amplifies impact. When Northeast states act together, they have the combined populations, buying power and equivalent gross domestic product that would rank them among the major economies in the world. When Acadia Center prepared analyses on the economic benefits of energy efficiency, we found that although states benefitted individually when they maximized investments in energy efficiency, individual state benefits were larger when all states maximized efficiency due to economies of scale and larger markets.
We are proud to work in coalitions with numerous partners to build from these attributes to implement change that can empower and improve the lives of everyone here in the Northeast and set an example of multi-state cooperation for other parts of the country.
Acadia Center brings this perspective into all aspects of our work – from reports and analyses that quantify benefits and impacts, to state regulatory proceedings where we can shed light on best and worst examples, to multi-state programs and coalitions designed to move a region, not only a state.
When the federal government attempts rollbacks on climate protection, the power of regions to lead is more important than ever. Acadia Center is gratified to work in a region where good ideas can be heard and changes are happening. We are proud to work in coalitions with numerous partners to build from these attributes to implement change that can empower and improve the lives of everyone here in the Northeast and set an example of multi-state cooperation for other parts of the country.
Multi-state Programs and Coalitions
- Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI): RGGI, the nation’s first cap-and-trade program, has helped Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states achieve significant reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other air pollutants from the electric power sector. Since the program went into effect in 2009, CO2 emissions from RGGI power plants have fallen by 47%, outpacing the rest of the country by 90%. RGGI states have generated $3.2 billion in allowance auction proceeds, the majority of which have been invested in energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, while electricity prices in RGGI states have fallen by 5.7%, as prices have increased in the rest of the country by 8.6%. When RGGI was implemented, it was the first program in the world to require polluters to pay for emissions allowances (permits to emit pollution). Now, there are 57 national or subnational carbon pricing programs in place, many of them drawing on lessons learned from RGGI.
- Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI): TCI is a multi-state effort to lower emissions from the transportation sector, which accounts for about 40% of emissions in the Northeast. this initiative, twelve Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and Washington, D.C. have been working together to develop a regional program that will place a declining limit on carbon emissions while generating funds for clean transportation investments. Acadia Center is leading efforts at the local and regional level to ensure that TCI lives up to its potential by crafting a program that is both ambitious on climate and designed to prioritize benefits in communities that lack access to transportation options and suffer from transportation pollution. Acadia Center takes a collaborative approach to TCI advocacy, working closely with partners to lead state-focused TCI forums and at the regional level through Our Transportation Future. Acadia Center’s TCI analysis helps to inform stakeholders and policymakers on the opportunities presented through TCI: improving air quality, addressing climate change, and supporting a range of clean transportation investments to help every community thrive.
- ISO-New England: ISO-New England manages and plans the power grid in the six-state New England region. Its policies and project choices greatly influence what energy infrastructure is financed and built, whether power plants are subsidized, and also operates the regional energy markets. Acadia Center, as an appointed member of key stakeholder committees, works closely in coalition and partnerships with an array of clean energy, consumer, and justice organizations which believe that the ISO needs significant reforms to align its decision-making with consumer and climate pollution priorities.
Shaping and Implementing Policy Reforms
- Energy Efficiency: Since our inception in the early 2000s, we have been working to expand energy efficiency investments on a regional level. By establishing an overarching approach to shift utility investments from purchasing expensive power plant contracts into more cost-effective, consumer- and economically-friendly energy efficiency investments, we were able to successfully advocate for this policy in one state and then make the case in others. We also sought to increase transparency and consumer participation in program design and budget negotiations, by advocating for the creation of independent energy efficiency boards – first in Connecticut in 1999, then in Rhode Island, Maine and Massachusetts a few years later. As these boards met to establish funding levels and energy savings goals, by taking the best examples in one state into another, we have been able to help raise the bar, advancing nationally leading standards. We are now promoting the next generation of energy efficiency that will address sub-standard housing and support building electrification.
- Utility Rates and Consumer Benefits: Utilities tried to promote increases in mandatory monthly fixed charges to consumers – regardless of the consumer’s energy use – we brought the fight against that regressive proposal, shaping arguments and building support from Connecticut into Rhode Island to Massachusetts and New York, developing common data points and showing where utilities were taking different positions in bordering states.
- Offshore Wind (OSW) Procurement: As Massachusetts began to lead the charge to procure large scale wind energy, Acadia Center staff worked to bring what we learned in Massachusetts into neighboring states such as Connecticut, helping to advance new and larger scale procurement levels.
- Renewable Standards and Solar Siting: The power grid in New England operates in regional markets, not state-specific ones. Increasing renewable energy requirements in one state can benefit all states. By establishing goals for renewable power that are regional in nature, our advocacy in each state is measured against raising the bar on what is possible and needed.
A Regional Perspective Informs Reports and Analyses
Acadia Center’s regional perspective has long informed our approach to analysis and reports. Often, the data demonstrate that when multiple states act in concert, they can obtain larger benefits for their own state residents as larger markets are created for clean energy and energy efficiency. We analyzed the data and created some of the first regional reports on climate pathways in the country regional, as well as regional and state-specific climate market information for New England and New York.
Rhode Island is a unique opportunity for clean energy action. With its small geographic size, dense population, and a single utility serving nearly all of the state’s energy customers, Rhode Island could represent the model for the equitable, clean energy vision central to Acadia Center’s work. Known in history as the birthplace of the American industrial revolution, Rhode Island is poised, once again, to become a center for innovation and the birthplace of a clean energy revolution.
In April 2021, Governor Daniel McKee signed the Act on Climate law, cementing Rhode Island’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions 45% below 1990 levels by 2030, 80% by 2040, and to net-zero by 2050. The law requires the state to develop climate action plans every 5 years and holds the state accountable through legal enforcement mechanisms. As a result, Rhode Islanders will see benefits from cleaner air, healthier homes, increased investment in the local economy, and a more independent and resilient energy system. Acadia Center will continue to be at the table with state policymakers as they work to develop strategies to reduce the state’s fossil fuel dependency and to advance the clean energy future.
Rhode Island is already a national leader in energy efficiency, thanks in large part to the Energy Efficiency Resources Management Council (EERMC) established through legislation designed and advanced by Acadia Center. Strong energy efficiency policies have already delivered billions of dollars of economic benefits at a fraction of the investment costs. Acadia Center serves on the Energy Efficiency Technical Working Group and is at the center of the efforts to achieve the recently studied maximum potential energy savings and defend against shortsighted efforts to terminate the state’s (Rhode Island) energy efficiency programs.
Acadia Center also plays a leading role in Rhode Island’s efforts to increase the use of local renewable energy resources, like rooftop and large-scale solar, onshore and offshore wind, hydropower, and energy storage. Rhode Island, already home to Block Island Wind Farm, the nation’s first offshore wind facility, is on track to become among the first states to procure all electricity from clean, renewable sources. As a member of the Solar Siting Stakeholder Process that met from 2017-2019, Acadia Center has been a leader in advocating for responsible energy siting policies. As the General Assembly and regulatory agencies develop energy policies to achieve the state’s goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2030, Acadia Center will continue to provide cutting-edge data and policy analysis and thought leadership.
Beyond advocacy for expanded clean energy resources, Acadia Center also works through several stakeholder and utility working groups to optimize current and future grid performance, advance non-wires and non-pipeline alternative investment solutions, integrate technologies that enable a customer-centric utility model, and lower the cost of energy for all consumers. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector alone will be insufficient to achieve climate goals that avoid the worst outcomes of the climate crisis. Acadia Center’s work also envisions greater electrification of transportation and building heating—historically dominated by fossil fuel combustion. According to the latest data available, transportation and building heating are the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Rhode Island.
As a member of the state’s Mobility Innovation Working Group, Acadia Center is leading the charge for the Rhode Island to adopt clean transportation policies including the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), a cap-and-invest program that would apply a nominal carbon price on transportation fuels and reinvest proceeds into clean transportation and mobility strategies like vehicle electrification, transit improvements, and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure. In addition to reducing carbon emissions and combating climate change, the TCI policy would reduce local air pollution, deliver enormous health and safety benefits, create jobs, and stimulate a modern local economy. While the governors of Connecticut and Massachusetts announced in November 2021 that they were pausing their TCI efforts, Acadia Center and our partners remain committed to advancing the goals of the program and building on the 2021 Rhode Island Senate passage of TCI enabling legislation.
Beyond TCI, Acadia Center is working with local partners to advocate for greater investment in clean transportation options like transit and active mobility to give Rhode Islanders better, cleaner, lower cost options to access employment, education, healthcare, and other essential services. As members of the Power Sector Transformation Advisory Group’s Electric Transportation subcommittee, Acadia Center has been working alongside state agencies and Rhode Island’s electric utility to develop statewide strategies guiding equitable and effective electric vehicle charging station deployment.
Acadia Center also advocates for Rhode Island to transition away from fossil fuel use in the buildings sector. Technological advances in heat pumps, water heaters, and induction cooking appliances have made fossil fuel combustion obsolete in buildings. Acadia Center works at the intersection of state legislative and regulatory processes to advance incentives and RI energy efficiency programs that help Rhode Islanders to saving energy & make the switch to clean, safe, all-electric homes.
At the intersection of building heat and power generation, Acadia Center works to transition Rhode Island away from natural gas (also known as fossil gas, or methane). Rhode Island currently gets a significant amount of its electricity and building heating from the combustion of methane imported from outside our region. Methane is also an incredibly potent greenhouse gas that leaks into the atmosphere along its entire journey into and throughout Rhode Island.
The region’s gas transmission and distribution system represent a public safety, health, and climate danger and leaves Rhode Islanders vulnerable to supply disruptions, price shocks, and heating outages—something Aquidneck Island residents experienced firsthand during the low-pressure emergency in January 2019. While fixing the most dangerous gas leaks should be an important state priority, repairs to the entirety of the gas system and a lengthy, if even possible, transition to lower carbon gas fuels will add enormous costs to ratepayers. Those investments should instead prioritize a transition away from gas and other fossil fuels towards electrification that will make our communities safer, healthier, and more energy independent.
In Rhode Island, Acadia Center is currently an organizer, member, partner or supporter of the following groups or coalitions (as well as many other ad hoc collaborative efforts):
- Environment Council of Rhode Island
- The Climate Crisis Campaign
- Climate Jobs RI Coalition
- Providence Streets Coalition
- Act on Climate Implementation Working Group
- Mobility Innovation Working Group
- Energy Efficiency Technical Working Group
- System Reliability Procurement Technical Working Group
- Power Sector Transformation Advisory Group, including the Grid Modernization/Advanced Metering Subcommittee and the Electric Transportation/Energy Storage Subcommittee
- Rhode Island Offshore Wind Power
- Energize RI!
- Northeast Smart Heat Collaborative
- Racial and Environmental Justice Committee of Providence
Acadia Center works strategically with partners on advancing New York energy and climate change policies: energy efficiency, renewable energy, carbon pricing, beneficial electrification, utility innovation, and equity.
New York’s landmark Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) of 2019 is an example of national leadership on innovative ways for states to act on climate. As New York works to meet the challenge of these goals — achieve 9 GW of offshore wind by 2035, 100% zero-emission electricity by 2040, reduce economy-wide emissions by 85% by 2050, and ensure that no fewer than 35% of climate benefits occur in disadvantaged and environmental justice communities — Acadia Center is working with partners to provide accurate information and data and pathways to successful implementation. By drawing from our regional experience in New England and New York, we can offer best practices and practical approaches.
Our work in New York
Acadia Center has long worked with New York partners on regional initiatives such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) and climate issues affecting the Independent System Operator in New England (ISO-NE) and the New York ISO (NYISO). We increased our engagement in New York State’s energy and climate issues with the commencement of the state’s “Reforming the EnergyVision” (REV) initiative in 2014. Earlier that year, Acadia Center issued our original EnergyVision framework for how states can build a low carbon clean energy economy: increasing energy efficiency in buildings; transitioning to clean power; updating the rules that govern the utilities and power grid; and electrifying buildings and transportation. Acadia Center brought its data and experience with these issues in New England states and policy ideas into coalitions focused on New York. We engaged in most of the NY Public Service Commission and other proceedings addressing Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) issues and focused on areas where our capacities offered the most value: on solar policy and pricing; energy efficiency expansion; utility rates; and building heating. Our climate and energy analysis work is producing data-driven materials on how New York can expand its clean energy markets to meet goals.
Energy Efficiency and Clean Buildings
- Setting Ambitious Energy Efficiency Goals: As New York evaluated its approach to energy efficiency goals, Acadia Center’s data analysis and policy expertise helped to demonstrate that the state should upgrade its investment levels and energy savings goals to meet those successfully being achieved in neighboring states, particularly Massachusetts and Rhode Island (two of the leading efficiency states in the nation). Acadia Center advocated for a planned progression to ramp up savings goals, in line with what Massachusetts and Rhode Island had done over the prior decade. Many electric and gas utilities that operate in New England are also dominant utilities in New York State, which allows Acadia Center experts to apply their knowledge of utility positions and performance across state lines, and is another example of the need for a regional approach. Acadia Center’s information and recommendations were highly influential and, with many leading energy voices, New York is now on a path to harness more of the most cost-effective energy resource New York can use: energy efficiency.
- Clean Building Heating: Acadia Center develops information and policy recommendations to raise awareness about the opportunity to transition New York homes and businesses from their high reliance on fossil heating fuels – oil, propane, and natural gas – to clean, cost-effective electric heat pumps. Our Clean Heating Pathways report demonstrates why New York can benefit from clean, modern electric heating. We are a member of Renewable Heat Now, a statewide coalition focused on building heating, and as a lead co-convenor of the Smart Heat Collaborative, a regional network forum to expand participation and dialogue on clean heating pathways with stakeholders in New York, New England and mid-Atlantic states.
- PowerHouse: Acadia Center is developing an extensive research report on how New York buildings can convert to clean heating and other clean energy technologies. The upcoming PowerHouse report will point to the numerous benefits of shifting from fossil heating and cooking directly to electric options. It will show the interrelated consumer, cost savings, public health and indoor air quality benefits when clean energy technologies are deployed to work together, and paint a data-driven picture of how New York’s building stock can shift to be part of a healthier, more equitable clean energy future.
Clean Electricity: Advancing Consumer and Climate Goals
- Utility Rate Reform. When utilities proposed increasing their monthly fixed charges that consumers would have to pay – regardless of how much electricity they used – Acadia Center spearheaded a coalition of parties that intervened in rate cases and made the point that these rate proposals harmed consumers, were regressive, not supported by empirical data and would send the wrong signals to consumers to use energy efficiently. The Fixed Charge Coalition that ensued won the first ever roll-backs in fixed charges in New York and set the stage for a new way to evaluate rate policy and clean energy.
- Reforming the Energy Vision (REV): New York’s ambitious REV framework set a national example for state action to rethink the decades old approach to the role of utilities and the energy grid. New York embraced a new vision that puts consumers, climate and clean energy at the center of an energy system. Acadia Center intervened in virtually all of the key REV proceedings to apply its grid innovation and clean energy data and policy recommendations.
Regional Climate Initiatives
Acadia Center has long worked on regional initiatives that bring multi-state policy approaches to climate policy. We are helping to coordinate stakeholders and share information in the following initiatives:
- Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI): Acadia Center’s leadership work on RGGI includes coordinating the regional stakeholder communications that provide a forum for discussing issues, developing strategies, and creating policy positions by those working to support RGGI and influence the investment of the funding stream it creates.
- Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI): As with RGGI, Acadia Center works to coordinate regional TCI discussions with stakeholders, sharing information, concerns and strategies. A particular focus is moving Northeast and mid-Atlantic states to adopt an aggressive approach to investing in necessary transportation improvements that particularly benefit low-income communities, which have historically been disproportionately shut out of access to transportation options while suffering from the pollution and health impacts our fossil based transportation systems impose.
- Regional Clean Building Heating: Acadia Center works with partners to lead the Smart Heat Collaborative, a multi-organization effort to share information and strategies on advancing clean heating in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states. Acadia Center believes that regional interactions are powerful tools to press states to act, share best practices and influence entities that operate on a regional basis, such as many electric and gas utilities.
Acadia Center has a tradition of working closely with numerous coalitions and partners in New York, such as Renewable Heat Now, the Fixed Charge Coalition, RGGI and TCI.
Acadia Center works to advance a clean energy economy in New Hampshire, focusing on key areas of energy efficiency and clean transportation, and actively coordinates with a range of peer groups, stakeholders and policy makers. The top sources of emissions in New Hampshire are from buildings and transportation, which are each responsible for about 1/3 of the state’s emissions. More than 40% of New Hampshire households rely on fuel oil as their primary heating fuel, the second-largest share, after Maine, and about 10 times the national average. Petroleum consumption in the residential sector, which accounts for nearly 25% of state petroleum use, is among the highest in the nation on a per capita basis, in part because of the heavy dependence on heating oil during the state’s frigid winters.
In 2019, 59% of New Hampshire’s net electricity generation came from the Seabrook nuclear generating station, which is the largest power plant in the state. The remaining electricity is provided by natural gas (20% of generation), with biomass, hydroelectric power, wind, and coal supplying almost all of the state’s remaining generation. New Hampshire is taking steps to reduce its emissions through participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state cap and trade program. RGGI states have already decreased their collective emissions by about 45% (as of 2020) since the program started. The cap-and-trade system generates funds for the state from the sale of emissions allowance permits, which New Hampshire has used to lower electricity bills through rebates.
Buildings & Energy Efficiency
Acadia Center’s activity in New Hampshire is primarily through its role as an official member of the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) Committee, an advisory group consisting of New Hampshire utilities, NGOs, and state agency officials working together for energy efficiency measures. The Energy Efficiency Resource Standard produces millions of dollars in energy savings and reduces pollution from energy production. Acadia Center fought to ensure the 2021-2023 EERS Plan includes:
- Increased energy efficiency savings for 2021-23, and a commitment to a ramp up to delivering all-cost effective energy efficiency in future plans;
- Increased workforce development and training, especially for NH’s most vulnerable and rural communities and individuals;
- Targeted marketing, education, and enhanced incentives especially for NH’s most rural and disadvantaged communities and individuals;
- Upgraded energy efficiency data tracking systems and transparency;
- Enhanced building code development, implementation, training, compliance, and enforcement;
- Acceleration of the efforts to electrify and weatherize buildings heated by oil and gas.
In 2021, the NH Public Utilities Commission rejected a new energy efficiency plan developed as a consensus by utilities, government entities, consumer groups, and Acadia Center and its partners. Order No. 26,553 in DE 20-092 Electric and Gas Utilities: 2021-2023 Triennial Energy Efficiency Plan, released 11/12/2021.
New Hampshire deserves to reap the benefits that a more robust EERS program can provide. New Hampshire has some of the oldest and leakiest housing stock in the nation and a high dependency on fossil fuels for heating. Building heating is also one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in New Hampshire. Past progress shows that transitioning to a clean energy future will grow the economy, create jobs, enhance public health, and improve housing. Counter to the PUC’s findings, far more must be done to improve the efficiency of NH homes and businesses and to ensure that all overburdened and underserved communities reap the full benefits of efficiency offerings. Many consumers face unequal access to benefits under existing efficiency programs, and underserved communities that face the worst impacts of climate change and poor housing quality have not been able to take full advantage of efficiency programs. Clean electric heating and whole house electrification must be priorities to support the acceleration of clean energy resources and the transition away from fossil fuels.
Acadia Center is focused on policy and market structures that open the way for electricity as a clean, affordable transportation fuel and alignment of incentives for consumers to invest in electric vehicles (EVs) and other emerging technologies Acadia Center data, precedent from other states, and research on best practices, serves as a responsive and reliable resource for decision makers and advocates to support electrification and advance the push New Hampshire to address transportation sector emissions.
Acadia Center developed information showing the health and investment benefits to New Hampshire if it participates in the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), a regional plan to reduce emissions from the transportation sector. Although Gov. Sununu quickly declared New Hampshire would not participate in TCI, and other New England States are pausing their TCI efforts, Acadia Center and its partners remain committed to advancing the goals of the program.
Clean Power and Utility Innovation
Acadia Center advances policies that level the playing field for clean energy generation and advocates for reforms to the incentives and resource planning rules that govern utilities, as well as for distributed generation and community energy.
Acadia Center will look for opportunities to help New Hampshire reshape utility and energy process planning so that they supports integration of more clean energy and electric vehicles. The main levers for achieving this in the state are proceedings at the Public Utilities Commission and pilot projects.
Massachusetts has long been at the national forefront for its ambitious climate and clean energy goals. The state’s educational and high-tech industry has driven technological innovation and inspired other states to make similar commitments. Acadia Center has been a leading climate and clean energy voice in Massachusetts. Our work has led to policies and programs that directly contributed to Massachusetts taking a leadership role on energy efficiency investments. We have worked to advance clean energy growth through offshore wind procurements and have influenced numerous climate goals adopted by the state, shored up Massachusetts leadership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and are working in partnerships and coalitions to advance reforms to the state’s transportation and energy systems. In 2020, the Baker administration announced an update to the state’s 2050 carbon reduction goal, changing the goal to net-zero. That requirement was codified into law in 2021 when Baker signed the Next Generation Climate Roadmap bill.
With Acadia Center’s leadership, this sweeping legislation instituted a number of groundbreaking climate change programs & policies, such as codifying a definition for environmental justice into law, requiring the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to consider equity and climate change program goals in its decisions, and boosting offshore wind procurement figures. As Massachusetts implements this law and embarks on the road to net zero, Acadia Center will continue to provide cutting-edge data and policy analysis and thought leadership to state agencies developing energy policies to reach the net-zero target.
In 2020, the Baker administration updated the state’s 2050 carbon reduction goal to net-zero and released the Clean Energy and Climate Plan (CECP) for 2030. With the passage of the Next-Generation Climate Roadmap law in March 2021, the state’s climate plan will be based on a stringent, science-based 50% economy-wide emissions reduction target for 2030 and targets for all major carbon-emitting sectors. As Massachusetts embarks on the road to net zero, Acadia Center will provide cutting-edge data and policy analysis and thought leadership to state agencies developing energy policies to reach the 2050 net-zero target.
Massachusetts’s energy efficiency programs rose to a ranking of #1 in the nation for almost a decade since the enactment of provisions in the Green Communities Act that Acadia Center initiated. These programs have produced significant economic, health and emissions-reductions benefits. Acadia Center has served on the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council (EEAC), including as a member of the Executive Council, since it was founded. The DPU is currently reviewing the state’s Three-Year Energy Plan, and Acadia Center worked to ensure the strongest possible standards in the plan. Acadia Center is at the forefront of the efforts to continually raise the bar for program performance; is currently seeking to improve program delivery to low- and moderate-income and language-isolated residents who have more obstacles to accessing the benefits of the energy efficiency programs; expand program services to embrace whole-house electrification; and ensure that the programs do even more to reduce climate and air pollutants and benefit all consumers.
In Massachusetts, over 65% of the energy used by buildings comes from fossil fuels. Unfortunately, roughly 85% of the residential buildings that are expected to exist in 2050 have already been built. These two aspects of the building stock in Massachusetts signal the need for large-scale investment in programs to retrofit, weatherize, and replace fossil fuels use in these buildings.
Acadia Center is advocating for policies that will lead to investments in home weatherization and electrification of heat, hot water and stoves. Acadia Center has advanced building electrification by leveraging its leadership role on the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council. Examples include updating the standard definition of cost effectiveness to account for contributions to carbon goals and ending incentives for fossil-fueled heating system upgrades. Electrifying buildings will avoid investments in fossil gas infrastructure that could lock in energy use patterns for decades to come. Our research supports this concept; building upon technological advances in heat pumps, water heaters, and induction cooking appliances have made fossil fuel combustion obsolete in buildings. Acadia Center is also actively participating in DPU Docket 20-80, which requires Massachusetts to plan for what role natural gas will play in our energy and heating mix going forward.
Meeting Massachusetts’ ambitious climate targets will require substantial emission reductions from the transportation sector, which is responsible for nearly 40% of the state’s emissions. Acadia Center’s work to deliver a cleaner and more equitable transportation system involves replacing polluting fuels with electric-powered transportation, improving public transit and other alternative mobility options, and putting a price on tailpipe pollution to help fund much-needed transportation investments. As a member of the state’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Commission, Acadia Center is advocating for Massachusetts to adopt a suite of clean, modern transportation policies.
Environmental officials in Massachusetts have identified the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), an innovative regional cap-and-invest program that would apply a nominal carbon price on transportation fuels and reinvest proceeds into clean transportation and mobility strategies like vehicle electrification, transit improvements, and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure, as necessary to meeting the state’s climate target. While Governor Baker has decided to pause the state’s work on TCI in 2022, the policy still offers a ready-made option to reduce vehicle pollution and support equitable investment in the clean transportation future. Without TCI, Massachusetts will need to identify alternative measures to deliver emission reductions and sustainable funding sources, while accelerating action to support transportation and climate justice. Acadia Center and our partners remain committed to advancing the goals of the program.
Clean Power & Utility Innovation
Acadia Center plays a leading role in Massachusetts’ efforts to increase the use of renewable energy resources such as offshore wind and rooftop and large-scale solar. Acadia Center has successfully advocated for Massachusetts’ ambitious clean energy policies including the expansion of solar policies and clean energy procurements from offshore wind and other renewable sources as a means for reaching the state’s carbon reduction goals. As stated earlier, Acadia Center’s advocacy helped ensure an additional procurement of offshore resources in the Next Generation Climate Roadmap bill.
Acadia Center’s clean energy advocacy also includes participating in regulatory proceedings at the DPU with the goal of reforming the traditional utility business model in order to put customers’ needs first and transform the electricity grid to a modern system that can support an electrified, low-carbon economy.
Acadia Center’s work in Massachusetts is centered on fully transitioning away from fossil gas, which produces nearly 40% of the state’s GHG emissions and poses major human health and climate risks. Natural gas is an extremely explosive fuel, and Massachusetts residents have learned from tragic experience about its dangers. A disastrous series of explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley in September 2018 caused a fatality, numerous injuries, extensive property damage, and extended disruptions which cost more than $1 billion and cost the gas distribution company its franchise. Front line communities in Lawrence suffered extensive displacement and losses that linger today. Beyond the safety issues, natural gas distribution infrastructure is also expensive and dangerous to repair, leaving Massachusetts residents vulnerable to supply disruptions, price shocks, and heating outages.
In Massachusetts, Acadia Center is currently an organizer, member, partner or supporter of the following groups or coalitions (and many other ad hoc collaborative efforts):
- Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions (ACES)
- Avoided Energy Supply Costs Study (AESCS) Group
- Beyond Gas Coalition
- Global Warming Solutions Project (GWSP)
- Implementation Advisory Committee (IAC) to the MA EEA
- Massachusetts Offshore Wind Power Coalition
- Northeast Smart Heat Collaborative
- Transportation for Massachusetts (T4MA) Coalition
- Massachusetts Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) Table
- Massachusetts Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Coalition
- Massachusetts Power Forward (MPF)
- Massachusetts Campaign for a Clean Energy Future
Introduction To Maine
Climate Action Plan
Maine is unique in its size, geographical diversity, and demographics and requires a distinct approach to energy planning. For example, Maine is majority-rural, with a high percentage of low-income households, and its residents endure frigid winters. Despite these challenges, Maine also has unique characteristics that give the state an edge in reducing emissions, especially through its offshore wind industry, its emerging solar industry, and its carbon-sequestering forest industry.
Maine’s abundant wind, water, and forestry resources are economic drivers and position the state as a leader in renewable energy. As of 2020, about 79% of Maine’s electricity is produced from renewable sources. Maine’s offshore wind industry is emerging as a competitive market advantage in the energy sector, and can create skilled labor, new technologies, product lines, and projects. A floating offshore wind project is demonstrating the new technology off the coast of Maine. The competition for the next generation of offshore wind is fierce on the global level and Maine can harness its ocean energy resources to not only export its innovative technology and specialized expertise, but provide long-term, sustainable jobs in state.
Maine’s climate commitments are to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 45% (from 1990 levels) by 2030 and 80% by 2050, and achieve net-zero by 2045. Acadia Center actively participates in the Maine Climate Council activities while bringing its advocacy and analysis on these issues to implement recommendations in the Maine Won’t Wait: A Four-Year Plan for Climate Action. Maine has also committed to a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) law requiring 80% renewable energy by 2030 and establishing a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050.
Buildings & Energy Efficiency Maine
Acadia Center is playing a leadership role in developing strategies to reduce building energy use in Maine. Maine has some of the oldest building stock in the U.S., with 56% of homes built before 1980, which will require a suite of energy efficiency upgrades. Older, leaky homes and buildings mean more wasted heat and dollars escaping and higher “energy burden”, where too much of a household’s income is going toward energy costs (electricity, home heating, and transportation) rather than rent/mortgage, groceries, and other necessities. Building heating in Maine is also heavily reliant on fossil fuels: approximately three-fifths of Maine households use oil as their primary heating fuel, more than any other state. If natural gas, kerosene, and propane are included, ~80% of Mainers’ heating comes from fossil fuels. Acadia Center was a member of the Buildings, Infrastructure, and Housing (BIH) Working Group of the Maine Climate Council and works with Efficiency Maine Trust and other state agencies on recommendations to:
- Improve the design and construction of new buildings, including updated and expanded building codes. This will promote greater energy efficiency, use of cleaner energy supplies and low-carbon materials (including mass timber), and resilience for individual buildings.
- Transition to cleaner heating and cooling systems, including high-efficiency heat pumps. Maine has already set an aggressive goal of 100,000 additional heat pumps installed by 2025 which are vastly more efficient in converting energy to useful heat, and they run on electricity which, in Maine, is relatively clean and on a pathway to being primarily derived from clean, renewable sources. Heat pumps run on clean electricity are commercially available, effective in cold Maine winters, and are suitable in single family homes, affordable housing and multi-family apartments, and commercial buildings.
- Enhance the efficiency and resiliency of existing buildings by “weatherizing” — reducing air leakage and improving insulation levels. This work is particularly important in Maine’s old building stock, including affordable housing, low-income, and rural homes. These improvements reduce energy usage and carbon emissions, increase resident comfort, build home equity, and offer opportunities to remediate mold, lead, and other health hazards.
Acadia Center is working with its partners to accelerate the transition to low-carbon transportation. Acadia Center is:
- Supporting incentives to increase the number of electric vehicles (EV’s) in Maine and maximize access to EV charging stations.
- Supporting regional efforts to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector and investment in healthier, more affordable transportation solutions that serve the needs of all Maine residents, especially rural and low-income populations.
- Working to increase public transportation funding and expanding investment in healthier transportation, including construction of biking and walking paths that give people the opportunity to drive less.
Clean Power & Utility Innovation
Energy policy in Maine is driven alternatively by competitive pressures to keep energy prices low and environmental goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Acadia Center is leading efforts to develop strategies and build coalitions around reforms focused on Maine’s electricity and utility sector:
- Ensuring adequate, affordable clean energy supply to meet Maine’s 100% renewable goals, including distributed energy resources like solar and wind.
- Modernizing transmission & distribution systems to better integrate of distributed energy resources (like solar), microgrids and storage, and effective use of non-wire alternatives (NWAs) in planning so that the grid can support the clean energy needed to achieve Maine’s climate goals, and is modern, flexible, and community-focused.
- Reforming utility planning to make it easier to electrify for heating, cooling, and transportation and more equitable for low-income, rural, and other vulnerable populations.
- Authorizing state agencies, including the Maine Public Utilities Commission, to consider climate and equity on equal footing in their regulatory and programmatic decision-making.
- Supporting a clean energy economy in a post-COVID pandemic world.
Natural Lands & Forestry
Maine’s extensive natural forests play an essential role in capturing atmospheric carbon. Currently, Maine forestland sequesters the equivalent of 75% of Maine’s GHG emissions and hold a tremendous potential – with greater focus and investment – to sequester even more carbon and offset further emissions from all other sectors of Maine’s economy. Maine is 90% forested and has a thriving timber industry. The use of carbon-sequestering, low-carbon building materials such as cross-laminated timber and wood-fiber insulation has huge environmental and economic potential to increase economic activity in the forest products industry; benefit rural economies by creating more demand for wood; and improve forest management to capture carbon emitted in other sectors of the economy.
Acadia Center is helping to drive solutions to:
- Protect and conserve natural lands through a dedicated, sustained funding source and technical assistance to support a robust forest products economy, increase carbon storage opportunities, avoid emissions, and enhance climate adaptation and resilience.
- Address embodied carbon- the carbon footprint of a material from its development (factory) to its end use (building) – by increasing demand for low-carbon construction materials, including Maine-made wood-based products such as cross-laminated timber and wood-fiber insulation.
Acadia Center has leadership roles in multiple coalitions and is working with Efficiency Maine Trust and Governor’s Energy Office on various energy and utility reform policies. Acadia Center is on a stakeholder group aimed at exploring ways to better align utility regulation with decarbonization and clean energy goals and is engaging in direct discussions with Maine’s investor-owned utilities. Acadia Center is also buildings a strong business-focused organization to help support climate and clean energy priorities.
Connecticut has been a leader in advancing clean energy and climate goals in the Northeast. In 2018, Connecticut set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, and Governor Lamont’s 2019 executive order mandates that Connecticut’s electricity sector reach zero emissions by 2040. Acadia Center has played a leading role in advancing climate and energy reforms in the state and is integrally involved with all clean energy efforts as Connecticut seeks to meet its climate goals.
On December 16th Governor Ned Lamont announced that he has signed an executive order (Executive Order No. 21-3) directing Connecticut executive branch state agencies to take significant actions within their authority to reduce carbon emissions and prepare for the impacts of the climate crisis. Executive Order No. 21-3 calls for 23 actions, proposed by the Governor’s Council on Climate Change (GC3) in its January 2021 report, that cut across state agencies and sectors in the following areas:
- Buildings and infrastructure;
- Clean transportation;
- Community climate resilience;
- Health, equity, and environmental justice;
- Jobs and the economy; and
- Natural and working lands.
Connecticut is increasingly experiencing the effects of the changing climate, and precious little time remains to take action to mitigate the impacts the state will experience in the future. The state’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report shows that emissions from the transportation and building sectors are increasing, and that the state is not on track to meet its interim 2030 target. Acadia Center is calling on the Connecticut General Assembly to authorize expanded investment and decarbonization programs.
Acadia Center plays a leading role in advancing climate and energy reforms in the state and is integrally involved with all clean energy efforts as Connecticut seeks to meet its climate goals.
Energy Efficiency & Buildings
Since 1998, Connecticut’s energy efficiency incentive programs have helped small and large businesses, homeowners and renters, and state and local governments reduce their energy use and costs in all of Connecticut’s 169 towns. Since the Energize Connecticut climate change program began in 2012, it’s saved approximately 30 million MWh (equivalent to one year of the whole state’s electricity demand) and created billions of dollars in benefits for Connecticut ratepayers.
Through the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Board, stakeholders from diverse backgrounds work with the electric and gas utilities to create programs to increase energy efficiency, our least-cost energy resource. Acadia Center worked to pioneer the innovative stakeholder efficiency council model in Connecticut, then spread the example across the region. Acadia Center staff have held a seat on the Energy Efficiency Board since its founding, and currently serve as Vice Chair of the Board and Chair of the Residential Committee. Our work on efficiency in Connecticut focuses on ensuring that everyone can participate in the programs, especially lower-income residents and seniors, who spend a much higher percentage of their income on energy and can most benefit from efficiency upgrades.
Connecticut has set a goal of weatherizing 80% of its homes by 2030, yet 23% of homes are currently ineligible for the state’s weatherization and efficiency programs due to “health and safety barriers” such as mold, asbestos or vermiculite, and knob and tube wiring, which are rampant in older housing stock. Yet the housing with such health and safety barriers is usually the most in need of weatherization and treatment by the programs to address their old and leaky spaces.
In 2013, Acadia Center co-authored a study on health and safety barriers and created a series of recommendations. Through a position as Vice Chair of the Energy Efficiency Board (EEB) in Connecticut, Acadia Center was able to keep this issue as a top concern and over the past year, Acadia Center staff worked extensively with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to organize two workshops to discuss the issue of health and safety barriers. One idea that emerged from these workshops is to use federal funds from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to address health and safety remediations in targeted homes. Acadia Center asked DEEP to reach out to the Department of Social Service (DSS) to enable this policy change, and in early April, the LIHEAP board voted to allow $2M in funding to address these barriers, beginning in January 2022. This is the first time that LIHEAP funds have been allocated towards health and safety barriers, hopefully setting a precedent that can be followed for years to come.
On November 8, 2021, DEEP released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a Statewide Weatherization Barrier Remediation Program Operator. The “program operator” will be selected in January 2022.
Acadia Center advocates for transportation policy reforms in Connecticut that reduce emissions, improve transportation choices and equitably address the pollution issues affecting vulnerable populations that have been caused by current transportation systems. Connecticut is a member of the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) and Acadia Center helped found the Connecticut TCI Coalition. The coalition works with a variety of stakeholders such as environmental and energy advocates, environmental justice organizations, and the business community and raises awareness about TCI through webinars, opinion pieces, and analysis developed by Acadia Center and partners.
This state-focused table provides the necessary forums for TCI advocates to work closely with community-based organizations to discuss state-specific transportation challenges and solutions. Through these discussions, Acadia Center and our partners can craft policy recommendations designed to meet local needs. Most recently, the advocates in Connecticut secured commitments from Governor Lamont to launch community air quality monitoring programs and create the Connecticut Equity and Environmental Justice Advisory Council, two of our long-held recommendations.
Acadia Center is working on transportation legislation that will focus on targeting the biggest CO2 emitters. Heavy duty trucks and buses are the biggest problem. Electrification of these vehicles is a top priority.
Acadia Center also serves on the newly created Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate (CHEAPR) Board, which is working on designing the state’s new electric vehicle incentive program.
Acadia Center works collaboratively to reduce gas expansion in Connecticut. In 2020, Connecticut staff published a report titled “The Declining Role of Natural Gas Power in New England” that analyzed energy scenarios to show that demand for natural gas in the power sector, even under business as usual conditions, is projected to decline dramatically by the next decade. According to the report, New England’s reliance on natural gas to fuel power plants could drop from 45% to approximately 10% of its electricity needs in 2030, making any investment in new gas pipelines or plants a wasteful and unnecessary investment.
Acadia Center is active in the Connecticut Beyond Gas Coalition working in conjunction with the MA coalition of the same name. This regional approach is imperative to the success of getting effective gas reduction policies in place.
As Connecticut moves ahead into a new legislative session, Acadia Center will address potential strategies for making natural gas a thing of the past and move forward with clean energy alternatives. Acadia Center also participates in the regulatory dockets both through the Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) dockets.
Clean Power & Utility Innovation
Acadia Center has long advocated for policies and programs to expand clean energy in the state, working on the state’s first Renewable Portfolio Standard that requires utilities to purchase minimum amounts of qualifying clean energy, and setting up the state’s first green energy investment fund. Acadia Center continues to work with coalitions and partners to advance clean energy. Acadia Center was a leader in working to pass the legislation that allowed for the first purchase of offshore wind power in 2017 by the utilities that serve Connecticut and building coalitions to successfully support increased purchases of offshore wind. In 2020, Connecticut legislature approved the purchase of offshore wind power that will be equivalent to 14% of the state’s energy needs. Acadia Center is also working to ensure that homeowners, businesses and communities have access to clean energy. We work to support solar net metering – a program that gives credits to consumers when they contribute energy to the grid from their own solar panels – and related programs that are helping building owners install solar power on-site and building a solar power industry in the state.
Acadia Center has submitted comments on numerous PURA dockets in 2021 on the effort to push progressive modernization of the existing energy grid and will continue to be a guiding force on these efforts in 2022.
- Board member of Energy Efficiency Board – Vice Chair
- Residential Committee of the Energy Efficiency Board- Chairperson
- Board member of the CHEAPR Program
- Board member of Operation Fuel
- Coalition member of the TCI Coalition
- Participating in the PURA Dockets and DEEP Dockets addressing Utility Innovation
- Coalition member of the CT RENEW