Category Archives: Policy News

Get the latest on energy efficiency policy analysis in the Northeast and Midatlantic region

Reflections on Smart Grid and the Role of Energy Efficiency

I recently returned from the first-ever National Summit on Integrating Energy Efficiency and Smart Grid, where I experienced a series of Aha! moments. I’m still chewing on what I learned about how energy efficiency (EE), clean distributed generation (DG) and demand response (DR) can work together, and how this “smart grid” stuff is going to help enable it.

FERC Commissioner Jon Wellinghoff explained how Hurrican Sandy changed people's views on energy.

FERC Commissioner Jon Wellinghoff explained how Hurrican Sandy changed people’s views on energy. (photo credit: ADS)

At NEEP, we view energy efficiency as the smartest, most cost-effective way to help us solve a number of society’s challenges: wringing out waste, putting money back in people’s pockets and building the regional economy, controlling cost, increasing reliability, reducing the need for transmission and generation upgrades, and of course the biggest — mitigating climate change. To borrow RAP’s informal motto: “Energy efficiency is the answer. What’s the question?” Continue reading

Delaware, Maine Strive to Advance Strong EE Policy and Funding Frameworks

The end of the legislative session brought cliff hangers for major energy efficiency bills in two states- one a stunning bipartisan rebuke of Maine’s Governor LePage with passage of an omnibus energy bill. The other ending in mild disappointment as the clock ran out for Delaware to pass a bill that would finally create a sustained funding source for its energy efficiency programs.

Maine: Omnibus Bill Will Provide Sustained Efficiency Funding

Efficiency Maine is preparing to greatly ramp up investments in efficiency, thanks to the June 26 passage of LD 1559,  “An Act to Reduce Energy Costs, Increase Energy Efficiency, Promote Electric System Reliability and Protect the Environment.”

The bill, passed by gubernatorial overrides of 121-11 in the House and 35-0 in the Senate, will have significant implications for Maine’s energy future, including expanding natural gas pipeline capacity, increasing funding for thermal efficiency, dramatically ramping up efficiency funding and authorizing the Public Utilities Commission to approve the budget of the Efficiency Maine Trust. This bipartisan bill is being hailed a landmark by business leaders and environmental advocates alike.

Michael Stoddard

Michael Stoddard, Executive Directive of the Efficiency Maine Trust.

Highlights had the chance to talk with Michael Stoddard, Executive Director of the Efficiency Maine Trust, on what the bill will mean for the future of energy efficiency for the state.

“I think people are pleased, but also quickly recognize that there is a lot of work to do,” said Stoddard when asked about the mood of his team after the bill’s passage. “People took about a day to enjoy the passage and then it was right back to the grindstone figuring out how and when to ramp up delivery,” he said, noting that Maine’s fiscal year 2014 stared on July 1.

Stoddard, who has been at the helm of the organization since its current inception under the Efficiency Maine Trust Act of 2009, has seen efficiency funding become a political football under a governor who clearly doubts the value of public efforts to help customers undertake efficiency projects.

We asked Stoddard, from an efficiency point of view, what does enactment of the omnibus energy bill (Chapter 369 in 2013 Public Acts) mean for Maine? He outlined three big things:

1)      The state’s electric conservation budgets are now on a path to funding levels consistent with the Maximum Achievable Cost-Effective (MACE) potential outlined in the 2014-2016 Triennial Plan. Stoddard noted that they will seek to ramp up over a three-year timeframe, and that a very important change is that the bill restores the Public Utilities Commission’s authority to adjust budget levels in line with the state’s energy savings goals. “The all cost-effective standard has been solidified, and the process amended so that it starts and finishes with the Public Utilities Commission,” he explained.

2)      The bill expands natural gas conservation program to all gas utilities. Currently, Unitil is the only provider large enough to be required to pay into the natural gas conservation fund. With 27,000 customers, their efficiency budget amounts to about $650,000 each year. The state’s other gas utilities are currently small, but the change is an important expansion of the programs.

3)      The bill directs the use of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) proceeds to assisting oilheat customers, stating that at least 35% of proceeds shall be used for thermal efficiency programs, without specification of fuel type. With upwards of three-quarters of the state’s residential customers dependent on heating oil, this provision should provide significant relief.

“We are really pleased that the level of support for energy efficiency has grown to a point that is totally bipartisan and across all sectors of the economy,” said Stoddard.  “The change in the law is going to provide sustained support for these programs, and we are excited about the change that will enable us to extend the kinds of programs that we run for electric and natural gas to heating oil customers.” The state had run a very successful fuel-blind weatherization pilot with federal Recovery Act funding.  “Now policymakers are saying, ‘let’s create a sustained funding stream,’” Stoddard noted.

Part D of the bill also signals that Maine remains committed to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Notably, the adjustment to the state’s RGGI allowance cap is expected to increase revenue available for the state’s energy efficiency programs. With this change, Efficiency Maine is working to lay the groundwork for greatly expanded heating and weatherization programs.

“This will generate enough funds that we project we can reach 3,000-5,000 homes a year for the next three years,” said Stoddard, noting that the state has a long way to go in its stated goal of weatherizing all homes by 2030. “Thousands of homes a year are clearly not going to get us to the target by itself. I think we need to be patient, and realize we are doing market transformation,” said Stoddard.

As the first Efficiency Maine Triennial Plan concludes and the 2014-16 Plan gets underway, “Now there are one hundred small businesses that offer BPI audits and/or weatherization, and there are 5,000 Maine homes that have a relationship with one of these contractors,” Stoddard explained. “We hope that many of these homeowners who have done some efficiency work will become repeat customers, and continue moving forward with other measures.” said Stoddard, adding this will continue to build the market and help more Mainers see the value of efficiency as neighbors share their stories.

Delaware: On the Right Track

In Delaware, meanwhile, negotiators did not to reach accord until the last day of the legislative session, which did not leave time to pass House Bill 179, “An Act to Amend Title 26 of the Delaware Code Relating to Energy Efficiency Resource Standards and Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards.”

Seal_of_Delaware

“We’re halfway through the session,” said Tom Noyes, Principal Planner for Utility Policy at Delaware’s Division of Energy and Climate. “Of course we are disappointed we didn’t get it through this summer, but the bill has not died.”

With the filing of two amendments, Noyes explained that he thinks that all the key players are on board to support the bill, which he expects could come up for a vote in early 2014. “The bill has broad political support from Republicans and Democrats, upstate and downstate,” said Noyes.  It passed the House 38-0 in June.

HB 179 builds on the recommendations of the Energy Efficiency Resource Standards (EERS) Workgroup, enabling and facilitating cooperative efforts to help the state meet its energy efficiency targets. The bill includes: rate recovery for utilities to invest in cost-effective efficiency as a resource, a three year planning and budget cycle for efficiency programs, and a stakeholder advisory board to help oversee the investment of ratepayer funds. It builds upon successful models in CT, MA and other states, and is expected to support hundreds of jobs annually.

Secretary of the Environment and Energy Collin O’Mara “has spent a great deal of time on this bill, making it a priority for the Department,” according to Noyes.  “The Secretary has been very engaged in trying to get this bill passed and looking at what we can do in the meanwhile,” Noyes added.

HB 179 will expand energy efficiency programs led by the utilities, notably because Delmarva Power will be allowed to recover for investments in efficiency through rates.  But the bill as amended makes clear there is a strong role for the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU), which will continue to offer programs in coordination with Delmarva and the state’s municipal electric companies and rural electric cooperatives.

Noyes said that no time will be wasted in the months leading up to the bill’s reintroduction, building on phase two of an energy efficiency potential study and laying the groundwork for the types of programs that will be offered, and how they will be coordinated. “We want to be able to move expeditiously and see where we can get the biggest return on dollar invested,” said Noyes, adding that there is general agreement that the SEU would remain an integral part of energy efficiency programs in Delaware.

“Trying to move this bill has given us more opportunity to engage with all the stakeholders,” Noyes continued. “This gives us a chance to talk about what it means to really do energy efficiency in Delaware.” Noting that there could always be unforeseen roadblocks, Noyes sounded confident about the future of efficiency program funding for the state. “We’ve worked very hard to build broad consensus on this, and we expect that will pay off when the bill comes up for a vote.”

June-July Public Policy Tracker: Energy Efficiency Funding Legislation, New York’s Moreland Commission, and Obama on Appliance Standards

Josh Craft, Manager of Public Policy Analysis

Josh Craft, Manager of Public Policy Analysis

The spring 2013 legislative sessions have once again breezed by! This Policy Tracker focuses on the recent developments in energy efficiency policy in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

Good News, Bad News for Energy Efficiency Programs in the States

Northeast MapRevenue for energy efficiency programs is critical to achieving the energy savings goals in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.  While hydropower from Quebec grabbed the spotlight for legislators this session, both Connecticut and Maine enacted measures that should boost funding for the state’s energy efficiency programs. Connecticut HB 6360, the comprehensive energy strategy bill pending signature by Governor Malloy, creates a new funding mechanism that could double money for electric and natural gas energy efficiency programs in future years. It also promotes revenue decoupling, an important step for promoting utility investment in efficiency. And in Maine, legislators overrode a veto by Governor Paul LePage of LD 1559, a significant and bi-partisan omnibus energy bill.  The bill marks a shift back in favor of energy efficiency there, providing new funding for thermal efficiency program, dramatically increasing efficiency funding for the Efficiency Maine Trust, and restoring Public Utilities Commission (PUC) authority over the budget of the state’s efficiency programs.

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The Courage to Act: President Obama’s Climate Action Plan

Obama+2013+Photo+10“The courage to act before it’s too late.” That’s how President Obama framed his address on Tuesday on climate change. Speaking to students at Georgetown University, the President asked for a new generation’s help to keep “the United States of America a leader in the fight against climate change.” The speech laid out a new climate change action plan that includes placing limits on the carbon dioxide emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act, creating new federal appliance standards that will bring emissions down by 3 billion tons by 2030, as well as programs to increase the efficiency of our commercial, industrial, and multifamily buildings by 20 percent by 2020 (see the details of from the White House here).

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In Connecticut, it’s Back to the Future … Unfortunately

Haven’t we been here before?

Connecticut's redirection of Energy Efficiency Funds could potentially halt monetary and energy savings.

Connecticut’s redirection of Energy Efficiency Funds could potentially halt monetary and energy savings.

For the third time in the last decade, legislators in Connecticut have decided to raid the ratepayer-funded clean energy program budgets and divert the monies to the state’s general fund to help them close the budget gap.

This time, they’re taking some $35 million from both the state’s Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) – which was hailed as the nation’s first “green bank” when established two years ago – and from the state’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) account, derived from the state’s proceeds from the sale of carbon allowances. Continue reading

March Public Policy Tracker: Regional CHP Dialogue, Oil Heat Efficiency Legislation & More

This edition of the Policy Tracker finds us right in the middle of legislative sessions in the Northeast states. Over the past monthly, NEEP has been engaged in a number of important policy discussions, including on the future of combined heat and power, oil heat energy efficiency programs, If you have questions or would like more information, please send a note to me at jcraft@neep.org.

Regional Industrial Energy Efficiency Dialogue

NEEP helped lead the Department of Energy’s recent Northeast/Mid-Atlantic Regional Dialogue on Industrial Energy Efficiency in Baltimore on March 12th. Policymakers, utility representatives, and academic experts discussed the potential benefits that expanded combined heat and power (CHP) capacity and barriers and policy drivers would bring. NEEP’s Sue Coakley moderated a panel to discuss successes with CHP in states throughout our region. We were pleased to have excellent speakers from Northeast Utilities, NYSERDA, National Grid, Sikorsky Aircraft, UMass Medical School, and the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources (OER). Massachusetts Undersecretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Barbara Kates-Garnick delivered a keynote address. For more information, see DOE’s new “Guide to the Successful Implementation of State Combined Heat and Power Policies.”

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More from Baltimore: Taking down the barriers, accelerating the drivers to CHP

A great dialogue continues here in Baltimore on accelerating industrial energy efficiency and combined heat and power (CHP) in the region.

Not only do public policies need to provide a solid framework that allows for CHP to be broadly deployed, but champions among end users really need to drive projects and help other stakeholders understand their value propositions.

Those points were driven home particularly by John Baker, Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Management at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, as well as speakers from New Jersey and New York, including Brian Platt of NYSERDA, Mike Winka, director of the Office of Clean Energy in New Jersey, and Steven Goldenberg, chief counsel to the New Jersey Large Energy Users Coalition. Continue reading

Opportunities and Successes in Industrial Energy Efficiency and CHP

CHP, Industrial Efficiency Dialogue in Baltimore Maryland To help set the table for the U.S. DOE and NEEP co-hosted dialogue on advancing industrial energy efficiency and CHP, NEEP’s Sue Coakley is moderating a discussion on ‘Opportunities and Successes.’ She started this dialogue by showing a video from NEEP’s 2012 Energy Efficiency Summit in Stamford, Conn. that highlighted Sikorsky Aircraft and the energy efficiency and CHP investments they’ve made to their Stratford plant. With support from United Illuminating, Sikorsky is aiming to make their facility zero net energy with the help of an innovative co-generation unit. And with support from the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, the payback period for Sikorsky’s measures has been dropped to under four years.

Showing that best practices are not limited to New England, Jim Freihaut, director of the Mid-Atlantic Clean Energy Application Center at Penn State University, highlighted Proctor and Gamble’s Mehoopany, PA paper products plant, which has saved so much energy with its CHP application, that the company has closed plants in other states and moved those jobs to Pennsylvania. Continue reading

Dialogue on Industrial Efficiency and CHP Kicks Off in Baltimore

Good morning from Baltimore, where the U.S. Department of Energy and NEEP have just kicked off our Regional Dialogue on Accelerating Industrial Energy Efficiency and Combined Heat and Power (CHP). This meeting is being held to advance the development and implementation of state-level best practices in both public policies and investment models that address the barriers to greater investments in industrial efficiency and CHP in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region.

Jason Miller, of the National Economic Council and a Special Assistant to President Obama for Manufacturing Policy, welcomed the 160+ participants here in Baltimore by highlighting the President’s Executive Order that sets a national goal of 40 gigawatts of new, cost-effective CHP by 2020. In noting that a revitalized manufacturing sector is a core element of the administration’s economic development agenda, Miller noted the importance of accelerating efficiency and CHP in this sector because “Energy is intertwined with competitiveness. Continue reading

Hanging with the Grassroots, and Promoting Oilheat Efficiency in Massachusetts

We at NEEP spend most of our time in a pretty wonky universe. We work to advance energy efficiency policies and programs, but rarely do we get the chance to talk directly to “real people.” That is why it was so refreshing to attend the Local Environmental Action Conference over the weekend at Northeastern University in Boston.

Josh Craft of NEEP (center) spoke to a packed house about energy efficiency. He was joined on the Clean Energy panel by energy and climate expert Marc Breslow and Danielle Falzon of Environment Massachusetts.

Josh Craft of NEEP (center) spoke to a packed house about energy efficiency. He was joined on the Clean Energy panel by energy and climate expert Marc Breslow and Danielle Falzon of Environment Massachusetts.

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