Josh Craft, Manager of Public Policy Analysis
May finds many states in the midst of important legislative and regulatory debates that will impact energy efficiency programs throughout the Northeast region. Below is an overview of some of the key energy efficiency proceedings we are keeping tabs on.
Connecticut is in the midst of serious debate about their energy policy future. We are tracking HB 6360, which would implement the major provisions of the Governor’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy. The bill is out of committee and should be headed for a vote soon. HB 6360 would boost energy efficiency revenue by increasing its system benefits charge from 3 mills/kWh to 6 mills/kWh and require its electric utilities to implement revenue decoupling. It would also require certain large, non-residential buildings to benchmark and disclosure their energy use on an annual basis.
Legislation is not the only route for change, however. The state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) is actively considering allowing the utilities to increase investment in energy efficiency through a conservation adjustment mechanism (CAM). That proceeding, part of their 2013-2015 Conservation and Load Management (C&LM) plan proceedings, will be ongoing throughout this year.
Building Energy Codes
NEEP has focused much of our building codes outreach work in Maine, where proposals both to enhance and to dilute the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code (MUBEC) have been floating around this session. Prospects for passage of LD 977, which would restore MUBEC for communities above 2,000 residents, look favorable after it passed the Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development.
Moreover, we are also pleased to see that Vermont is poised to create its first “stretch” energy code as part of their omnibus energy bill, H. 520. The provision would apply to large residential development projects as part of compliance with the state’s Act 250 land use planning process. H. 520 is expected to be signed by Governor Peter Shumlin in the coming weeks.
NEEP is also working with states as part of upcoming rule-makings to adopt the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Rhode Island, Washington D.C., and Massachusetts are all actively working to adopt the 2012 IECC.
Building Energy Disclosure
Building energy disclosure policies are increasingly being discussed at the state level. Connecticut includes a fairly robust energy disclosure package for non-residential buildings as part of HB 6360, with benchmarking beginning for the largest buildings starting in January 2014. Vermont is also attempting to move ahead with building energy disclosure. Vermont’s H. 520 would create a working group to study a “consistent format and presentation for an energy rating” for disclosure purposes.
Oil Heat Efficiency Funding
NEEP continues to advocate for legislation that would extend access to energy efficiency programs to customers who rely on oilheat. We look forward to hearings later this summer legislation in Massachusetts on H. 2741, which would create an oilheat energy efficiency fund to supplement the state’s already strong energy efficiency programs. More information about this important legislation can be found at http://www.oilheatsaveenergycoalition.org/.
States made headlines when they moved to lower their carbon budgets for the second phase of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). This important move will enable the region to continue to drive down greenhouse gas emissions and promote energy efficiency and clean energy. Less attention has been given to a number of proposals that would divert investments from their carbon auctions away from energy efficiency and towards other uses. Three states have proposals we are concerned with:
- In Massachusetts, the House’s FY 2014 budget would use RGGI proceeds to reimburse communities for certain lost revenues as a result of closing of coal plants.
- In Maine, LD 1425, supported by Governor Paul LePage, would divert RGGI proceeds away from energy efficiency and towards rebates for natural gas conversion and rate reductions for large customers.
- In New Hampshire, the majority of proceeds will continue to go towards rebates for customers, and new legislation would divert more funds away from the CORE energy efficiency programs.
NEEP looks forward to working with stakeholders from across the region to ensure that RGGI proceeds are invested in energy efficiency, which independent analysis shows is the most economical use of proceeds.
Federal Policy Update
Federal policy decisions have significant implications for energy efficiency policy in the states. Two potentially important developments are working their way through the Congress that stakeholders in the Northeast should be aware of.
- FY 2014 Budget Request: President Obama’s FY2014 budget proposal includes $200 million for a “Race to the Top in Energy” initiative. Funding would be made available if the initiative is approved for state and local governments that put in place policy and programs to advance energy efficiency and modernizing the electricity grid. Details are available here (see pdf page 499).
- S. 761, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competiveness Act: S. 761, the Energy and Industrial Competitiveness Act sponsored by Senators Jean Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) advanced through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The bill would support state updates to building energy codes, support state commercial building energy efficiency financing programs, and programs to support industrial and process energy efficiency. The bill now needs to be considered by the full Senate.