E2 Joins Broad Coalition to Protect Green Communities Act
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| ||Governor Deval Patrick |
With Massachusetts’ landmark energy bill, the Green Communities Act (GCA)
, under attack by powerful opponents, E2 has been working to defend the law and also make important improvements. During the past months, E2 joined with a broad coalition of over 20 different groups and businesses -- including the New England Clean Energy Council, CERES, Conservation Law Foundation, Health Care Without Harm, the Progressive Business Leaders Network and many others to work together to preserve the best features of the GCA, while recommending a few improvements to ensure that the Act reaches its full potential.
Governor Patrick Reiterates Clean Energy Commitment
On February 22nd leaders of the GCA coalition, including E2 New England Director Berl Hartman, met with Massachusetts’ Governor Deval Patrick to discuss the threat to the GCA and other pressing environmental and energy challenges. Our primary goal was finding ways in which the coalition and the administration could work more closely together on shared objectives.
After thanking the Governor for his leadership on clean energy and climate, the group pointed out that powerful interests were still pushing to roll back many of the state’s forward looking policies. We asked for the Governor’s renewed leadership on the GCA as well as other key issues: robust implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act; reducing the cap on emissions in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI); and holding the line on funding for public transportation. The Governor was very receptive to our suggestions and asked Rick Sullivan, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, who attended the meeting, to follow up these issues and find ways to keep the coalition involved on a regular basis.
NSTAR-NU Merger Agreement Aligns with State’s Clean Energy Goals
We also discussed a recent breakthrough agreement that the administration reached with the electric utility NSTAR to allow their proposed merger with Connecticut-based Northeast Utilities (NU). As part of the agreement, NSTAR agreed to enter into a 15-year contract to purchase 27.5 percent of the electricity output from Cape Wind, the offshore wind energy project planned for Nantucket Sound. This should allow the project to move forward. NSTAR also agreed to support the Commonwealth’s climate change goals with a public outreach campaign in support of policies in the Green Communities Act, including renewable energy, solar power development, and energy efficiency.
We are hopeful that this agreement will not only further the state’s renewable energy and efficiency goals, but also diffuse some of the opposition to the GCA.
In addition to this meeting, E2 hosted a net-zero-home event on February 9th featuring Governor Patrick and attended by his senior energy and environmental team. See the article below for more details.
Attorney General Concerned About Renewable Energy Costs
Several leaders of the GCA coalition, including E2 Director Tedd Saunders, met with Attorney General Martha Coakley. Opponents of the GCA have found a sympathetic ear in the Attorney General, who testified at a legislative oversight hearing that “the costs of the GCA programs are projected to be in excess of $4 billion over the next 4 years and will cause the total delivered cost of electricity to rise an estimated 1 to 2 cents per kilowatt hour or 7 percent over the next 4 years.”
The coalition pointed out that the law will actually save ratepayers nearly $6 billion over the next four years when the nearly $10 billion in benefits are factored in. While an average 700-kilowatt per month customer might pay an additional 1.1 cents per kilowatt-hour or $7 per month in 2015, that increase would be offset by benefits of $14 per month in net present value terms, double the cost, for a net benefit of $7 per month.
E2 Director Tedd Saunders, who is Chief Sustainability Officer and Co-Owner of the Saunders Hotel Group, noted that his company’s energy costs are coming down in their Massachusetts’ hotels because of the energy efficiency measures made possible by the utility incentives here, which make the payback time on investments reasonable.
In stark contrast, their hotels in other states, where there are little if any efficiency incentives, have not been able to implement many of the same efficiency opportunities because the ROIs don't make financial sense without a state focus on efficiency.
More recently, the Attorney General testified at a hearing held by the Legislature’s Ways and Means Committees. She again cited her concern with the cost of renewables -- without citing a specific figure this time -- but still neglected to mention the benefits.
Senator Pacheco, a member of the committee with whom E2 met recently, questioned the Attorney General on the issue of GCA benefits. He specifically mentioned statistics on renewable and efficiency benefits from the Act, citing data from E2.
Senate President Concerned About Electricity Costs and Competition
In another key meeting, members of the coalition, including E2 Director Tedd Saunders, met with Massachusetts’ Senate President Therese Murray. President Murray has been a strong supporter of clean energy and climate legislation. However, she has also expressed concern about the cost of energy and its impact on ratepayers. Once again, the coalition made its case that the benefits of the GCA far outweigh the costs, especially considering the potential of clean energy to blunt the impacts of fossil fuel price swings. E2 Director Tedd Saunders re-iterated the point that their Saunders Hotel Group is able to do much more at its Massachusetts’ hotels in terms of energy efficiency than in other states, thanks to the efficiency programs put in place via the GCA and other state efficiency programs.
Suggested GCA Improvements
Though our efforts have been largely defensive, E2 and others in the GCA coalition believe that the bill should be improved in several areas: accelerating and extending the procurement of long-term renewable energy contracts; increasing the allowable percentage of energy generated via net-metering; and sponsoring a study to determine the costs and benefits of a Clean Energy Standard.
Extend Long-Term Contracts: We propose that legislation should accelerate the current 3% requirement for long-term renewable energy contracts from mid-2014 to the end of 2012; set a new target of 7% by the end of 2014, and 9% by the end of 2016; and allow contracts for up to 25 years. These changes will increase the cost-effectiveness of the GCA in encouraging diversity of energy supply, which will enhance energy security, promote economic development and reduce the environmental impacts of energy production.
Increase Net-Metering Limit: The current cap on renewable projects participating in the net metering program soon will be met if all of the projects that have applied for interconnection are developed, stagnating development of distributed renewable power in Massachusetts. E2 believes that the net metering limit should be increased to a total of 6% of a distribution company’s historic peak load.
Study the Impact of a Potential Clean Energy Performance Standard: Though we are strongly opposed to inclusion of mature technologies like large Canadian Hydro in the current RPS, we recognize that technologies such as large scale hydro and advanced storage could play a significant role in helping the state meet its GHG objectives. We recommend that the State undertake a study of the costs and benefits of such a program that would be overseen by a Citizen’s Advisory Board.
State Policies Bring Tangible Economic Benefits
Massachusetts’ climate and energy policies are among the strongest in the nation. In addition to the Green Communities Act (GCA), Massachusetts boasts a Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) that sets the nation’s strictest GHG limits; and a Green Jobs Bill that has enabled important clean energy investments.
This suite of policies is bringing tangible results. Massachusetts recently garnered the #1 rank among US states in energy efficiency; its clean energy sector grew nearly 7 % over the past year; and the State reaped over $2.5 billion in cleantech VC investment since 2005. E2, working together with the GCA Coalition, is working to preserve and extend this record of progress.
 Written Testimony of Attorney General Martha Coakley, Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Oversight Hearing: The Green Communities Act of 2008; November 9, 2011
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