July Policy Tracker: State Efforts to Celebrate

Some may be more challenged to find their patriotism this Fourth of July as the federal administration continues to attempt bringing down the progress we have made in clean energy, carbon reduction, and energy efficiency, but let us not forget the efforts of our states. Let’s go out and celebrate all of their great work this year. Here’s a closer look at some of the most recent efforts by state legislatures around the region.

In 2008, Massachusetts signed the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) into law and became one of the first states to set a comprehensive framework in place to address climate change. The GWSA set 2020 and 2050 greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, but it has since been identified that in order to remain on track to meet the state’s long term goal of 80 percent GHG reduction by 2050, interim targets are needed. Massachusetts legislators have been working to implement interim targets with the energy omnibus bill, S2564, An Act to Promote a Clean Energy Future, which has passed the Senate. If passed as currently amended, this bill will launch the Commonwealth into a decarbonized future and will ensure that 80 percent GHG reduction is met, and exceeded, by 2050.

The bill includes various provisions, such as establishing 2030 and 2040 emissions limits. The interim 2030 emissions limit would be least 43 percent below the 1990 level, and the interim 2040 emissions limit would be at least 62 percent below the 1990 level. This would be a reasonable trajectory towards 80 percent by 2050.

The bill also directs a portion of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) funds to provide rebates for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. In addition, the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) would be required to publish a guide to assist cities and towns in developing programs that allow for curbside EV charging for residences without off street parking. This would exponentially help residences in urban areas and in multifamily homes gain access to charging infrastructure for EVs, which is currently a barrier to EV adoption.

In addition, the omnibus bill sets the goal of 100 percent energy needs met with renewable energy by 2050, including electricity, heating and cooling, transportation, agricultural uses, industrial uses, and all other residential, C&I, and public uses. This would full decarbonize and electrify the energy system of Massachusetts. As an interim goal to this monumental step, electricity will be required to be sourced from renewable sources by 2035.

Furthermore, the bill puts a price on carbon through a market-based compliance mechanism for transportation by end of 2020, C&I by the end of 2021, and residential by the end of 2022. This received additional support when National Grid, with territory in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York, called for an economy-wide price on carbon and rapid electrification of the transportation sector.  National Grid unveiled a new plan to address emissions in the transportation, power, and building heating sectors across its Northeast territory by reducing GHG 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 through decarbonization efforts. The figure below from National Grid’s plan shows the economy wide progress towards 40 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 and the required action needed to meet the goal.

New England economy wide CO2 emissions

Based on this figure, it is clear that the transportation and residential sectors account for the most emissions. Therefore, National Grid calls for increased levels of EVs, specifically 10 million by 2030, and a rapid transition from fuel oil and propane for space heating to electricity via air and ground source heat pumps. The white paper sets a target of 3.85 million homes utilizing heat pumps by 2030, which would require 300,000 homes and business to convert annually. This deep level of electrification requires a price on carbon on all sectors of the economy and through the growth in renewable sources of energy that the energy omnibus bill would provide. Electrifying end uses, such as heating and transportation, and then powering the electric sector with renewable energy, will truly enable the kind of deep decarbonization that is needed to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Various other states in the region have also been active in implementing policies and will bring the region closer to reaching its carbon reduction goals. Pennsylvania legislators have passed HB1782 with the Governor’s approval. It grants the Public Utility Commission (PUC) clear legal authority to approve alternative utility ratemaking mechanisms, including full revenue decoupling and performance incentives for utilities to exceed their current energy efficiency requirements. Various states in the NEEP region have decoupled because it removes disincentives from utility promotion of energy efficiency and protects utility recovery of fixed costs from fluctuations in sales per customer.

Governor Wolf approved Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) legislation, making Pennsylvania one of more than 30 states that allow local governments to create C-PACE programs or join an existing C-PACE program. C-PACE ensures that owners of agricultural, commercial and industrial properties can obtain low-cost, long-term financing for energy efficiency, water conservation, and renewable energy projects. Over the next several years, C-PACE financing could represent hundreds of millions in investment in energy efficiency and clean energy projects in Pennsylvania.

Similar to Pennsylvania, Delaware passed legislation that authorized the creation of a voluntary Property Assessed Clean Energy (D-PACE) program to create a clean energy financing program for the installation of energy efficiency technologies and clean energy systems for commercial properties. D-PACE will allow building owners to invest in accessible and affordable clean energy with confidence. This program will be administered by the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU), which will also establish a statewide financing program to help expand clean energy projects.

On another note, New Hampshire’s Governor signed H1742 into law, which establishes an Energy Code Compliance Form. The state building code review board will make a simplified residential energy code compliance form based upon the energy provisions in the International Residential Code (IRC) and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) adopted by the state available to the public. When this form is completed, it will be accepted by all code enforcement authorities within the state of New Hampshire as one method of verification that the applicable project meets the code requirements. This will take effect August 8, 2018. Effective code compliance will help the state realize the full benefits associated with building energy codes, such as greater clean energy and economic development, by ensuring the verification that a building meets the base code adopted by the state.

Governor Hogan of Maryland signed SB648, Real Property - New Home Sales - Information on Energy-Efficient Options. This bill requires, for a development with 11 or more homes built by the same builder, home builders to provide purchasers with written information on energy-efficient options, such as a statement that tax credits may be available related to energy-efficient upgrades available for installation in new homes. This provides transparency and education to home buyers about the energy cost as well as ways to ensure healthy and comfortable homes. This step will provide more information to home buyers about energy efficiency to help them make informed decisions about home purchases.

Vermont has taken another step forward with appliance standards by delivering H410, An Act Relating to Appliance Efficiency, Energy Planning, and Electric Vehicle Parking, to the Governor where it was signed at the end of May. This bill proposes to amend Vermont’s energy efficiency standards for appliances and equipment to include the following products, which are not currently covered by federal energy efficiency standards: computers and monitors; “high CRI” linear fluorescent lamps; deep dimming fluorescent ballasts; faucets, urinals, and water closets; portable electric spas; commercial hot food holding cabinets; and water dispensers. States have taken the lead on appliance standards since standards have stagnated at the federal level, and Vermont – alongside California - has emerged as a leader in this area.

Similar to the action taken in Massachusetts this legislative session, Connecticut has also passed legislation that will change the energy future of the state. Two bills introduced by Governor Malloy passed and will ensure Connecticut’s energy future is more resilient, affordable, and clean. Senate Bill 7, An Act Concerning Climate Change Planning and Resiliency, amends the state integrated resource planning (IRP) process to bear in mind greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction requirements when considering options to reduce electric rates and costs. The GHG reduction targets are 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, 45 percent below 2001 levels by 2030, and 80 percent below 2001 levels by 2050. With the current 2018 IRP planning process currently underway, this is the first cycle that will have to consider the interim target for 2030, which was just introduced in 2018 to ensure the state remains on track to its 2050 long-term target.

Senate Bill 9 also passed this session in Connecticut. It mandates 40 percent of electricity to be from renewable energy by 2030 and eliminates the Conservation and Load Management (CLM) Fund (a.k.a., the “Energy Efficiency Fund”) where revenues from current electric and gas charges are deposited. This legislation instead requires revenue from a new conservation adjustment mechanism to be used to further the CLM Plan, rather than be deposited in the fund. It also requires all services provided under the plan to be available to all electric utility customers, regardless of how they heat their homes. This will help preserve future funding for energy efficiency following the diversion of funds from the energy efficiency fund to the general state fund. The 2018 state budget bill passed at the end of the session and restores $10 million of the energy efficiency funds in 2019, bringing the diversion down to $53.5 million.

States throughout the region are keeping their legislatures busy with a plethora of legislation related to energy efficiency and carbon reduction. It continues to be a promising season as some sessions come to a close after enacting various laws that make the future a brighter place and others, like Massachusetts, continue on in their session with promising bills in action. I think this gives us something to celebrate this Fourth of July!

Stay informed

Stay up to date with the latest NEEP and industry news, policies, and trends to your inbox every so often.