It’s amazing to think about where we were this time last year – in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic. States were scrambling to protect their citizens and mitigate economic damage. Energy discussions were focused on how to keep the lights on and help low-income customers pay for utilities.

As the vaccine roll out accelerates and many begin easing back into “normal” life, climate change is back in focus. With renewed vigor, states are targeting climate change with an enhanced focus on equity and workforce. We are almost halfway through 2021 and we’ve seen a lot of energy policy action so far. By the end of the month, 70 percent of the states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region will have closed their legislative sessions. This policy blog will explore recent policy developments in our region.

Legislative Calendar
State Convenes Adjourns Carry-over
Connecticut 1/6/21 6/9/21 N/A
Delaware 1/12/21 6/30/21 2021-2022
Maine 12/2/20 6/16/21 2021-2022
Maryland 1/13/21 4/12/21 N/A
Massachusetts 1/6/21 12/31/21 2021-2022
New Hampshire 1/6/21 6/30/21 2021-2022
New Jersey 1/4/21 1/11/22 2021-2022
New York 1/6/21 6/10/21 2021-2022
Pennsylvania 1/5/21 12/31/21 2021-2022
Rhode Island 1/5/21 6/30/21 2021-2022
Vermont 1/6/21 5/28/21 2021-2022
Washington D.C. 1/2/21 Continuous 2021-2022
West Virginia 2/10/21 4/10/21 N/A

A lot has happened recently in Maine, from enabling Commercial Property Assessed Clean energy (C-PACE) to studying the establishment of a Maine Climate Corps. Bill LD1666 was signed into public law, which directs the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to issue a Request for Information (RFI) on a statewide, multiple-use online energy data platform. Initially, this bill directed the PUC to implement such a platform, however it was amended to an RFI in the House. The intent of the platform is to 1) provide customers with safe and secure access to their own data, and 2) allow data to be aggregated at the whole-building level while removing any personally identifiable information. Aggregated data is valuable for program administrators, energy efficiency programs, and anyone working on distributed energy resources. Access to this data is critical to community benchmarking ordinances, and because it allows municipalities to monitor their building stock and target deployment of energy efficiency measures. The cities of South Portland and Portland have had to limit their benchmarking programs due  to lack of access to aggregated, whole-building data. See a recent NEEP blog post to learn more about data sharing.

Maine bill LD226 was also passed into law, limiting the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a category of refrigerants that are also potent greenhouse gases. HFCs are the dominant refrigerant today and are used in a variety of applications including air conditioners, refrigerators, freezers, heat pumps, and aerosol propellants. Any leaks in these systems can have devastating effects on the environment, and their phase-out has been called for locally, nationally, and globally. Maine’s recent four-year climate action plan, Maine Won’t Wait, identified HFC phase-outs as a key strategy, and this bill is a first step in that strategy. HFCs used in heat pumps will be exempt from this phase out. To read more about the future of refrigerants with low environmental impact, see NEEP’s white paper, Informing the Evolution of HVAC Refrigerants.

In Connecticut,  bills HB356 and SB952 were signed by the governor on the same day. HB356 establishes an energy efficiency retrofit grant program for affordable housing. This program, to be developed by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), targets both energy efficiency AND health and safety. In many cases, buildings are barred from energy efficiency improvements due to existing health and safety conditions such as lead, asbestos, and mold. These conditions are often found in marginalized communities that would most benefit from energy efficiency improvements. The Commissioner of DEEP would be able to acquire funds from the federal government, corporations, associations, and individuals for this program.

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Bill SB952 establishes an energy storage goal beginning at the end of 2024 and increasing every three years to a final target of 1000 MW of storage by 2030. DEEP and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) will report annually on progress towards these goals and must develop energy storage programs for residential and commercial and industrial customers. This bill directs PURA to use energy storage to defer investments into traditional electric and distribution system capacity upgrades.

In Maryland, HB70 was signed into public law, and creates connections to other state programs and increases workforce diversity within the clean energy industry. The bill requires the Department of Housing and Community Development to give funding preference to applications from the Energy Efficiency Homes Construction Fund that utilize contractors from small, minority-owned, woman-owned, or veteran-owned businesses in the clean energy industry. Further preference will be given to applications whose businesses provide employment to workers trained through other workforce development programs funded by the Strategic Energy Investment Fund and the Clean Energy Workforce Fund.

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Appliance standard bills have been popping up all over the NEEP region. This year, four states have introduced and seen some movement on bills that set water and energy standards for a wide range of consumer products. In Rhode Island, the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Environment and Natural Resource Committees recommended that bills S0339 and H5966 be held for further study. Companion bills SB601 and HB1185 were introduced in Pennsylvania, while in Maine, bill LD940, and New Jersey, companion bills A5160 and S3324, have passed one chamber of the legislature. Appliance standards set the energy efficiency floor for products used in buildings and are one way to continually improve our buildings.  

Visit our legislative tracker to see a full list of the policies that NEEP is tracking.

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