How the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Is Helping the Northeast Shift to Clean Energy and Reduce Pollution from Fossil Fuels A new report released today from Environment America says that clean energy investments totaling nearly $450 million from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has led to over $1 billion in energy savings and has contributed $2.6 billion to economic growth in the region, as of the end of May 2011. According to the report, "A Program that Works: How the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is Helping the Northeast Shift to Clean Energy and Reduce Pollution from Fossil Fuels," RGGI is helping states from Maryland to Maine meet their energy challenges by providing investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy, cutting pollution and curbing dependence on fossil fuels. State leaders in 10 Northeast States from Delaware to Maine took a decisive step on clean energy when they created RGGI to limit carbon pollution from power plants. The program took full effect in 2009, becoming the first cap on global warming pollution implemented anywhere in the United States. Two and a half years later, RGGI is successfully sparking investments in clean energy solutions in the region and demonstrating the workability of a program that requires polluters to pay for the right to emit carbon pollution and that invests the money in measures that will reduce emissions and promote local clean energy initiatives. “Environment America’s report provides an excellent illustration of the real benefits the RGGI program is providing every day to the people in the Northeast,” noted Jim O’Reilly, director of public policy for Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP). “By investing the RGGI proceeds in clean energy, this is a program that is helping the entire region grow good, sustainable jobs, control energy costs and reduce carbon emissions.” The report asserts that by maintaining and improving RGGI, using its funds wisely, and implementing complementary policies that support its clean energy goals, RGGI states can build on the program’s success and maintain their leadership in the march towards clean energy. Specifically, the RGGI states should:
- Strengthen RGGI’s cap on carbon emissions. . A stronger cap will allow RGGI to function better as an incentive to move to cleaner energy sources and improve the states’ ability to make clean energy investments.
- Invest all RGGI funds in clean energy programs. Investing in energy efficiency and clean energy measures will provide energy bill relief to customers large and small and make achieving the environmental goals of the program easier.
- Consider expanding RGGI to include additional states. RGGI has proven itself as a framework for capping pollution and funding clean energy. One of the best ways to build on that success would be to bring additional states on board with the effort. RGGI has inspired the creation of similar initiatives in other parts of the country.
- All RGGI funds should be spent on clean energy. To date, 32 percent of RGGI funds have been spent on purposes like deficit reduction and utility bill relief. Though these are worthwhile expenditures, they do not deliver the long-term environmental and economic benefits that clean energy investments offer.
- RGGI’s cap should be lowered, setting actual 2009 emissions as its starting point and aiming to cut 20 percent below that level by 2020, and 40 percent below by 2030.