We find ourselves hanging in a careful balance between continuing our work on various plans and policies that started before COVID-19 and managing a new direct response to the pandemic. This policy tracker is the first of a two-part analysis of policies in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. This first installment focuses on non-COVID-19 policies. Keep an eye out for the second blog analyzing COVID-19 response efforts.
Most recently, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) approved a framework for Energy Efficiency and Peak Demand Reduction programs, setting five-year savings targets of 2.15 percent for electric distribution companies and 1.10 percent for gas distribution companies. This plan requires utilities to propose peak demand reduction offerings to start by the fourth year of the program. It also calls for the development of the New Jersey Cost test for cost-effectiveness, also taking into consideration non-energy impacts. Updating the cost-effectiveness test will help align programs with state climate goals. An energy codes and standards subcommittee within the EM&V working group is recommended to identify opportunities for greater energy efficiency via building energy code strategies and to quantify the energy savings that could result from updates to energy codes.
A new bill, S2484, An Act concerning clean energy and energy efficiency programs for overburdened communities, was introduced in the New Jersey state legislature back in May. This bill would establish the Office of Clean Energy Equity in the Board of Public Utilities (BPU), which would establish onsite solar or community solar and energy efficiency programs that benefit at least 250,000 low income households, or 35 percent of the low income households, in the state by 2030.
In addition, it directs the establishment of certain clean energy and energy efficiency programs for underserved communities. For instance, by 2030 at least 400 MW of energy storage must be established for underserved communities. The office would need to ensure outreach materials are available in multiple languages to make programs more accessible to all residents. The Office of Clean Energy Equity would work with local organizations based in underserved communities. This is an important aspect of the bill because it recognizes the importance of bringing community voices who understand the specific needs of residents to the table to collaboratively build programs that address those needs.
In Vermont there are two bills that passed the Senate and moved to the House for consideration. S337, An act relating to energy efficiency entities and programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the thermal energy and transportation sectors proposes to allow, for a period of three years (2021-2023), energy efficiency entities to use a portion of their budgets (not to exceed $2 million per year of its electric resource acquisition budget) on programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the thermal and transportation sectors. Programs to reduce emissions from the thermal sector can include strategic electrification of building heating and cooling with technology such as air source heat pumps. For transportation, this includes electric vehicles and land use planning to reduce emissions from transportation by make communities walkable, providing public transportation, and building bike lanes.
S185, An act relating to the adoption of a climate change response plan, directs the Department of Health, in collaboration with the Chief Prevention Officer, to develop a statewide climate change response plan that provides protection strategies for rural communities, urban communities, and vulnerable populations. If this bill passes, the plan is due to the legislature by July 1, 2021.
Also in Vermont, commission staff, in the coming weeks and months, intends to issue a series of information requests on distinct topics under the Investigation Pursuant To Act 62 Re: All-Fuels Energy Efficiency Program. Generally, these topics have been identified as follows:
- Creation of an all-fuels energy efficiency program;
- Full cost-benefit, full life cycle accounting for energy policies and programs, and metrics for assessing externalities;
- Expansion of the programs and services that efficiency utilities may provide, and additional technologies, services, and strategies;
- Providing consistent, adequate, and equitable funding.
Looking at these topics in relation to an all-fuels energy efficiency program will help the commission determine if expansion of efficiency utility services can better help Vermont achieve its climate goals including weatherization, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. Creating an all-fuels energy efficiency program will help Vermont target thermal efficiency and reduce emissions from the building sector. As indicated in the graphic, Vermont’s primary source of heating fuel is oil and propane. As heating sources electrify to high efficiency thermal technology, it will be critical to capture the all-fuel savings and associate GHG reduction.
Washington D.C. was the first jurisdiction to pass a building energy performance standard as part of the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act of 2018. The Act states that, starting in 2021, owners of buildings over 50,000 square feet that are below a specific energy performance threshold will be required to improve their energy efficiency over the next five years. With the implementation date nearing, DC Housing Authority (DCHA) took the first step in making 35 of its buildings healthier and climate friendly by issuing a Physical Needs Assessment RFP that included Institute for Market Transformation’s (IMT) ambitious energy audit, deep retrofit, electrification, and solar suggestions. These steps will help DCHA comply with the Clean Energy DC Act's Building Energy Performance Standard.
In New York, S8201, An Act to amend the public housing law, the public authorities law and the energy law, in relation to providing for the heating and cooling of properties including dwelling units owned by the New York city housing authority through the installation of geothermal or air source heat pumps, was introduced. This bill authorizes and directs the New York Housing Authority (Authority) to permit the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to retrofit Authority residential properties for the installation of geothermal or air source heat pumps, completely replacing all oil or natural gas-fired heating, hot water, and other combustion units. This bill also permits NYSERDA to replace all compact fluorescent, fluorescent, incandescent, or arc vapor lamps in properties owned or operated by the Authority with LED bulbs, with the goal of replacing all lighting in Authority properties with high-efficiency bulbs. The Authority is directed to establish a revolving loan account for these retrofits using its available funds, funds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), and the Clean Energy Fund.
Rhode Island has been in the midst of developing its 2021-2023 energy efficiency plan. In May 2020 the PUC approved the EERMC’s recommended targets for electric and natural gas energy efficiency for the next three years. These are the most aggressive, and most expensive, achievable targets developed by the potential study, and assume National Grid will fully incentivize all efficiency measures, effectively eliminating the customer’s share of the incremental cost. The electric savings target is 2.7 percent of forecasted electricity sales and 1.8 percent of forecasted natural gas sales. These are the highest targets that have been set for energy savings, marking a huge step forward for energy efficiency in Rhode Island. More information about the savings targets can be found here. The council recognizes that the pandemic may impact utilities savings targets. As each annual plan is developed, the savings may deviate from the goals established in the draft three year plan as a result of changing market conditions or other unforeseen circumstances.
While these updates are not directly in response to COVID-19, their implementation may have significant benefits for a clean energy economic recovery to the pandemic. Stay tuned for the next policy tracker blog that will look directly at COVID-19 response efforts.