Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center
Increasingly, leaders in the United States and around the world are taking action to protect our climate from global warming. With 2016 likely to be the hottest year in human history, the need for further action is only growing more apparent, and more urgent.
Fortunately, leading states continue to prove that curbing dangerous carbon pollution can reduce the risk of global warming and benefit local communities at the same time. The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states have dramatically reduced dangerous power plant pollution, using tools including the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a policy that limits pollution over time and makes polluters pay for the privilege of using the sky for waste disposal. Much of the revenue is then invested in clean energy programs, which have boosted the regional economy by nearly $3 billion.
Numbers, however, cannot tell the full story of the success of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The case studies highlighted in this report show how this policy is working to help homeowners, farmers, non-profit organizations, clean energy entrepreneurs, governments and businesses save energy, save money, and do their part to preserve a livable climate for ourselves and for future generations.
The success of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative over the last decade shows that we can do more. To speed our progress toward a clean energy future, participating states should double its pollution reduction goal through 2030.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative helps residents, businesses and institutions throughout the Northeast to invest in clean energy and save money, even as they protect our climate.
- Hunt Country Vineyards in New York installed more than 300 solar panels, with financing assistance in part from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The panels avert as much pollution as almost 3,000 cars emit annually – and save the winery thousands of dollars per month on electricity.
- Solar City is responding to demand for more clean energy – created in part by limits on carbon pollution like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – by building a “GigaFactory” in Buffalo to manufacture solar panels. When operational in 2017, this factory will be the largest solar panel factory in the Western Hemisphere. The company expects to create 3,000 new jobs in Buffalo. In 2015, solar energy in New York reduced carbon pollution equivalent to the emissions from 70,000 vehicles – and the state has barely scratched the surface of its clean energy potential.
- Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, Connecticut, retrofitted its lighting and cooling systems with support from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative funds. The project saved the hospital more than $23,000 per year on electricity – enabling the hospital to keep its energy costs down as it expands its core mission of keeping kids healthy. At the same time, the project is protecting the climate by preventing as much carbon pollution as 30 passenger cars emit annually. Vast additional potential for efficiency projects like this exists across the state.
- The towns of Swampscott and Wehnam in Massachusetts installed energy-efficient street lighting with the support of revenue from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, reducing the towns’ electricity costs by more than $100,000 per year. At the same time, the projects are cutting as much carbon pollution per year as contained in more than 33,000 of gasoline.
- In Maryland, the Community Action Council of Howard County has provided energy efficiency upgrades to hundreds of families using funds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, including residents of the Shalom Square senior living complex in Columbia. Projects undertaken in 2014 now save beneficiaries a total of $70,000 per year on electricity bills and prevent as much carbon pollution as emitted annually by 70 passenger cars.
- The Matthias Agriculture Program has also helped Maryland poultry farms upgrade their energy efficiency, supported by Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative funding. Work at five poultry farms in 2014 saves an estimated annual 208,821 kWh of electricity and 16,000 gallons of propane, while reducing carbon pollution by an estimated 237 metric tons per year, equivalent to taking more than 50 passenger vehicles off the road.
- Smuttynose Brewery built a new highly-efficient brewery operation in Hampton, New Hampshire. The company was able to include more efficient brewing equipment with the help of New Hampshire Saves, a program that has been funded in part by Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative revenues. Over the lifetime of the equipment installed through the program, Smuttynose will save more than $1 million in energy costs – while helping to preserve the climate necessary for farmers to grow the raw ingredients for beer by preventing carbon pollution equivalent to driving a typical car for almost 13 million miles.
- Oxford Networks, an information technology company, added advanced efficiency technology to its data center in Brunswick, Maine, partially cooling the center with Maine’s brisk outdoor air. The project was made possible by the state’s energy efficiency utility, Efficiency Maine, with partial funding from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The project reduced Oxford Networks’ energy costs by as much as $5,000 per year. Efficiency Maine’s cumulative FY15 work saved as much energy as is contained in 26 million gallons of oil.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative works by limiting power plant pollution while generating revenue for clean energy and consumer benefit programs. To accelerate progress in protecting our climate, while also ensuring that health and economic benefits continue to flow to local communities, state leaders should double the strength of the program. Specifically, states should:
- Set the cap on power plant pollution to decline by 5 percent per year, instead of the current rate of 2.5 percent. This would lower dangerous carbon emissions to less than 40 million tons annually by 2030. States need to double the strength of the cap in order to reach their economy-wide climate goals.
- Continue to capture the revenue generated through allowance sales and invest it in efficiency and renewable energy projects that bring real rewards for local communities.
- Urge states outside of the nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative region to take equally significant action to reduce pollution.