Northeast Emissions Plan Helps Massachusetts Shift to Clean Energy and Avoid Fossil Fuel Pollution

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State Leaders Urged to Defend and Improve Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)

Environment Massachusetts

RGGI is helping Massachusetts meet our energy challenges by providing needed investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy—cutting pollution, curbing dependence on fossil fuels, and fostering pioneering clean energy approaches that can be adopted by other states, according to a report released today by Environment Massachusetts.   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; the program has led to more than $27.7 million in clean energy investments leading to more than $94.6 million in energy savings and contributing $163.2 million in growth in economic activity in Massachusetts.

“RGGI has been a key part of Massachusetts’ plan to reduce pollution and move toward clean energy,” said Ben Wright of Environment Massachusetts “cities like Boston have been able to invest in energy efficiency retrofits that are saving consumers money and reducing pollution.”

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 2008, 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.   
Massachusetts has issued grants to a number of municipal energy efficiency measures through  its “Green Communities Program” including a highly successful online tool for Massachusetts municipalities that provides automatic electronic download of utility data all in one place with associated energy costs and account information.  Standardized and custom reports available in the tool provide baseline energy use by town, department or building; identify least efficient buildings for municipal action, and; measure and verify energy use over time.  The tool is available at not cost to municipalities. And helps them identify the most cost-effective measures they can take to reduce energy consumption.

Despite widespread support for the clean energy and energy efficiency benefits of RGGI, some industry groups, led by the well-financed Americans for Prosperity, have launched an aggressive campaign including highly misleading ads in an effort to convince these states to pull out of the program.  
“Environment Massachusetts’ report provides an excellent illustration of the real benefits the RGGI program is providing every day to the people of Massachusetts,” noted Jim O’Reilly, director of public policy for Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP), which works to advance energy efficiency in homes and buildings throughout the region. By investing the RGGI proceeds in clean energy, this is a program that is helping Massachusetts and the other RGGI states grow good, sustainable jobs, control energy costs and reduce carbon emissions.”

Overall, RGGI participating states are investing 80 percent of proceeds in a variety of consumer benefit programs, including programs to improve energy efficiency, to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy technologies, and to provide energy bill payment assistance to low-income ratepayers.  According to data compiled by Environment Northeast, RGGI has contributed to more than $860 million in consumer savings, 16,000 new jobs, and $2 billion in economic growth in the ten participating states. 

The report asserts that by maintaining and improving RGGI, using its funds wisely, and implementing complementary policies that support its clean energy goals, New Hampshire  can build on RGGI’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 to 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.