Governor Raimondo could double the benefits of reducing power plant pollution

Environment Rhode Island Research & Policy Center

As the federal government attempts to roll back programs that limit air pollution, seen most recently when yesterday Trump signed an executive order to reverse many Obama-era climate efforts such as the Clean Power Plan, Environment Rhode Island Research & Policy Center released a new report showing that Governor Raimondo could double the benefits of reducing power plant pollution. The report, Doubling Down on Climate Progress, concludes that doubling the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative would cut dangerous global warming pollution from power plants in half by 2030 and generate $300 million to invest in clean energy – enough to weatherize 120,000 homes, or 1 of every 4 homes in Rhode Island.

“Right now, Governor Raimondo is our best hope for action to protect the climate,” said Morgan Folger, Climate Campaign Organizer. “She should act quickly. We can’t count on the federal government, so it is up to Rhode Island to lead the region, the nation and even the world towards a clean energy future. We can all benefit from less pollution and more clean energy.”

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is the best regional clean air and climate protection program in the country. This program limits dangerous pollution from power plants in Rhode Island and across the region – helping to slow the warming of our planet. It also fuels investment in clean energy by making polluters pay to pollute.

The report, co-authored by Frontier Group, illustrates the opportunity before the governor. It finds that doubling the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (compared to simply keeping the program on its current trajectory) would:

  • Avoid up to an additional 100 million tons of pollution over a decade, the equivalent of making more than 1 million homes run entirely on solar power.

  • Help Rhode Island invest $65 million more in clean energy.*

“RGGI has helped Rhode Island fund nation-leading energy efficiency programs that reduce climate pollution and create local economic benefits,” said Peter Shattuck, Clean Energy Initiative Director at Acadia Center. “Strengthening RGGI will build on the program’s success to-date, and help Rhode Island achieve necessary reductions in carbon pollution.”

The report also reviewed the impressive benefits the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has achieved for Rhode Island since it was created in 2005. Key findings include:

  • It has helped to cut global warming pollution from power plants in half across the region. That is the equivalent of retiring 22 coal-fired power plants. On average, power plant pollution in the region has been falling by almost 5 percent per year. In 2016, pollution went down by 4.8 percent.
  • It has driven a $2.6 billion investment in clean energy, energy efficiency and consumer benefit programs in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. Across the whole region, those programs have locked in more than $4.6 billion in long term savings on our energy bills. That’s an incredible $3.5 in savings for every dollar spent on clean energy.

Eric Beecher, founder of Sol Energy Solar said, “RGGI funding allowed us to quickly ramp up our business. Strengthening RGGI will help us to continue growing and installing clean rooftop solar.”

In February, more than 500 organizations, businesses, health professionals, lawmakers and community leaders from the Northeast called on Governor Raimondo and other regional governors to double the strength of the program and close several loopholes.

“As good as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is, we can make it better,” said Folger. “We need Governor Raimondo and governors across the region to accelerate our progress in the fight against global warming, and magnify the important benefits that come from reducing pollution.”

* This report was updated in May 2017 to strengthen its conclusions, as described in footnote 62 on page 24.