Electrification, Consumer Empowerment, and Power Grid Reform Keys to New Energy Future

EnergyVision: A Pathway to a Modern, Sustainable Low Carbon Economic and Environmental Future
Read “EnergyVision: A Pathway to a Modern, Sustainable Low Carbon Economic and Environmental Future” at ENE

ENE, a leading non-profit organization that researches and advocates innovative environmental policies, today released “EnergyVision: A Pathway to a Modern, Sustainable Low Carbon Economic and Environmental Future,” which provides a framework for adopting a fully integrated and low carbon energy system — based on data from the Northeast that is applicable on a national level.

EnergyVision lays out a new vision for reform in four key, interdependent areas that can produce a cleaner, lower cost energy system: electrifying buildings and transportation, modernizing the grid, utilizing clean electric supplies, and maximizing energy efficiency. If changes proposed in this plan were to be adopted and implemented, states could be far along the path to reaching their goals for 80 percent reductions in carbon emissions.

Daniel Sosland, President and CEO of ENE, notes, “Driven by greater investments in energy efficiency, renewable power, and market shifts from fossil-based fuels like coal and oil to natural gas, some regions of the country, including the Northeast, are already reducing pollution from electricity generation. EnergyVision looks at the progress to date and at the improved technology available for major uses like building heat and transportation and offers a viable pathway to a low carbon, clean energy future. The system we envision gives consumers greater control over their energy bills, provides significant economic benefit, and achieves deep reductions in carbon emissions.”

The recommended reforms below focus on preparing the 21st-century power grid for large-scale adoption of electric vehicles, consumer-centered distribution, renewable generation, and high-efficiency equipment.

Electrifying Buildings and Transportation

If all gasoline powered vehicles and buildings using fossil fuels shifted to electric technologies today, Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would fall by nearly 50 percent.

GHG emissions can be further reduced by 80 percent or more as additional renewable generation is added to the grid.

The high cost and market volatility of fossil fuel imports make the Northeast region an ideal candidate for widespread adoption of efficient, clean electric space and water heating.

Electric vehicle and high efficiency electric heating technologies offer operating costs that are lower, by as much as 70%, than their traditional fossil-fueled counterparts.

Modernizing the Grid

To achieve our climate and energy goals, we must reform the region’s transmission and distribution (T&D) grid to create a Renewable-Ready Energy Delivery System.

The Modern Grid System should be a multi-directional path that uses an array of technologies to meet energy needs.

Outdated regulations governing energy resource ownership must be revised and a new rate structure considered.

Clean Electric Supply

From 2001 to 2012, the share of electricity generated by oil and coal plants in the region has fallen from 27 percent of all electric generation to less than 3 percent.

The use of clean energy in the Northeast region alone has increased by about 25 percent since 1990.

Renewable Portfolio Standards are catalysts to spur increased generation of renewable power and higher levels of generation are needed in the future.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) should lock in lower emissions to deliver further reductions and extend RGGI targets beyond 2020.

Maximizing Energy Efficiency

Massachusetts and Rhode Island are leading the way nationally with energy efficiency savings targets

Energy savings by way of greater efficiency will deliver $19.5 billion in economic benefits and 51.3 million metric tons of avoided GHG emissions in the Northeast alone

Energy efficiency programs can expand to provide more services to the grid and offer additional alternatives to traditional utility infrastructure investment.

Planning, transportation and zoning regulations must keep efficiency in mind to cut fuel waste and meet the transportation energy needs of the future.

Jamie Howland, Director of ENE’s Climate and Energy Analysis Center (ENE-CLEAN) and lead author of the study, comments, “ENE’s EnergyVision marks a clear, reliable path to a clean and affordable energy future. We are calling on state policymakers, regulators and utilities to act now on carbon reduction by preparing the power grid for increased distributed renewable generation and the large-scale adoption of electric vehicles and efficient electric heating.”

Currently, all states, including those in the Northeast, are positioned to spend billions of dollars on traditional infrastructure — electric transmission lines, natural gas pipelines, distribution expansions — and ratepayers will see increases in bills for decades to pay for an outdated energy system. Employing the contrasting vision that ENE outlines and replacing fossil fuels with clean, low carbon electricity will lower costs for consumers, while offering new markets for job creation and encouraging greater economic development in communities.

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