Summary

Tuesday, June 4, 2013––The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) held a briefing about energy innovations at the state level. The briefing investigated the significant role states are playing by implementing novel policies and effective approaches that reduce the cost of generating clean energy. Many state governments view clean energy as a foundation of their environmental and economic development strategies and have taken leadership roles in demonstrating the business case for renewable energy initiatives. The briefing discussed the role and value of federal-state partnerships on innovative clean energy investments and provided state-specific examples.

  • Jesse Young, legislative assistant for Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) stood in for his boss, who was unable to attend due to last minute scheduling conflicts. Young noted that though wind and solar poor Connecticut has no obvious potential for utility scale renewables, it is nevertheless moving ahead fast and is home to the nation's first clean energy finance bank, the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA).
  • Sara Fisher-Goad, executive director of the Alaska Energy Authority, discussed Alaska’s goal, set in 2010, to produce 50 percent of its energy through renewable sources by 2025. She noted that the primary motivators behind this goal are rising energy costs and a decrease in Alaskan oil production.
  • Fisher-Goad said that Alaska’s current electricity portfolio is composed of 70 percent oil and gas, 21 percent hydropower, 9 percent coal, and 0.1 percent wind, solar and biomass.
  • Fisher-Goad highlighted the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric project along the Susitna River in southern Alaska that is set to finish construction and begin operation in 2024.
  • Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric will serve approximately 80 percent of Alaska’s population while decreasing and stabilizing electricity rates, and providing clean power for the next 100+ years. Construction will also create 1,000 new jobs at its peak.
  • Andrew McAllister, commissioner of the California Energy Commission, discussed the California Solar Initiative (CSI), a 10-year program that began in 2006, with the goal of investing $3.35 billion to install 3,000 megawatts of solar energy in the state.
  • McAllister said that because of CSI, California became the first state in the United States to surpass one gigawatt of solar power in 2011, and system costs have decreased by 28 percent since 2007. CSI has set the goal of making the solar industry self-sufficient by 2016.
  • CSI has created 25,000 California jobs.
  • McAllister also highlighted the California New Solar Homes Partnership (NSHP), which aims to install 360 MW of solar by 2016, and install solar on 50 percent of new homes by 2020.
  • McAllister said that of the many benefits of state-federal collaboration, a crucial asset is the Department of Energy’s facilitation of cross-cutting initiatives, such as bridging renewables and energy efficiency to create zero net energy buildings.
  • Andy Brydges, senior director of renewable energy generation at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, noted that in just 21 weeks of the Solarize Mass program in 2012, over 5 MW of solar capacity in 31 communities was contracted. The program will work with 20 more communities this year.
  • Brydges also discussed the Solarize Connecticut program, which is based on Solarize Mass. It started with four communities in its first year and had very similar results to Solarize Mass. Solarize CT reduced costs by $7,700 on average per home, equal to total savings of $2.2 million for all the participating towns.
  • Anne Eisele, chief of staff of the Maryland Energy Administration, noted that three of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s 15 strategic energy goals focus on clean energy and climate:
    • EmPOWER Maryland aims for a 15 percent energy reduction in both per capita and peak demand by 2015
    • Maryland has set a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction of 25 percent by 2020
    • Maryland has a Renewable Portfolio Standard of 20 percent by 2022
  • Eisele highlighted the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act, signed into law on April 9, 2013. Starting in 2018, and for the following 20 years, Maryland ratepayers will purchase offshore wind energy with Offshore Renewable Energy Credits (ORECs). By law, the difference between OREC payments and what the ratepayer otherwise would have paid for electricity cannot exceed $1.50 per month for an average residential ratepayer, or 1.5 percent of the annual bill for an average non-residential ratepayer.
  • Eisele noted that federal funding has created grants to support joint offshore wind surveys, and provided assistance with the $14 million required to strengthen piers so that large offshore wind components can be loaded onto ships.
  • Lewis Milford, founder of Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) and president of Clean Energy Group, noted that renewable energy has recently seen increasing investment for reasons other than environmental concerns.
  • Milford said that it is important for government entities across different states to "steal from each other," sharing and spreading the most successful energy strategies, especially those regarding financing.
  • Milford emphasized the importance of federal-state partnerships for renewable energy and energy storage.
  • Milford discussed the importance of grid resilience in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, especially in medical facilities. He cited the significant loss of cancer research incurred when the New York University Medical School lost power, and said that these sorts of problems can be mitigated in the future with increased renewable portfolio standards, required utility investments, and more support from FEMA and the National Institutes of Health.