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The New England states’ frameworks for reducing greenhouse gas emissions continue to evolve

Here’s an update on state goals in the region

Since 2001, the six New England states have been working to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Through regional agreements as well as state legislative mandates and aspirational goals, the New England states are moving toward economy-wide GHG reductions.

State GHG Reduction Mandates

State GHG Reduction Aspirational Goals

The New England states are promoting GHG reductions on a state-by-state basis, and at the regional level, through a combination of legislative mandates (e.g., CT, MA, RI, and ME) and aspirational, non-binding goals (e.g., NH, VT and the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers). MA, RI, NH, ME, and VT use a 1990 baseline year for emissions reductions. CT and the NEG-ECP use a 2001 baseline.Regional GHG Reduction Initiatives

The New England Governors and Eastern Canadian premiers (NEG-ECP) are pursuing non-binding GHG reduction goals adopted in August of 2001. In 2017, NEG-ECP released the 2017 Update of the Regional Climate Change Action Plan, originally issued in 2001, chronicling the progress in meeting GHG reduction goals:

  • Goal: Reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2010; Progress: the states indicate that the goal has been met
  • Goal: Reduce emissions by 10% below 1990 levels by 2020; Progress: as of the 2017 report, the states are on target to meet the goal
  • Goal: Reduce emissions to at least 35% to 45% below 1990 levels by 2030
  • Goal: Reduce emissions by 75% to 85% below 2001 levels by 2050

Additionally, five of the six New England Governors signed the 2015 nonbinding memorandum of understanding, entitled Under 2 MOU, that seeks to limit global warming to below two degree (2°) Celsius. As signatories, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New Hampshire supported reducing GHG emissions to 80% to 95% below 1990 levels by 2050.

In addition to their individual state goals and laws, all six New England states have been members of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) since 2007. The first mandatory cap-and-trade program in the United States to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) in the power sector, RGGI is a tool for some of the states to invest—via the revenue-generating auction mechanism of CO2 allowances—in efforts such as energy efficiency and renewable energy.

All six New England states are also members of the Transportation and Climate Initiative, a regional collaboration of 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia that seeks to improve transportation, develop the clean energy economy and reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector. Members aim to complete—by the end of 2019—the design of proposal for a regional low-carbon transportation policy using a cap-and-invest program or other pricing mechanism to reduce carbon emissions from transportation fuels. 

Renewable Portfolio Standards and Long-term Procurements

Adding renewable energy to the mix of power system resources is part of the strategy employed by the states to reduce GHG emissions. In this regard, each of the New England states requires that, by specific dates, retail electricity sales comprise certain percentages of renewable energy generation. The chart below is a snapshot of state requirements for electricity providers to supply customers with specified amounts of Class I or new renewable power by 2040.

Notes: State RPS requirements promote the development of renewable energy resources by requiring electricity providers (electric distribution companies and competitive suppliers) to serve a minimum percentage of their retail load using renewable energy. Connecticut’s Class I RPS requirement plateaus at 40% in 2030. Maine’s Class I/IA RPS requirement increases to 50% in 2030 and remains at that level each year thereafter. Massachusetts’ Class I RPS requirement increases by 2% each year between 2020 and 2030, reverting back to 1% each year thereafter, with no stated expiration date. New Hampshire’s percentages include the requirements for both Class I and Class II resources (Class II resources are new solar technologies beginning operation after January 1, 2006). New Hampshire’s Class I and Class II RPS requirements plateau at 15.7% in 2025. Rhode Island’s requirement for ‘new’ renewable energy plateaus at 36.5% in 2035. Vermont’s ‘total renewable energy’ requirement plateaus at 75% in 2032; it recognizes all forms of new and existing renewable energy and is unique in classifying large-scale hydropower as renewable.

Beginning in 2015, several New England states began issuing requests for proposals (RFPs) to procure renewable and other clean energy resources to also help achieve their emissions reductions [and other policy] goals. Through these procurement efforts, which range from 20 MW to 2,000 MW, the states seek long-term contracts for the development (or retention) of more than 7,000 MW of clean energy resources. The states are targeting most of the resources to be on line in the 2020 to 2024 timeframe and if the current RFPs and approved contracts come to fruition, they will account for a significant portion of the regional electric load.

ISO New England’s External Affairs team tracks energy policy initiatives in the states and posts periodic updates on ISO Newswire.