Despite the adoption of dramatic and costly measures to reduce their greenhouse gases, New England states are far short of meeting their emissions target.
New England — and additionally, New York — has gone to great lengths to battle climate change. Politicians and regulators have enacted numerous policies over the years that aim to reduce the region’s output of carbon emissions, which include the gradual elimination of fossil fuels from its energy mix while subsiding the wind and solar industries.
These policies, however, have come at a price. The Northeast pays 56 percent more for its energy than the national average. The cold winter months put the region’s grid to the test, forcing utilities to make an international search for fuel — even accepting natural gas from Russia. A report by New England’s grid operator determined the region is at risk of future rolling blackouts unless changes are made. Robert Powelson, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, likened the situation to a horror story.
Despite all of this, New England is not on track to meet its climate goals.
The majority of New England states have a target of 80-percent reduction from 1990 carbon emission levels by the year 2050. Currently, the region has only attained a 16-percent economy-wide reduction from this target. An executive with National Grid, a utility company that operates in the Northeast, pointed out that New England will fail to meet its goal unless more reforms are made.
“An economy-wide transformation will require customer engagement, new policy frameworks and rapid technological innovation,” Mike Calviou, a senior vice president of strategy and regulation at National Grid, said to Axios. Calviou suggested an increase on the zero-carbon electricity supply, more light-duty electric vehicles and more energy-efficient buildings.
These changes — at least in New England’s electricity sector — could prove difficult. In response to rising electricity costs and controversial billing systems, every state in New England has taken steps to scale back subsidies to the solar industry — mostly involving how solar panel owners are compensated for their power.
Regulators in the progressive enclave of Vermont, for example, have balked at rising electricity costs. Right next door, the Republican governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, vetoed legislation that would have raised net metering caps for the solar industry, saving residents millions in higher electricity rates. Sununu’s office has called for the state to pivot away from subsidizing the solar and wind industry, and instead embrace natural gas and nuclear.