We looked at a selection of people, businesses, and communities in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions that have taken advantage of one the nation’s best climate programs: the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which has put a cap on power plant emissions, and generated revenue from polluters – more than $2 billion since the program’s inception in 2009 – mostly for the purpose of investment in clean energy and energy efficiency.
A nonprofit in Maryland is installing efficient heating systems for low-income state residents. A telecommunications company in Maine is using cold winter air to cool data centers. Vineyards in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, and Smuttynose Brewery in New Hampshire, are reducing energy use and transitioning to clean energy.
In all these cases and many more, climate programs are saving money and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For example, solar panel installations at vineyards in the Finger Lakes are reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 460 tons per year, equivalent to taking nearly 3,000 vehicles off the road. And installations of LED streetlights in Swampscott and Wenham in Massachusetts are saving those towns more than $100,000 on utility costs every year.
Over the last decade, with the help of RGGI and other programs to reduce harmful emissions, the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions have become national leaders in action against climate change. Electricity generation from dirty coal is down by more than 70 percent and continuing to decline. In just the last four years, the region has quadrupled its capacity for generating energy from the sun. And the nation’s first offshore wind farm is getting ready to start generating electricity off the coast of Rhode Island. With RGGI’s future currently under debate, policymakers have an opportunity to continue this progress, and to help make sure that our communities can take part in – and benefit from – building a better future for our society.