Landfills are the largest source of methane in the region.

Policy incentives have reduced landfill methane emissions

Fueled by 22 million tons of annual landfill waste, landfills generate about 5% of regional emissions each year. However, 60% of these emissions on average over the last five years were captured and either flared or reused as part of a Landfill Gas-to-Energy (LFGE) project. Since 1996, the federal Clean Air Act has directed landfills which emit over a certain threshold to collect landfill gas and either flare or use it. EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) works with small scale landfill owners to develop LFGE projects. Private owners can sell offset credits in voluntary markets to support project financing. Further, landfill gas is classified as an eligible technology in the Renewable Portfolio Standard policies of all eight northeastern states. Federal incentives are also available in the form of tax credits, bonds or feebates. LMOP programs help landfill owners access these resources.

Waste reduction measures could cut emissions

Beyond capturing methane emissions at landfills, reducing the amount of landfilled waste is an important emission reduction strategy.  From 2004 to 2009, landfill waste decreased by 19%.  Although each state varies in waste management strategies, on average 45% is landfilled while the remainder is recycled, incinerated or composted.  States can reduce emissions further by adopting new ways to manage and reduce landfill waste, including setting sector-specific “zero waste” targets.

New Renewable Energy Development

SOURCE: ISO-NE Project Queue of 07/01/2012; NYISO Project Queue of 07/31/2012; PJM Project Queue (Under Construction) of 01/02/2013

Renewable Portfolio Standards and other programs and incentives were introduced to drive new renewable electricity development, capture the benefits associated with generating and consuming renewable resources, and foster a local renewables industry.

Renewable energy policies and priorities vary by state, along with resource potential

A number of factors drive the development of renewables resources in each state, including programs and incentives, resource potential and other geographic, economic, and market influences.  As noted in the Clean Power Incentives section, all eight Northeast states have Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPSs) or equivalent policies. Because RPS policies are enacted at the state-level, there is variability among states’ requirements, including technology eligibility and what qualifies as a “new” renewable resource, project scale, and electricity delivery requirements. Many Northeast states allow RPS compliance through in-state renewable electricity generation, as well as electricity from the local and adjacent control areas. This greater geographic eligibility means many states may comply with RPS requirements with the help of qualified generators in neighboring states, in combination with Alternative Compliance Payments.

New renewable electricity capacity driven by wind in New England and New York; Solar in New Jersey

This map depicts potential new renewable electricity capacity in the Northeast. The map summarizes the location and size of renewable electricity projects that are currently proposed or under construction (based on generation interconnection queues) in the ISO-NE, NYISO, and PJM control areas.  While the map presents RPS-qualified “new” renewable projects, it does not anticipate which projects will be used for RPS compliance if built (historically, not all project in the interconnection queues are completed).

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

SOURCE: RGGI, Inc. and EPA

Emissions of CO2 from power plants in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) have dropped since the start of the program, and new RGGI reforms ensure that climate pollution will continue to decline in the future.

How RGGI Works

Under RGGI, power plants purchase allowances (permits to emit) for each ton of CO2 that they dispose of in the atmosphere.  The quantity of allowances declines over time, increasing the price of allowances and incentive to reduce emissions.  Revenue from the sale of allowances is reinvested in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other state programs.1

Performance to Date

Since states agreed to a carbon pollution limit (the “cap”) in 2005, emissions have dropped precipitously, falling 45% below the cap in 2012.  This decline is due to a number of factors: decreasing electricity generation from carbon-intensive fuel oil and coal; increasing generation from low cost natural gas and renewables; and, improvements in energy efficiency.  These trends created an unexpected problem. States had far exceeded initial 10% reduction target, but there was a surplus of allowances, so prices were too low (below $2/ton) to incent further pollution reductions.

RGGI Reforms

In order to lock in emissions reductions and ensure the continuing effectiveness of the program, states have agreed to reduce the emissions cap from 165 million tons to 91 million tons.  Reducing the cap to 2012 emissions levels accounts for reductions in pollution that have occurred as natural gas generation has increased and investments in renewables and efficiency have continued to grow. Furthermore, the lower cap will ensure that there is an incentive for plants to continue cutting emissions.

1Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont are active participants.  New Jersey stopped participating in the program in 2011, a decision that is being challenged in court.