We are excited to share the news that Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE) and other grassroots environmental allies just won a landmark agreement from the upstate gas utilities NYSEG and RG&E.
The utilities have agreed to a plan to offset any future growth of their fracked gas sales with energy efficiency, renewable heating technologies, and other non-gas alternatives -- meaning they will work to achieve zero net growth in gas sales over the next three years. They have also agreed to fund low-income heat pumps incentives to the tune of $1.5 million, cancel some controversial pipeline projects, cancel oil-to-gas incentives, stop marketing gas, study how their business needs to change to align with new climate law, and more.
This is a first of its kind agreement in New York.
The deal now goes to the New York Public Service Commission for approval, along with a separate proposal by the utilities to raise electricity rates, which we are opposing.
Let's be clear. Gas utilities didn't agree to these terms easily. These unprecedented concessions are the result of hundreds of hours of work by AGREE and several other organizations based in NYSEG and RG&E territory who intervened in the utilities' rate case to fight utility gas expansion, which is the primary driver of the increased use of fracked gas in New York State.
We celebrate the efforts of all the groups that worked together to achieve these precedent-setting concessions in the gas rate cases. Most of the organizations who worked together to win this agreement had never been involved in a rate case before, but together we successfully went toe-to-toe with a multi-billion-dollar multinational corporation to advance our renewable energy transition.
We also know that this is just the beginning of what needs to be done. We stopped their growth for now, but we have a short time to dramatically reduce gas use in New York to meet legally mandated greenhouse gas targets.
AGREE has been intervening in utility rate cases since 2017 to advocate for affordable energy bills, utility support for a renewable energy future, and an end to utility gas expansion investments. Utilities collect billions of dollars every year from New Yorkers and invest that money into building pipelines and the electric grid. We are working to shift these investments to fund the renewable energy future we need. For the last year and a half, we have been holding rate case trainings in utility territories across the state and helping to facilitate like-minded organizations in collaborative rate case intervention.
We want to appreciate all the groups and individuals who intervened in this case and poured their hearts into testimony and negotiations, in particular Rochester People's Climate Coalition, Fossil Free Tompkins, Ratepayer and Community Intervenors, HeatSmart Tompkins, Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition, Concerned Citizens of Oneonta, and NY-GEO. Without everyone's involvement, gas expansion in this case would have gone on business as usual.
Here are some highlights from this unprecedented agreement:
• The utilities will plan for no net growth in gas sales over the next 3 years, offsetting new customers’ gas use through energy efficiency, heat pumps, and other non-gas alternatives.
• The utilities retracted $128 million for gas infrastructure including for some controversial pipelines.
• The utilities will end oil-to-gas conversion incentives in favor of funding $1.5 million for renewable heating systems for low-income residents.
• The utilities will study and possibly implement district geothermal pilots.
• The utilities will modify their websites, customer mailings, e-mails, marketing material to remove promotion of gas.
• The utilities will develop programs that better inform and encourage customers to consult with community organizations such as HeatSmart to make more informed energy choices.
• The utilities will consider a non-pipe alternative for all future gas infrastructure projects.
• The utilities will study the efforts needed to reduce gas use and modernize the electric grid to support the widespread deployment of renewables and beneficial electrification.
The concessions in the gas case were also made possible by New York's new climate law. The mandates of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) should also play a role in future rate cases filed by other gas utilities in New York and should speed the transition from fracked gas infrastructure toward renewable heating. AGREE and our allies will be there to make sure this happens.
This victory also belongs to everyone who submitted over 1,000 comments to the Public Service Commission and spoke up at public hearings.
In a press release, some members of the grassroots negotiating team shared their statements endorsing the low rate increases and concessions in the gas case while voicing their disappointment and disapproval of the electric rate increase proposal.
To read the entire settlement document for both gas and electric cases, see the Joint Proposal with Appendices. Appendix M (pages 194-199) details the utilities' commitments regarding their gas business and climate change. For an easier read, see Page 5 of the Joint Proposal Summary, which provides a slightly less technical list of these commitments.