On Whitening Teeth and Installing Solar Panels

perfect teeth smileWhat do teeth-whitening and solar PV installation have in common?  Both can be subject to the murky authority of state professional boards made up of members with potential conflicts of interest.  A case argued before the Supreme Court on October 14th, North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission, colorfully presents the potential conflicts that arise when professionals on such boards attempt to regulate at the margins of their profession.  It also suggests that federal antitrust laws may restrain the authority of such boards in… More

Massachusetts DPU Seeks Input for Net Metering of Small Hydro Facilities

Massachusetts may soon add hydroelectric facilities to the growing list of net metering eligible distributed generation in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities has issued a notice and order opening a proceeding (DPU 14-118) under which DPU will take the first steps towards developing legislation to enable net metering of small hydro.

Enabling small hydro to participate in net metering has the potential to provide benefits not only to owners of such current facilities but potentially also for the redevelopment of dams, impoundments and millponds nearby the many mill properties in the Commonwealth.

DPU is seeking input… More

The Hub is Still a Hub for Cleantech: Reports Highlight Boston and Massachusetts Clean Energy Achievement

This week, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick lauded the progress of the Cleantech sector in Massachusetts, and the over 88,000 jobs the Commonwealth’s clean energy businesses provide. In fact, employment in a clean energy field now represents 2.4% of all employees in Massachusetts. The 2014 Clean Energy Industry Report highlights the state’s “thriving local market for clean energy and a strongly supportive business environment.”

The sector has grown 47% since 2010.  The report, put out by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and funded by the Commonwealth, surveys clean energy employers in Massachusetts. Employers are optimistic about the future, and the report… More

Some PURPA Qualifying Facilities are More Qualified Than Others

In a fascinating decision last week, a divided panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Texas Public Utilities Commission had authority to limit the universe of “Qualifying Facilities” under the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act which can choose to enter into a “legally enforceable obligation” requiring a utilities to purchase power from a renewable energy producer. The decision could be a big problem for wind power facilities in jurisdictions less than fully hospitable to renewable energy.

FERC’s rules implementing PURPA provide in part that:

Each qualifying facility shall have the option either:

(1)… More

Nicaragua: La Fé-San Martín Wind Park Offers Glimpse of Clean Energy Future in Latin America

Nicaragua and its neighboring countries are continuing to develop their renewable energy sectors, with an eye not only towards domestic markets but also regional customers. Following the completion in 2013 of the Central American Electrical Interconnection System (SIEPAC) transmission line, Nicaragua’s grid is now interconnected with those of Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala (with the prospect of Mexico, Colombia and Belize joining as well). The newly-formed Central American Regional Electricity Market (MER) acts as a single, integrated transnational market for the member countries. Renewable energy producers in the region can now benefit from the ability to… More

BOEM Awards Maryland Offshore Wind Lease Rights

US Wind, Inc. has been awarded provisional offshore wind development rights to an area off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland. The auction was the third BOEM auction resulting in a winning bid. The first, for an area off the coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, went to an affiliate of Deepwater Wind for $3.8 million; the second, for an area off the coast of Virginia, went to an affiliate of Dominion for $1.6 million.

The company is an affiliate of Renexia SpA, an Italian-based builder and operator of a 22.8 MW wind farm in Italy and mid-sized solar projects… More

Getting Grid Modernization Policy Right: The New England Clean Energy Council Releases a White Paper

iStock_000014732715MediumNew, emerging, and expanding technologies offer opportunities to improve the reliability and performance of the electric grid, unlock efficiencies, and deliver valuable services to customers. Many state utility regulators (including those in Massachusetts, New York, and California) are investigating and implementing policies aimed at modernizing their electric grids to enable the provision of improved and expanded services. But to realize the full promise of new technologies, regulators (and policy stakeholders more broadly) will have to get the policies right.

On Friday, the New England Clean Energy Council released a… More

The SJC Gives “Great Deference” to the Energy Facilities Siting Board. That’s An Understatement

Originally posted on August 5, 2014 in Law and the Environment

In two related decisions last week, the Supreme Judicial Court issued three important rulings, and handed the Brockton Power Company one major problem in its long-running effort to build a combined-cycle gas plant in Brockton.

First, in City of Brockton v. EFSB, the SJC rejected all of the challenges by the City of Brockton and certain citizens to the Energy Facilities Siting Board approval of the Brockton Power project.

In a holding that will cheer environmental advocates but strike fear into… More

Massachusetts Legislature Passes Bill Increasing Net Metering Caps, Creating Net Metering Task Force and Creating REC For Renewable Thermal, Solar Thermal, Geothermal Ground- and Air-Source Heat Pumps and More

In the final hours of its legislative session, the Massachusetts legislature passed legislation to create a thermal energy REC program in the Commonwealth, lift the caps on the Commonwealth’s existing net metering regime and appoint a 17-member “Net Metering Task Force” to study the “future of net metering.”

Net Metering Caps

Rather than enacting an anticipated comprehensive overhaul of solar regulations and incentives in the Commonwealth (which would have completely lifted net metering caps and blended the state’s net metering compensation method with its solar SREC program), the legislature instead has simply lifted the Commonwealth’s net metering caps… More

Local Wind Turbine Opposition Hits Headwinds in Massachusetts

It was a tough spring for parties seeking to use zoning and land-use laws to oppose wind turbines in Massachusetts.  A number of Massachusetts Courts have recently rejected challenges to local decision makers’ approvals of wind turbine projects.  While these cases have generally involved the application of settled law, a favorable body of case law is developing for wind turbine developers.

In March, the Land Court dismissed a challenge to a building permit for wind turbines as out of time, finding that the challengers had constructive notice of the permits and were therefore ineligible for a longer challenge period.  See… More