MA Appellate Tax Board Again Finds Virtually Net Metered Solar Facility Exempted from Property Taxation

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Appellate Tax Board (the “Board”) has again ruled that a ‘virtual’ net-metered solar PV project is exempted from property taxation under clause “forty-fifth” of Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 59, Section 5. This time, the board promulgated its Findings of Fact and Report in KTT, LLC v. Board of Assessors of The Town of Swansea.

Beyond Forrestall

The Findings represent yet another major change in the application of the Commonwealth’s property tax exemption for off-site,… More

Transportation CO2 Surpasses Power Sector CO2: Good News or Bad?

co2-sources-since-1973Last week, DOE announced that transportation sector CO2 emissions in the US exceeded power sector CO2 emissions for the first time since 1978. Why?  The combination of increasing vehicle miles traveled in the transportation sector and the decreasing use of coal in the power sector is certainly most of the answer.

The real question is whether this is good news or bad news.… More

DOER’s Solar Incentive Straw Proposal: Optimism, Anxiety, Uncertainty.

beautiful sunrise and cloudy sky

On September 23, DOER presented a straw proposal for the next phase of Massachusetts solar incentives. DOER’s ambitious proposal for a tariff-based program reflects a thoughtful development process and a laudable goal of crafting a program that is more efficient at promoting sustained solar deployment. There is plenty to like. But, DOER has bitten off quite a mouthful by proposing a structure that departs so dramatically from the SREC approach.  … More

RGGI Is a Success Story. When Will It Be Obsolete?

When RGGI rggilogo2was first implemented, I heard Ian Bowles, then Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs in Massachusetts, say more than once that the purpose of RGGI wasn’t really to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or jump start the clean energy economy.  Instead, the goal was much more modest; it was simply to demonstrate that a trading regime could work.  The RGGI states were to serve as a model,… More

Massachusetts Gears Up for Energy Storage Grant Program

The report on energy storage released by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) on September 16 put forward a bevy of policy proposals that have reinvigorated discussions of energy storage in the Commonwealth.  A key policy initiative that seems certain to be implemented is the Advancing Commonwealth Energy storage (ACES) Program a $10 million, competitive grant program for energy storage projects to be administered by MassCEC and DOER. … More

Governor Baker’s Executive Order on Change: Good News; Still Work To Be Done By MassDEP

tide-surgeLast Friday, Governor Baker issued Executive Order 569, “Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth.” EO 569 will advance climate policy in Massachusetts in a number of important ways.  It also leaves much to be accomplished by MassDEP.  Here are the highlights:

  • EOEEA and MassDOT are instructed to work with other New England and Northeastern states to develop regional policies to reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector.
  • EOEEA and the Department of Public Safety must jointly develop a Climate Adaptation Plan within two years. The Plan will focus on what state agencies and municipalities need to do to adapt to climate change.
  • EOEEA and DPS must also develop a framework for state agencies and municipalities to assess their vulnerability to climate change.
  • MassDEP must promulgate regulations by August 11, 2017 to satisfy the Global Warming Solutions Act mandate, as interpreted by the SJC in the recent Kain decision, that would accomplish declining annual emissions from GHG sources. In doing so, MassDEP must consider:
    • Leaks from the natural gas distribution system
    • Changes to GHG permitting requirements
    • Reductions in transportation emissions, including the Commonwealth’s vehicle fleet
    • Gas insulated switchgear.

All of this is good.  Two elements of the EO are particularly noteworthy.  First, because Governor Baker was acting through Executive Order, the state Climate Plan does not do what the legislation passed by the Senate, but rejected by the House, during the last legislative session would have done – require that any future permits be conditioned on compliance with the Climate Plan.  One can hear the development community breathing a big sigh of relief.  Second, EO kicks a very large can down the road – though perhaps not as far down the road as MassDEP might have liked.  MassDEP has less than 11 months to draft, propose, take comment on, and finalize regulations to comply with Kain.

The requirement that MassDEP propose GWSA is particularly important to the regulated community.  The focus on leaks from the natural gas distribution system is shrewd.  Recent legislation had required utilities to identify such leaks, but was largely toothless on remedy.  Having DEP promulgate regulations is low-hanging fruit that will please pretty much everyone other than the utilities.  The requirement that MassDEP look at GHG reductions in the transportation sector is also important, but it bears emphasis that the EO focuses in particular on the Commonwealth’s vehicle fleet.  This may well be a recognition of the difficulty in promulgating regulations that would set declining annual limits on GHG emissions from private transportation.

All that’s left is to wish MassDEP a hearty “good luck”! in meeting the deadline in the EO.

DOER and MassCEC Release Report on Energy Storage

battery

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (“DOER”) and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (“MassCEC”) released their long-awaited report on energy storage, “State of Charge” (the “Storage Study”) on Friday.  The Storage Study is a central component of the Commonwealth’s “Energy Storage Initiative” and is likely to serve as the basis for future policy initiatives.  It recommends a suite of policies designed to promote the development of 600 MW of advanced energy storage (i.e.… More

DOE and DOI Release the New National Offshore Wind Strategy: Perhaps Prosperity Is Finally Just Around the Corner

offshore-windLast Friday, DOE and DOI issued an update of their National Offshore Wind Strategy. It’s a moderately aggressive strategy, seeking to deploy at least 86 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2050.  The report highlights both the significant opportunities and potential for growth and also some of the remaining potential roadblocks.

On the plus side:

  • The combination of fossil retirements and demand growth provide significant incentive for offshore wind development.
  • On a related point, the substitution of offshore wind for fossil generation, as a result of increased regulation, will have significant environmental benefits. Based on the government’s current estimate of the social cost of carbon, increased offshore wind generation could produce $50B in avoided costs.
  • Offshore wind could be cost competitive, at least in more expensive markets, by 2025.
  • In the longer term, offshore wind could reduce wholesale electricity prices. It can also help decrease transmission.

What are the remaining obstacles?  That’s a pretty simple summary.

  • Costs and technology risks are still too high.
  • Regulatory processes need to be standardized and confidence has to grow in a robust, yet bounded, regulatory process. As the report states:

Offshore wind developers, financiers, and power purchasers need confidence in a project’s ability to navigate regulatory and environmental compliance requirements in a predictable way.

In other words, no more Cape Wind debacles.  If developers think that they will be subject to a death by a thousand cuts – or even a few dozen law suits – it’s going to be a long time before offshore wind contributes any significant share of our generation supply.

Event: Energy Storage Forum

Join us on September 20, 2016 for the Energy Storage Forum, presented by NECEC and Foley Hoag

Energy Storage Forum

This event will take place in two locations with a live video stream connecting panelists and guests in Boston and New York. More

BOSTON
NEW YORK

Foley Hoag
155 Seaport Boulevard – 13th Floor
Boston, MA 02210-2600
Foley Hoag
1540 Broadway – 8th Floor
New York,…

Massachusetts Legislature Enacts Significant Energy Bill in Support of Offshore Wind and Hydro Procurement, Storage and Transmission

windmill-181286_960_720559474_45240941

Late last night, the Massachusetts legislature enacted House Bill 4568, an act to promote energy diversity (the “Act”). Overall, the Act marks a compromise between the House’s original procurement-only legislation and the Senate’s more comprehensive “omnibus” bill. It is expected Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker will sign the legislation shortly. After that, regulations will be required to be implemented and other regulatory actions will need to be taken by Massachusetts’ Department of Public Utilities,… More