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

DOE Announces $4 Billion Loan Guarantee Program for Renewable and Energy Efficiency Projects

This month, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a new solicitation for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, to provide loan guarantees of up to $4 billion.  The solicitation identifies five technology areas of focus: advanced grid integration and storage; drop-in biofuels; waste-to-energy projects;  existing facility enhancements; and efficiency improvement projects. The loan guarantee program is intended to help project developers secure commercial financing by mitigating some of the risks associated with emerging technology projects. The above categories, which cover projects ranging from methane-capture and bio-refineries to retrofitting wind turbines and improving energy efficiency in homes, are meant to… More

IRS Isues Notice Clarifying Sequester’s Effect on Cash Grant, ITC and PTC

As explained in a previous post, the sequester beginning on March 1, 2013 required Section 1603 Payments under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009 face cuts of 7.2 or 8.7 percent dependent upon the effective date of the Award Letter. While guidance the Internal Revenue Service recently released clarifies how to calculate tax treatment of Section 1603 Payments affected by the recent sequester, it fails to provide any certainty beyond September 30, 2014 for planning purposes.

Specifically, the IRS states in its June Notice 2014-39 that sequestration cuts do not affect the amount of Section 1603 Award… More

Massachusetts DPU Proposes Time Varying Rates for Basic Service

Many in the clean energy community in Massachusetts are focused on the state legislature: the end of the legislative session is approaching and significant clean energy legislation (relating to clean energy procurement and net metering) is still in process. But the Department of Public Utilities (the DPU) has been busy, and two Orders issued earlier this month could dramatically change the way end consumers in Massachusetts use and pay for electricity – without any legislative changes.

In D.P.U. 14-04-B, the DPU proposed that “Basic Service” – the default electricity service provided by electric distribution… More

Massachusetts DPU Issues a Strong Order on Grid Modernization

You don’t have to read far in the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities’ recent Order on Grid Modernization, D.P.U. 12-76-B , to get a sense of what a significant step the DPU believes it is taking:

With this Order, the Department launches a new energy future for Massachusetts. The modern electric system that we envision will be cleaner, more efficient and reliable, and will empower customers to manage and reduce their energy costs. The modern electric system will build on the Patrick Administration’s progress towards our clean energy goals by maximizing the integration of solar, wind, and other… More

SREC II Carves Out More Room for Community Solar

The Massachusetts DOER has released its revised regulations amending the State’s RPS to implement the next phase of support for solar in the Commonwealth. Redlined pages are available here.

From here the regulations will be reviewed at most for 30 days by the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy which may provide comments to DOER. After review of any such comments by DOER, DOER may make additional changes in response to those comments and, thereafter, the regulations will become final.

As for the content, the Commonwealth has significantly broadened its definition of a “Community Shared… More

Governor Patrick Announces Climate Change Preparedness Initiatives: Not Everyone’s On Board

Originally posted on January 16, 2014 in Law and the Environment

herald-re-climate-change-285x300On Tuesday, Governor Patrick announced a series of climate change preparedness initiatives, including about $50 million in funds for a variety of programs.  Before summarizing the plan, I’ll note that Massachusetts appears to have jettisoned “adaptation” as the descriptor for programs designed to mitigate the effects of  climate change.  We are no longer “adapting”.  Now, like the Boy Scouts, we will be “prepared.”  Shrewd call.

The biggest piece of the pie with be $40 million for a municipal… More