Massachusetts Legislators are taking a look at the Department of Public Utilities’ (DPU) recent approval of an Eversource Energy proposal to apply different rate structures to customers who participate in net metering, such as customers who install solar energy systems at their homes or businesses. The Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE) will hold an oversight hearing on the DPU’s recent decision in the Eversource Energy rate case to approve Eversource’s proposal to include a demand charge as a part of a monthly minimum reliability contribution (MMRC) applicable to net metering customers. … More
Category Archives: Clean Energy
The Houston Chronicle reported that electric generation capacity from wind now exceeds that of coal in Texas. That’s not even counting Vistra’s recent announcement that it intends to close three coal-fired plants.
To those who might point out that wind is intermittent and it thus has lower capacity factors, the same Chronicle story reports at least one expert prediction that wind generation will exceed that of coal by 2019.… More
Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities Investigates Issues Relating to Net Metering, Energy Storage, and Forward Capacity Market Participation
On October 3, 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (“DPU”) opened a new docket (D.P.U. 17-146) to investigate two issues: whether energy storage systems paired with net metering facilities are eligible for net metering and what should be done to clarify the rights of net metering facilities to participate in the Forward Capacity Market (“FCM”).
These issues have been percolating for years. In fact, D.P.U.… More
Stakeholders have been following the development of “SMART” as a successor to the SREC program in Massachusetts for more than a year. (See our previous posts on the development process here, here, and here.) As it stands, SMART reflects a determined effort by the Department of Energy Resources (“DOER”) to craft a program that balances multiple interests and sets a sustainable path for solar development in Massachusetts. … More
Last week, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a District Court decision approving a decision by the Bureau of Land Management to approve new leases on mines that account for 20% of U.S. coal production. The decision is just the latest in a series of cases making clear that courts will not approve new – or renewed – energy production that does not appropriately address the impacts of a project on climate change.… More
Earlier this month, State Street Global Advisors joined the chorus of money managers urging corporate boards, particularly those in “high-impact sectors” – meaning “oil and gas, utilities and mining” – to do a better job reporting risks related to climate change. SSGA’s recent “Perspective on Effective Climate Change Disclosure” is a serious document. To put it in formal technical jargon, SSGA whacks the heck out of most companies in high-impact sectors,… More
We’ll Always Have RGGI: Paris or no Paris, New England and Mid-Atlantic States Continue to Lead on Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions
Recently, Massachusetts and the eight other New England and Mid-Atlantic states that participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative announced a proposed plan for the continued implementation of RGGI (the region’s cap-and-trade program) between the years 2020 and 2030. The plan calls for an additional reduction of GHGs by 30% by 2030, beyond the RGGI 2020 levels. Emissions would be capped at about 75 million tons in 2021,… More
Initiative petition proponents filed with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office earlier this week 28 proposed initiative petitions that, if certified by the AG and endorsed by the requisite number of registered voters, could appear on the November 2018 ballot. (See this post for more details on the ballot initiative process.) Interested parties have until Friday, August 11 to (1) submit memoranda setting forth why the AG should or should not certify the measure,… More
In April, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry ordered the Department of Energy (DOE) to perform a 60-day review and produce a report regarding the reliability of the energy grid and potential concerns regarding early retirement of baseload generators. Perry’s request explicitly solicited information concerning “[t]he extent to which continued regulatory burdens, as well as mandates and tax and subsidy policies, are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants.” Perry has argued that government subsidies for intermittent generators such as solar and wind and onerous environmental regulations lead to premature retirements of coal and nuclear power plants,… More
Late last month, the 2nd Circuit Court of appeals rejected a challenge to Connecticut laws intended to encourage use of renewable energy. Earlier this month, Judge Manish Shah, of the Northern District of Illinois, issued a companion decision, rejecting challenges to the Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act, which grants “Zero Emission Credits” to certain facilities, “likely to be two nuclear power plants owned by Exelon in Illinois.”
(Caveat: This firm represents,… More
On June 30, 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (“DOER”) announced an “aspirational” target for Massachusetts’ utilities to procure 200 MWh of energy storage by January 1, 2020. While solar targets are typically expressed in MW, the capabilities of energy storage facilities are often measured both in terms of power (MW) and energy (MWh), reflecting the multiple applications for which energy storage can be used. … More
On June 5, 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (“DOER”) filed much anticipated emergency regulations (225 CMR 20.00) to govern, at least the DOER’s part of its proposed Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (“SMART”) program. The regulations build on a proposal released January 31, 2017 (discussed previously, here) and represent the Baker administration’s first formal step in following through on the legislature’s 2016 mandate to DOER in An Act Relative to Solar Energy commanding that it develop a new statewide solar incentive program.… More
Presented by Foley Hoag LLP and NECEC
After decades of speculation about offshore wind’s future in the United States, the industry that has long powered grids in Europe has finally arrived in the Northeast. In the last year America’s first offshore wind project–off the coast of Rhode Island–started spinning and delivering power to the grid, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law a bill authorizing the procurement of 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind,… More
According to Bloomberg BNA (subscription required), last week, for the first time ever, more than 50% of the load in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas service area was supplied by wind power. This is the state that consumes more coal than any other. Installed wind capacity is now more than 18,000 megawatts and is projected to be as high as 28,000 MW by 2020.… More
According to the American Wind Energy Association blog, installed wind capacity in the United States has reached 82,000 MW. That puts it past the 80,000 MW of installed hydropower capacity and makes wind the largest installed renewable energy resource.
While the overall number represents a significant milestone, some of the details are interesting as well. Wind represents 5.5% of US generation. Moreover,… More
In an interesting study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors predict that climate change will have a more significant impact on peak energy demand than had previously been understood. They conclude that, in a business as usual case, peak demand will increase 18%, leading to a need to spend $180B (in current dollars) to meet that increased peak demand.… More
In a letter circulated on January 24, 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) announced it will present a final proposed design of a new solar incentive program at a meeting on January 31, 2017.
DOER has worked with stakeholders over the last several months to develop a successor program to the Solar Carve Out II Program (SREC II). Final details are not yet available,… More
In 2015, a sophisticated cyberattack hit six of Ukraine’s energy providers simultaneously, causing a blackout for hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians. The U.S. has thus far evaded similar attacks, but the energy sector remains of vital strategic importance. Because it has long been considered a prime target for cyber threats, from cybercriminals and foreign states alike, regulators, especially at the federal level,… More
Last 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
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
When RGGI was 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
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
Last 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.…
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
Last 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.…
Join us on September 20, 2016 for the Energy Storage Forum, presented by NECEC and Foley Hoag
This event will take place in two locations with a live video stream connecting panelists and guests in Boston and New York. More
155 Seaport Boulevard – 13th Floor
Boston, MA 02210-2600
1540 Broadway – 8th Floor
Massachusetts Legislature Enacts Significant Energy Bill in Support of Offshore Wind and Hydro Procurement, Storage and Transmission
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
MA DPU Sets September 26, 2016 as Net Metering “Notification Date” Setting the Stage for Transition to a Market Net Metering Credit
The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (the “Department“) today issued its Order Announcing Notification Date in its proceeding under 16-64, setting September 26, 2016 at 2PM as the “Notification Date” related to the transition to market net metering credits for private net metering projects.
The Order, 16-64-D, is available here: 16-64-D Order Announcing Notification Date 7 29 16.
The Department determined in its order that “aligning the timing for transition to the new regime of net metering credits with DOER’s SREC II program is the best option to result in a smooth transition to a stable and equitable solar net metering market.” With this Order,… More
On April 8, 2016 the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) filed emergency changes to 225 CMR 14.00 with the Secretary of the Commonwealth in an effort to bridge the gap between the expiration of the current solar incentive program and the expected publication of a new solar incentive program. Subsequent to a public hearing and comment period, DOER made several responsive modifications, and finalized the regulations which the Secretary of the Commonwealth officially promulgated as of July 1,… More
Last Friday, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means released its version of the energy bill that passed the House earlier this month. Whereas the House bill would require distribution companies to procure 1,200 MW of offshore wind power by 2027 and 9,450,000 MWH of hydroelectric power by 2022, the Senate’s version would require 2,000 MW of offshore wind by 2030 and 12,450,000 MWH of “clean energy generation” by 2018.… More
Minnesota May Not Prohibit Power Sales That Would Increase Statewide CO2 Emissions. Why Not? Pick Your Reason.
If you needed any further proof that energy law is very complicated, Wednesday’s decision in North Dakota v. Heydinger should convince you. The judgment is simple – the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a Minnesota statute which provides in part that:
no person shall . . . (2) import or commit to import from outside the state power from a new large energy facility that would contribute to statewide power sector carbon dioxide emissions;… More
This week a draft of the long-awaited Massachusetts energy bill was reported out of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. The bill would require the Commonwealth’s distribution companies to competitively solicit long-term, fifteen- to twenty-year contracts for large-scale offshore wind and hydroelectric power. Notably absent from the bill are provisions addressing resources such as solar, onshore wind, nuclear, energy storage, and energy efficiency.
The bill seeks to jumpstart the development of offshore wind in federal lease areas by directing distribution companies to enter into contracts for 1,200 MW of offshore wind power before July 1,… More
The Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunication, Utilities and Energy and the Baker Administration’s Department of Energy Resources have each delivered comments to the Department of Public Utilities in its Docket 16-64 implementing the Commonwealth’s transition to a “market net metering credit” rate for private net metering projects.
Another Solar Emergency!? Will the Commonwealth’s Transition to a “Market Net Metering Credit” for Private Solar Projects be “Stable and Equitable” After All?
The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities’ (“DPU”) recent emergency order (the “Order”) issued May 11 in its Docket 16-64 made some immediate changes to the Commonwealth’s net metering law enacted by the Act Relative to Solar Energy (the “Act), which, according to its own preamble, was itself was an “emergency law, necessary for the public convenience” adopted, in part,… More
Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) initiated a proceeding regarding the applicability of wholesale electricity market rules to energy storage resources. At this point, FERC is only gathering information. The agency requested data from Independent System Operators (ISOs) and Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) on “whether barriers exist to the participation of electric storage resources in the capacity, energy, and ancillary service markets in the RTOs and ISOs potentially leading to unjust and unreasonable wholesale rates.” FERC simultaneously requested public comment on these issues.… More
This week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors enacted an ordinance that will require that the developers of all new buildings of 10 floors or less that apply for building permits after January 1, 2017 install solar PV or solar thermal systems. I’m not an expert in the California Code of Regulations, so I’m not familiar with all of the potential exemptions, but the only one stated in the new ordinance is for buildings (residential or non-residential) with a “solar zone” of less than 150 contiguous square feet.… More
On April 11, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law compromise legislation modestly raising the cap on the state’s net metering program. Net metering allows customers to generate solar power to offset electricity costs and provide surplus power to the grid.
The program was previously limited to 4 percent of peak electricity demand for private projects and 5 percent for public projects. These limits were reached in National Grid’s service territory last March,… More
Reflecting the nation’s growing interest in community solar, on May 15, 2015, Maryland passed a law directing the state’s Public Services Commission (PSC) to establish a three-year pilot program for community solar projects, which provide the means for electricity customers to benefit from off-site or group-owned solar panels through “virtual” net metering.
The Maryland law imposes a two-MW limit on the capacity of individual community solar systems and requires that they be located in the same electric service territory as its subscribers,… More
The Supreme Court handed down a decision on Monday in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission v. Electric Power Supply Association affirming FERC’s Order No. 745. Order No. 745 generally requires market operators to pay the locational marginal price (LMP) for demand response (offers to voluntarily curtail electricity use)—the same price paid to generators for producing electricity. (Seth Jaffe previously posted on the decision.) The Supreme Court’s decision reverses a May 2014 decision from the D.C.… More
Earlier this week, Massachusetts released its updated Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020. The headline for the press release was “Massachusetts on Track to Meet 25% Greenhouse Gas Reduction Target for 2020”. The slightly more nuanced version is that we can do it, but only with a large dose of Canadian hydropower.
While that’s the main take-away, it really is a useful report,… More
Solar and wind tax credits aren’t going to ride off into the sunset just yet.
On December 18, 2015, Congress extended the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and Production Tax Credit (PTC) for five years.
The Section 48 ITC for commercial installations had been set to decrease from 30% to 10% at the end of 2016 and the Section 25D individual tax credit would have disappeared altogether.… More
Last month the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office released a study concluding that no new gas pipelines are needed for electric reliability in New England, as the region is expected to meet its energy needs through 2030.
The study arrives amid a debate regarding the role of gas pipelines in New England’s energy future. Recently, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities ruled that it had the authority to allow distribution companies to pass along the costs of firm pipeline capacity to ratepayers.… More
Governor Baker recently submitted Senate Bill No. 1965 to the Legislature. It calls for utilities to solicit long-term purchases of renewable energy. We are talking about as much as 1/3 of Massachusetts’ annual electricity use over a 15-25 year period. Two rationales are often provided to justify the large purchase of Canadian hydropower. First, cheap hydropower will ameliorate the high cost of electricity. Second, it will help Massachusetts attain its initial Global Warming Solutions Act goal of reducing GHG emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2020. … More
San Diego Gas & Electric Company Proposes Paying Customers to Install Customer-Owned Energy Storage Resources
One key challenge to tapping the full potential of energy storage systems to improve the function of the electric grid is the absence of obvious paths for the owner of storage resources to realize the revenue opportunities associated with all of the various services that such a resource could provide. Energy storage resources can frequently provide multiple services – often crossing lines between categories of traditional resources that are compensated under different regulatory schemes. … More
One week after the Massachusetts legislature departed for its summer recess, Governor Charlie Baker today released net metering legislation to rival the Massachusetts Senate’s recent bill.
Where the Senate bill would have simply raised the net metering cap to 1600 MWs and largely retained the current net metering credit calculations, the Governor’s bill would increase the metering cap but would substantially reduce the calculation of net metering credits.… More
Readers expecting the Massachusetts electric distribution companies to file their Grid Modernization Plans yesterday will have to wait another two weeks. On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities granted a last minute extension, making the GMP filings due on August 19th. In their request for the extension, the electric distribution companies noted that the “requirement to develop comprehensive, forward-looking GMPs was the first of its kind” and that the GMPs “encompass sophisticated and complex technological investment portfolios,… More
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Northern Pass Transmission, LLC’s proposed 187-mile transmission line across the United States-Canada border in New Hampshire.
If approved, the line would have the ability to deliver 1200 MW of hydroelectric power from Quebec into southern New England—a potentially tantalizing amount of power for policymakers seeking to diversify the region’s generation portfolio and lower its GHG emissions.… More
California has been a national leader in promoting policies to support the deployment of energy storage resources. The California Public Utility Commission’s directive that California utilities procure 1,325 MW of energy storage through biennial procurements has spurred significant excitement and economic activity as have capacity procurements that required a portion of need to be met with energy storage. (The California Roadmap, … More
The Baker Administration announced on July 9 that it filed a bill for sourcing long-term hydroelectric power in the Commonwealth. Hydroelectric power currently provides a small portion of electricity consumed in Massachusetts. According to the Energy Information Administration, it ranks behind natural-gas, nuclear, coal and other renewable energy sources.
The bill, titled “An Act Relative to energy sector compliance with the Global Warming Solutions Act,” would require the State’s electric distribution companies to solicit proposals for hydroelectric contracts spanning 15 to 25 years. … More
Recently, the Mississippi Public Service Commission (PSC) unanimously voted to move forward in developing a net metering policy. This decision comes (somewhat) on the heels of an independent study commissioned by the state’s PSC concluding that distributed solar would provide levelized net benefits to the state over a period of twenty-five years. Adding to a growing body of work finding untapped value in distributed solar,… More
The latest volley in the ongoing debate over the economic value of solar policies comes from Maine, where the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) released an independent study finding that the net value of distributed solar is $0.337 per kWh when levelized over the course of twenty-five years. That is significantly more than the state currently offers as offset credit to customers engaged in photovoltaic net metering.… More
Solar-related employment in the United States now accounts for more jobs than coal mining. According to the 2015 Economic Report of the President, about 174,000 American jobs are attributable to the solar energy industry. The report also includes data for coal-related employment, which has dropped from a high of almost 400,000 jobs in the early 1950s, to fewer than 100,000 jobs today.
Employment in the solar industry grew over 85% between 2010 and 2014,… More
Last November the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) announced that over 742,000 acres of offshore Massachusetts land would be auctioned for commercial wind development by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) as part of the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan. The land was divided into four leasable tracts of varying sizes, and twelve companies qualified to bid.
That auction took place on January 29th,… More
The day before Governor Charlie Baker was sworn into office as the state’s 72nd chief executive, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection released its proposed Clean Energy Standard (CES) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state.
The CES would come into effect in 2020 and require a minimum percentage of electricity sold to retail customers in Massachusetts to come from “clean generation,” starting with a 45% requirement in 2020 and increasing to 49% by 2024.… More
According to this week’s Boston Globe, both NStar and National Grid have terminated their power purchase agreements with Cape Wind, citing the failure by Cape Wind to meet a December 31, 2014 deadline to obtain financing and begin construction. Cape Wind is asserting that the utilities may not validly terminate the PPAs, arguing that the protracted litigation against the project excuses Cape Wind’s obligation to meet the December 31 date.… More
Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board Finds MA Department of Revenue’s Denial of Property Tax Exemption for Virtually Net Metered Solar Facility “Incorrect,” Based on an “Illusory Distinction” and “Entitled to No Deference”
On December 4, 2014, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Appellate Tax Board (the “Board”) promulgated its Findings of Fact and Report in Forrestall Enterprises, Inc. v. Board of Assessors of The Town of Westborough.
The Findings represent a major change in the application of the Commonwealth’s property tax exemption for off-site, net-metered and virtual-net-metered wind and solar systems. For some time now, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (“DOR”) has taken the position that certain net metered solar and wind systems,… More
Will Time Varying Rates Shift Demand and Reduce Costs in Massachusetts? We Will Find Out (Eventually)
In June, I wrote about the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities’ proposal to shift “Basic Service”—the default electricity service provided by electric distribution companies and used by most residential customers—from a flat rate structure to a time varying rate. On November 5th, the DPU adopted that proposal without modification.
That means that, in the future, the default service for retail customers in Massachusetts will have a time-of-use pricing structure. … More
The Massachusetts DPU Sets Requirements for Utility Grid Modernization Plans, Starting a Nine Month Period for Utilities to Identify Investments
Massachusetts has taken the next step towards requiring substantial investments to increase the capabilities of its electrical system and create opportunities for new technologies and innovations. On November 5th, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities issued an Order, D.P.U. 12-76-C, along with itemized filing requirements and a summary template, laying out what Massachusetts utilities must file in their “Grid Modernization Plans” (“GMPs”)—the ten-year proposals for investments promoting “grid modernization objectives” (such as reducing the effects of outages,… More
The Massachusetts DPU Issues Regulations to Increase Net Metering Caps, but What Does the Future Hold?
On November 4th, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities issued emergency regulations to implement the increase in net metering caps that was included in the thermal energy bill that passed at the end of the legislative session (An Act Relative to Credit for Thermal Energy Generated with Renewable Fuels, Chapter 251 of the Acts of 2014). The action here was in the legislation, which we wrote about in August. … More
When the Massachusetts Legislature recessed this summer without enacting the Clean Energy Bill, many stakeholders assumed the issue of creating incentives to encourage Canadian hydro imports would be deferred until the next legislative session and the next Administration. Not quite. Taking a page out of Gina McCarthy’s playbook, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has decided to rely on its existing statutory authority under the Global Warming Solutions Act (“GWSA”) to promulgate new regulations to accomplish,… More