Category Archives: Energy Efficiency

Leaked DOE Grid Report Not What Trump Administration Wants to Hear – So Will They Change It?

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

State Programs to Encourage Zero-Emitting Generation Are Constitutional

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

Tesla Petitions DPU for Solar + Storage Facility’s Right to Net Metering Credits

For the purposes of qualifying for net metering credits, section 138 of M.G.L. c. 164 defines a “Solar Net Metering Facility” as “a facility for the production of electrical energy that uses sunlight to generate electricity and is interconnected to a Distribution Company.”  The statute and accompanying regulations are silent regarding the co-location of energy storage equipment with such a qualifying Solar Net Metering Facility.

National Grid has interpreted this silence to be a total prohibition on solar + storage for net metering facilities.… More

Climate Change Will Increase Peak Energy Demand By More Than We Thought: More Storage, Perhaps?

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

Cybersecurity 2017 – The Year in Preview: Energy and Security

By Christopher Cifrono

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

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

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

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.…
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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.…
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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

Emergency Extension Promulgated; Factors Reduced

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

Massachusetts Energy Bill Emerges from Senate Committee on Ways and Means

windmill-640x426Last 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

Coming Soon To A Roof Near You: Solar Panels (At Least If You Live in SF)

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

Massachusetts DPU Moves Forward with Grid Modernization

On Tuesday, after months of waiting, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) took action on the Grid Modernization Plans filed last summer by the three Massachusetts Electric Distribution Companies (EDCs), Eversource Energy, National Grid, and Unitil, calling for all interested parties to intervene in the proceedings by March 30, 2016.

The EDCs’ Grid Modernization Plans propose concrete steps to modernize the electric grid,… More

Supreme Court to Issue FERC Demand Response Decision in 2016

Supreme CourtWith the Supreme Court in recess until January 11, it seems that the year will close without a ruling on whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) overstepped its authority in issuing Order 745, which directs ISOs and RTOs to incentivize demand reduction by compensating cost-effective demand response resources at the market price for energy.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case after the U.S.… More

Massachusetts AG Releases Study Finding No Need for New Gas Pipelines

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

Perhaps Massive Purchases of Canadian Hydropower Would Not Be a Panacea

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

MassDEP Releases New Proposed Clean Energy Standards as Baker Administration Takes Office

The diStock_000037220428_smallay 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

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.

Major Change

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

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.  … 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.… 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),… 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.… 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.… 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.… 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. … More

Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities Opens Investigation on Electric Vehicles and Electric Vehicle Charging

On December 23rd, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (the Department) issued an Order opening an investigation into electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging .  That Order, issued the same day as the Department’s straw-proposal on grid modernization , looks to be a response to recommendations made by the Grid Modernization Stakeholder Working Group  that the Department conduct a separate investigation into policies to facilitate and accommodate adoption of plug-in electric vehicles (EVs). … More

Are Distributed Generation and Demand Side Management Trends Poised to Cause a Radical Transformation in the Electric Utility Industry?

The Utilities themselves may be starting to take the threat seriously.  A recent report prepared for the Edison Electric Institute by Peter Kind of Energy Infrastructure Advocates argues that technological and economic changes – led by falling costs of distributed generation (think primarily PV, but also storage, EVs and other distributed technologies) and increasing interest in demand side management technologies (think efficiency) –  are “game changers” that could lead to changes in the electric utility industry comparable to those experienced by the telecommunications industry beginning in the late 1970s.… More