Update: Massachusetts DPU Sets a February 24th Intervention Deadline in Eversource Rate Case

According to a Notice issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) on January 30, 2017, parties who desire to participate in the evidentiary phase of the D.P.U. 17-05 proceeding, which will review Eversource’s recently-filed petition to increase its rates, have until February 24, 2017 to file a written petition for leave to intervene in the case.  See our recent blog post for a summary of some of the key components of the company’s filing.… More

Eversource Proposes Rate Increases and $400 Million in Grid Modernization Investments

On January 17, 2017, Eversource Energy filed a petition with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) that would increase base distribution rates for its 1.4 million electricity customers across the Commonwealth.  The company’s proposal states that it would increase a typical residential customer’s total monthly bill by approximately seven percent in eastern Massachusetts and approximately ten percent in the western part of the state.  According to the petition, the rate increase is necessary to alleviate revenue deficiencies of Eversource’s subsidiaries,… More

Massachusetts DOER to Propose Successor to SREC II Program

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

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

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.