On October 22, the Massachusetts DPU issued an Order opening a new docket (DPU 20-75) that seeks comments on a proposal to shake up the way the electric distribution system is planned and paid for in Massachusetts. As I see it, the core idea is to move from being reactive—upgrading the system piecemeal when individual distributed resources seek to interconnect—to being proactive—planning prospectively for the integration of the distributed generation resources we know are coming.… More
Category Archives: Climate Change
There are few people left, at least in my orbit, who don’t share the goal of prompt decarbonization of the economy. The quaintly named $64,000 question ($64 trillion question?) is how we get from here to there.
Today, the New England Power Generators Association released a report prepared by Analysis Group that explains how an economy-wide price on carbon can help New England do just that. … More
Massachusetts AG Petitions DPU to Investigate Gas Industry Future in Light of Commonwealth’s GHG Emissions Goals
On June 4, 2020, the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General (AGO) filed a petition with the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) requesting that the DPU open an investigation “to assess the future of local gas distribution company (LDC) operations and planning in light of the Commonwealth’s legally binding statewide limit of net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050.” Citing Massachusetts’ Global Warming Solutions Act, and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ Determination of Statewide Emissions Limit for 2020,… More
This week, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office released a white paper documenting the results of a symposium convened last fall to discuss how electric markets should be organized to manage the transition to a “low / no-carbon future.” Policy wonks, such as myself, will find it fascinating reading, though it is moderately dense stuff.
Seriously, it is important to acknowledge that these issues are as complex as they are important. … More
Energy storage will play a key role in achieving New York State’s bold climate vision, set in motion in June 2019 with the passage of The Climate Leadership and Clean Energy Protection Act, the nation-leading law which calls for economy-wide emissions reductions to reach net-zero by 2050,100% clean electricity by 2040, and 70% renewable electricity by 2030. The Act also codifies an existing Cuomo Administration commitment to deploy 3,000 MW of energy storage by 2030.… More
Last week, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources released its Comprehensive Energy Plan. It’s a generally solid piece of work, even if it doesn’t say anything hugely surprising. Its various policy recommendations can be summarized fairly easily: electrify and conserve.
The first recommendation is nicely illustrated by this pie chart from the CEP. In 2016, only 17% of Massachusetts’ energy demand of 1,074 trillion BTUs was from the electric sector.… More
Last week there were two court decisions on cases in which groups of citizens are seeking court orders requiring the government to act on climate change. The biggest news was that the Supreme Court denied the stay requested by the United States in Juliana v. United States. This “Case of the Century” was supposed to go to trial on October 29.
If I were the plaintiffs,… More
It’s probably not news that the immediate prospects for a carbon tax aren’t great. I still think that it’s going to seem impossible until, fairly suddenly, it actually happens. Hope springs eternal.
In any case, there has been some news on the carbon tax front this month. Here’s the quick summary. The Climate Leadership Council, everyone’s favorite collection of Republicans who used to matter, released The Dividend Advantage,… More
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
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
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
BlackRock, which manages more than $5 trillion in assets, has released a statement on how it “engages with climate risk.” The statement has three main elements.
- Support for the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Disclosures
- Engagement with companies over assessment on climate risks
- An indication of potential support for shareholder resolutions on climate risk,…
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
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
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
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.…
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
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.
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
The sixth installment of our Paris climate change negotiations tracker is now available. It includes not just a complete look back at the results from Paris, but also a quick postscript on the impact of the Clean Power Plan stay order from the Supreme Court on the current prospects for successful implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Click here to download the report:
Yesterday, the Supreme Court stayed EPA’s Clean Power Plan rule. No matter how much EPA and DOJ proclaim that this says nothing about the ultimate results on the merits, the CPP is on very shaky ground at this point.
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
New guidance from the US Department of Labor (“DOL”) clarifies the role of environmental, social and governance issues (referred to as “ESG factors”) in investment decisions by ERISA fiduciaries. ERISA Interpretive Bulletin 2015-01 recognizes that ESG factors, which include climate change, may directly affect the economic value of an investment, and makes clear that ERISA fiduciaries should appropriately consider such factors in investment decisions.
This Bulletin,… 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
The fourth installment of our Paris climate change negotiations tracker is available.
Some progress seems to be occurring, but it’s certainly not obvious that COP21 will result in an agreement sufficient to ensure that it will result in meeting a “below 2°C” objective.
Click here to download the report:
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
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
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
The third installment of our Paris climate change negotiations tracker is available. This may sound like a broken record, but there was not a lot of progress made in the Bonn talks earlier this month and it’s looking more and more as though it’s going to be difficult to reach a major substantive agreement in Paris.
As the date for the Paris climate talks moves closer, we have our second installment of our climate negotiations tracker. This episode discusses the concept of “dynamism” – being able to adjust over time just how ambitious the mitigation goals will be; the mechanism for assessing the Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs; the role of non-state actors; and how to differentiate among developed and developing countries.
There’s still a lot to do if Paris is going to be a success.
As we approach the start of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties 21, slated to open in Paris on November 30, 2015, Foley Hoag begins a series of documents tracking the negotiations. The first installment discusses the range of Intended National Determined Contributions of four players in the talks: the United States, the EU, Russia, and Mexico. They provide a fairly wide range of positions, both on the extent of promised GHG reductions and on whether those commitments are conditional or unconditional.
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
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
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
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
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
On 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
One Step At A Time Is Just Too Late: The DC Circuit Strikes Down EPA’s Deferral of GHG Regulation of Biomass Emissions
On Friday, in Center For Biological Diversity v. EPA, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down EPA’s rule deferring regulation of GHG emissions from “biogenic” sources. EPA had promulgated the rule, delaying regulation of emissions from biogenic sources from July 20, 2011, to July 21, 2014, on the ground that the carbon cycle is sufficiently complex that EPA is not yet in a position to judge what the actual carbon impact of different biogenic sources might be. … More
President Obama yesterday released his Climate Action Plan, together with a Memorandum concerning EPA’s issuance of rules governing carbon emissions from new and existing power plants under the Clean Air Act. At a certain level, there is not much new here. The mere existence of the Plan and the commitment to address climate issues is presumably the point.
The Plan does not provide many specifics. … More
On Tuesday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that the first auction of leases of offshore wind areas will be held on July 31. Even though it now looks as though Cape Wind will eventually get to the finish line, this competitive lease auction, for areas off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, can really be seen to mark the true beginning of an offshore wind market.… More