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: Grid Modernization
Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities Investigates Advanced Metering and Time-Varying Rates for Customers with Electric Vehicles
On July 2, 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities launched an “Investigation into the Modernization of the Electric Grid – Phase Two.” In this investigation, the DPU will look again at deploying advanced metering capabilities in Massachusetts, this time with a specific focus on customers with electric vehicle charging (including site hosts).
There is history here. Some readers will recall the previous phase of “Grid Mod,” which began in 2012,… More
D.C. Circuit Decision Upholds Access to Wholesale Markets for Energy Storage Resources, but Will More Litigation Follow?
On July 10, 2020, the D.C. Circuit upheld FERC Order 841, the landmark order requiring wholesale markets to allow participation by energy storage resources. Challengers had contended that by prohibiting states from barring energy storage resources on the distribution system from participating in wholesale markets, FERC had exceeded its jurisdiction and infringed on state authority.
The D.C. Circuit rejected those claims. … More
On Monday, August 19, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (“DPU”) provided additional information on the timing, process, and scope of its investigation into DG interconnection. The full memorandum from the Hearing Officer is here. This procedural update follows the July 18 technical conference, which we summarized here. A few key points from the memorandum:
- Three additional technical conferences have been scheduled in the docket for October 3,…
On February 7, 2019, the Energy Facilities Siting Board (“EFSB”) issued a notice and request for comments in EFSB 19-01, the docket we previously noted, in which the petitioner seeks a determination that its energy storage system is not within the EFSB’s jurisdiction.
Comments are due by February 20, 2019.
The EFSB identified five topics on which it is “particularly interested in receiving information:”… More
On February 1, 2019, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities issued two long-awaited orders in docket D.P.U. 17-146. The orders address a number of issues related to pairing energy storage systems (“ESS”) with net metering facilities and the rights to the capacity associated with net metering and SMART facilities. There are too many issues in these orders to address each fully here, but below are some high-level highlights.… More
As more energy storage projects are developed in Massachusetts, laws and policies may need to catch up. Energy storage can provide many benefits and play many roles, but it does not always fit neatly into familiar categories, which are sometimes embedded in the background legal landscape. A recent petition at the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board (“EFSB”) brings this issue to the fore.
The EFSB has jurisdiction over transmission lines,… 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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
With 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
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
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
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
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
Getting Grid Modernization Policy Right: The New England Clean Energy Council Releases a White Paper
New, 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,… 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