Category Archives: Uncategorized

Department of Public Utilities Proposes Rethink for Distribution System Planning and Interconnection Costs

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

ConocoPhillips Has An Ambition Is to Be Net-Zero by 2050-ish — It’s a Start

Last week, ConocoPhillips announced a goal of reducing its emissions to net-zero by 2045-2055.  It’s a significant step and so it is important to note both what is in the plan and what is not.

First, what is in the plan?

  • ConocoPhillips has set a 2030 target of reducing Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 35%-45%
  • It has an “ambition” to be net-zero by 2045-2055
  • It has signed on to a World Bank initiative to eliminate routine flaring by 2030
  • It will implement continuous methane emissions detection
  • It addresses emissions from the use of its products by supporting the Carbon Leadership Council – which presumably means supporting the CLC proposal for a “Carbon Dividends Plan”

All of these are good steps. … More

Foley Hoag Attorneys Christina Hioureas and Alejandra Torres Camprubi to Participate in Dialogue Focused on Self-Determination and Sea-Level Rise

Foley Hoag LLP counsel and United Nations practice group Chair Christina Hioureas and associate Alejandra Torres Camprubi will serve as panelists for a series titled “Climate, State and Sovereignty: Self-Determination and Sea-Level Rise,” to be held in consecutive months from September – December 2020.  The series, sponsored by the Liechtenstein Mission to the United Nations and the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination (LISD) at Princeton University, will bring together academics and experts representing the States most affected by the rising sea levels to discuss the situation as it stands,… More

A “Time of Heightened Tensions”: Homeland Security and National Security Agency Issue Joint Cybersecurity Alert

On July 23, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), joined by the National Security Agency (NSA), issued a cybersecurity alert to operators of critical infrastructure.  This cybersecurity alert outlines a series of “immediate actions” companies should take to reduce the risk of operational interference resulting from cyberattack. Unlike the bulletin issued by the Department of Homeland Security in January of 2020,… More

Massachusetts Attorney General Strikes Down First Municipal Fossil Fuel Ban

Just over a year ago, the city of Berkeley, California, became the first City in the United States to ban natural gas hookups in new buildings.  The trend of municipalities enacting fossil fuel bans, driven by a desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change, has spread across California and a few other states and has now reached the east coast.  Yesterday, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Municipal Law Unit struck down the first such municipal fossil fuel ban to come across its desk as inconsistent with the general laws of the Commonwealth.… More

FERC NOI Considers Expansion of Cybersecurity Rules to Distributed Generation

On Wednesday, June 24, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or “the Commission”) published a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) in the Federal Register soliciting comments on Federal Energy Regulatory Commissionpotential enhancements to the Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) Reliability Standards[1] that currently exist to help our energy infrastructure protect itself from attack. (Initial Comments are due by August 24, 2020, and Reply Comments are due by September 22,… More

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

New Smart Program Final Regulations

On July 14, 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (“DOER”) filed the final version of the emergency regulations for the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (“SMART”) Program DOER filed in April 2020.  Foley Hoag discussed the emergency regulations in an earlier blog post. Responding to comments received from solar developers, lawmakers, and others, DOER made two major changes in the final version of the regulations, reworking provisions dealing with land use exclusions and behind the meter generation incentive payment calculations.… More

Dakota Access Must Shut Down. Is It a Harbinger?

I don’t like to speculate, so I won’t say that July 6, 2020, was the beginning of the end of fossil fuel infrastructure in the United States.  I will say, with apologies to Judith Viorst, that it was a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. 

First came the news that even a recent Supreme Court win wasn’t enough to save the Atlantic Coast pipeline. … More

FERC Authorizes Deferred Implementation of Seven NERC Reliability Standards

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”) recently issued an Order approving a request by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) to defer the implementation of several Reliability Standards scheduled to take effect later this year. This action, along with others discussed in an earlier post here, are the latest measures approved by FERC that demonstrate the Commission’s intent to exercise discretion in easing reliability compliance burdens in light of the national emergency related to the coronavirus pandemic.… More

FERC Announces Actions to Ease Compliance Burdens on Regulated Entities

On April 2, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”) Chairman Neil Chatterjee announced additional steps the Commission is taking as regulated entities struggle to balance ensuring continued operations on one hand and regulatory compliance burdens on the other during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Chatterjee, while “the Commission will continue its market surveillance efforts to protect market participants and consumers from the effects of anti­competitive behavior,” the Commission will exercise prosecutorial discretion in addressing events that arise during the pandemic and “will not second-guess the good faith actions that regulated entities take in the face of this emergency.”

With respect to enforcement actions related to operations occurring during the pandemic period,… More

What the Energy Sector Needs to Know about the CARES Act

Overview

On March 27, 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”), the third and by far the largest stimulus package passed by Congress to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. As discussed in our main alert, the $2 trillion CARES Act amounts to what will be the biggest economic stimulus package in American history.

A number of specific provisions in the Act are aimed at energy infrastructure,… More

Cybersecurity 2020 — The Year in Preview: The Energy Sector’s Growing Vulnerability to Cyberattack

The electric power grid is subject to escalating threats of attack by foreign adversaries and individual bad actors.  While no U.S. utilities have been seriously compromised to date, in 2015, Ukraine’s electric grid was hit by a cyberattack that led to a lengthy blackout affecting approximately 250,000 people. There is growing recognition that cyberattacks have the potential to be even more malicious, disrupting increasingly digitized critical energy infrastructure.  … More

More Detail on the Massachusetts DG Interconnection Docket

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,…
  • More

Massachusetts DPU Opens Docket on DG Interconnection

On May 22, 2019, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (“DPU”) opened a new docket (D.P.U. 19-55) to investigate the interconnection of distributed generation (“DG”) in Massachusetts.  (And yes, the DPU intends to include energy storage interconnection in this docket despite defining DG as “technologies that generate electricity”.)

While complaints about costs, delays, and increased volume of interconnection applications have been growing,… More

Governor Baker Shows Support for Offshore Wind Industry

Governor Baker addressed a room full of offshore wind stakeholders at “The Future of Offshore Wind” Forum hosted by the Environmental League of Massachusetts on Wednesday morning.  He applauded the developers, environmental groups, legislators and local students for the progress made in recent years which has led to a dramatic decrease in the price of offshore wind energy to ratepayers in recent years.

Thanks to a bill Governor Baker signed into law in 2016,… More

Is Competitive Supply Working for Residential Customers in Massachusetts?

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (“DPU”) wants to know.  The DPU recently opened docket D.P.U. 19-07  to investigate whether improvements can be made to the retail electric competitive supply market in Massachusetts.  In opening the docket, the DPU posed over 20 detailed questions to stakeholders on which it is seeking comments by February 19, 2019.

Whether competitive supply markets are working for residential customers in Massachusetts is not a new question. … More

Massachusetts DPU Issues Decisions on Energy Storage and Capacity Rights

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

Is an Energy Storage System a Generating Facility?

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

SMART is Open!

November 26th was a big day for solar energy in Massachusetts.  As promised, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (“DOER”) opened the application portal for the long-anticipated SMART Program.  Applications received between November 26th and November 30th will be considered to have been received at the same time.  Starting on December 1st, applications will be reviewed on a first come, first served, basis.

Also on November 26th,… More

What to expect when the SMART portal opens Nov. 26

As outlined in a previous post, SMART will kick off with the opening of the application portal on November 26. This post provides an overview of the application process.

The general process

The Department of Energy Resources (DOER) provides a list of documents that are required for projects to apply (but note that the list is subject to change based on the final SMART Tariff that is approved by the Department of Public Utilities).… More

DOER: SMART on Track for November 26 Rollout

In a series of October presentations, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) reiterated that it plans to launch SMART on November 26, opening an online portal at http://masmartsolar.com/ to begin accepting applications. All applications received between November 26 and 11:59 PM EST on November 30 will be considered as submitted at the same time with respect to capacity block assignment.

For applications received in the initial one-week window,… More

A Carbon Tax Twofer. A Meat Tax? No, Sir.

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

IRS Issues PLR Approving Battery Storage for 25D Tax Credit When Integrated with Solar

The Internal Revenue Service has released a redacted copy of its private letter ruling 201809003 in which it concluded that a battery energy storage system charged 100% from an onsite solar system is eligible for the individual tax credit under Section 25D.

In the Letter Ruling, the Service reasoned that the “Battery meets the definition of a “qualified solar electric property expenditure” under § 25D(d)(2) of the Code” based on the taxpayer’s representation that “all energy that is used to charge the Battery can be effectively assured to come from the Solar Energy System” to which it would be interconnected.… More

FERC Issues Final Rule on Electric Storage Participation in Markets Operated by Regional Transmission Organizations and Independent System Operators

Energy StorageThe Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Final Rule (the Final Rule) on February 15, 2018 (Docket Nos. RM16-23-000; AD16-20-000; Order No. 841) pursuant to which FERC amended its regulations under the Federal Power Act to remove barriers to the participation of electric storage resources in the capacity, energy, and ancillary service markets operated by Regional Transmission Organizations (RTO) and Independent System Operators (ISO) (RTO/ISO markets).… More

Massachusetts Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change Releases Far-Reaching Draft Legislation

Yesterday, February 12, 2018, the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change released a Proposed Draft of legislation staking out an ambitious and far-reaching set of policies across a wide range of sectors.

There is a lot in the proposal and we are still reviewing the details, including the differences among mandates, targets, goals and discretionary authority.

For now,… More

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

DOER Energy Storage Target Misses the Mark

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

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

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

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

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

Massachusetts DPU Issues Final Order on Net Metering Emergency Regulations

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities has issued its final Order (16-64-C) in its Docket 16-64 and has released its draft of amended net metering regulations under 220 CMR 18.00 et seq.

A copy of the Order and the final regulations is available at this link: 16-64-C Order Adopting Final Regs 7.15.16 With Appendices

According to the Order, the DPU intends to make the amended regulations go effective on July 29,… 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

Legislature and Administration Favor Stable and Equitable Transition to Market Net Metering Credit

Solar PanelsThe 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.

The DOER’s letter is available here and the Committee’s letter is available here.… More

Another Solar Emergency!? Will the Commonwealth’s Transition to a “Market Net Metering Credit” for Private Solar Projects be “Stable and Equitable” After All?

Solar PanelsThe 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

FERC Signals Interest in Expanding Market Policies to Support Energy Storage

Last week, the Federal Energy storageRegulatory 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

Supreme Court Revives FERC Order No. 745; FERC Maintains its Role in a Distributed Energy World

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

San Diego Gas & Electric Company Proposes Paying Customers to Install Customer-Owned Energy Storage Resources

Changes Ahead , Road Warning Sign , 3d renderOne 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

Mississippi Moves Forward with Net Metering Based on Independent Economic Study

Recently, the Mississippi iStock_000007078510_MediumPublic 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

Solar Jobs Overtake Coal Mining Employment as Renewable Energy Use Grows

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.

Solar employment

Employment in the solar industry grew over 85% between 2010 and 2014,… More

National Grid Joins Eversource Energy and Spectra Energy on Access Northeast: New England Grapples With How to Pay for New Energy Infrastructure

Multiple news outlets (including the Boston Globe and PR Newswire) reported on Wednesday that National Grid is joining Eversource Energy (formerly Northeast Utilities) and Spectra Energy Corp. as a co-developer of the Access Northeast pipeline project.  The Access Northeast project, which Spectra outlined to the New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE) in June, is a compliment to previously announced expansions of Spectra’s regional pipeline infrastructure (specifically the Algonquin Incremental Market or “AIM” project and the Atlantic Bridge project). … 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

New York’s Green Bank Announces Its First Transactions

piggy bank blogOn October 22, Governor Cuomo announced the first seven projects that will receive support from New York’s Green Bank: a state-sponsored financial entity that aims to partner with the private sector to develop clean energy projects in New York.  The deals have not closed, but the projects represent more than $800 million in clean energy investment (most of which will come from private parties). … More

Massachusetts DPU Seeks Input for Net Metering of Small Hydro Facilities

Massachusetts may soon add hydroelectric facilities to the growing list of net metering eligible distributed generation in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities has issued a notice and order opening a proceeding (DPU 14-118) under which DPU will take the first steps towards developing legislation to enable net metering of small hydro.

Enabling small hydro to participate in net metering has the potential to provide benefits not only to owners of such current facilities but potentially also for the redevelopment of dams,… More

Some PURPA Qualifying Facilities are More Qualified Than Others

In a fascinating decision last week, a divided panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Texas Public Utilities Commission had authority to limit the universe of “Qualifying Facilities” under the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act which can choose to enter into a “legally enforceable obligation” requiring a utilities to purchase power from a renewable energy producer. The decision could be a big problem for wind power facilities in jurisdictions less than fully hospitable to renewable energy.

FERC’s rules implementing PURPA provide in part that:

Each qualifying facility shall have the option either:

(1)… More

IRS Isues Notice Clarifying Sequester’s Effect on Cash Grant, ITC and PTC

As explained in a previous post, the sequester beginning on March 1, 2013 required Section 1603 Payments under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009 face cuts of 7.2 or 8.7 percent dependent upon the effective date of the Award Letter. While guidance the Internal Revenue Service recently released clarifies how to calculate tax treatment of Section 1603 Payments affected by the recent sequester, it fails to provide any certainty beyond September 30,… More

SREC II Carves Out More Room for Community Solar

The Massachusetts DOER has released its revised regulations amending the State’s RPS to implement the next phase of support for solar in the Commonwealth. Redlined pages are available here.

From here the regulations will be reviewed at most for 30 days by the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy which may provide comments to DOER. After review of any such comments by DOER,… More