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: Utilities
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
Proposals to eliminate competition in retail electric supply to consumers are in the air. A consultant to the Massachusetts attorney general has just published an update to a report of last year asserting that retail competition has led to nothing but losses. The report coincides with the recent filing of lawsuits alleging that competitive suppliers are committing fraud or engaged in unfair and deceptive practices because agreed prices were higher than the cost of default service.… 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,…
DPU Technical Conference Addresses Issues Related to DG Interconnection Tariff and National Grid “Cluster Study”
Distributed generation (DG) projects across the Commonwealth have been stalled in the midst of the “Cluster Study” impacting National Grid’s service territory in central and western Massachusetts. National Grid describes the study’s purpose as determining the impacts on the transmission system of interconnecting over 900 MW in DG projects—mostly solar—to its distribution system. National Grid says the study will be completed by March 2020.… More
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
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
Escalation of Cybersecurity Threats to National Power System Prompts FERC to Call for Stricter Reporting Standards
On July 19, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”), pursuant to its authority under section 215 of the Federal Power Act, issued a final rule directing the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) to develop modifications to NERC’s Reliability Standards as they relate to cyber security incidents. Issuance of the final rule is timely. A recent news article described hackers’ successful infiltration of the control rooms of multiple electric utilities.… More
The Evaluation Team in Massachusetts’ Section 83C Offshore Wind Generation request for proposals (“RFP”) for long term contracts for offshore wind has announced that our client Vineyard Wind was named the winning bidder in the RFP for an offshore wind project to be built off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. The project will include approximately 800 megawatts of offshore wind energy generation as well as a generator lead line connection. … More
On May 10, 2018, the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) issued an Order approving significant grid-facing investments and upgrades to the state’s electric grid. Specifically, the DPU’s Order authorizes Massachusetts’ utility companies to make $220 million in grid-facing investments in grid modernization technologies over the next three years to upgrade their distribution systems to improve the efficiency and reliability of the electric grid. In the Order, the DPU noted that the Order establishes the platform and the method for the electric distribution companies to make initial investments in grid modernization technologies to upgrade their current infrastructure and to increase the use of renewable energy,… More
FERC Issues Final Rule on Electric Storage Participation in Markets Operated by Regional Transmission Organizations and Independent System Operators
The 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
This afternoon, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) released the much-anticipated results of the competitive procurement that will set the base compensation rates for the SMART program. The base compensation rates range from $0.17 in the NSTAR and Nantucket Electric territories to about $0.14 in WMECO. In Massachusetts Electric territory, the non-Nantucket territory served under the National Grid umbrella, the base compensation rate is about $0.16. A DOER summary table of the procurement is below. … 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
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
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
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
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
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.
Another Solar Emergency!? Will the Commonwealth’s Transition to a “Market Net Metering Credit” for Private Solar Projects be “Stable and Equitable” After All?
The 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
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
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
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
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
One week after the Massachusetts legislature departed for its summer recess, Governor Charlie Baker today released net metering legislation to rival the Massachusetts Senate’s recent bill.
Where the Senate bill would have simply raised the net metering cap to 1600 MWs and largely retained the current net metering credit calculations, the Governor’s bill would increase the metering cap but would substantially reduce the calculation of net metering credits.… 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
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
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
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
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
According to this week’s Boston Globe, both NStar and National Grid have terminated their power purchase agreements with Cape Wind, citing the failure by Cape Wind to meet a December 31, 2014 deadline to obtain financing and begin construction. Cape Wind is asserting that the utilities may not validly terminate the PPAs, arguing that the protracted litigation against the project excuses Cape Wind’s obligation to meet the December 31 date.… 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
Google wants more options for how it buys its energy and has put out a white paper with a roadmap for how utilities could provide those options. In short, Google’s detail-light proposal is that utilities develop an optional service to provide renewable energy to commercial and industrial customers, procure the renewable energy needed to support that service, and pass the costs on to the customers who enroll through a new tariff. … More