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

Cybersecurity 2019 — The Year in Preview: Security Threats to the Energy Grid

While 2018 has been a year of unprecedented and escalating cyber-related threats generally, such has certainly been the case with respect to attacks on the nation’s domestic energy facilities. For example, a media report from earlier this year describes hackers’ successful infiltration of the control rooms of multiple electric utilities.  According to the article, and many others like it, attacks by both independent and state-sponsored hackers pose an on-going and constant threat to the security of the nation’s bulk power system. … More

Massachusetts Comprehensive Energy Plan — There’s a Lot to Do.

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

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

National Grid Seeks $166 Million for Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Development Program

As part of its petition seeking an increase in distribution rates and approval of a performance-based ratemaking plan, which was filed with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) on November 15, 2018, National Grid is requesting up to $166.5 million to implement Phase II of its Electric Vehicle Market Development Program. In September, the DPU approved Phase I of National Grid’s EV Program—which provides over $20 million for,… 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 Mixed Bag For Climate Litigation Plaintiffs

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, I wouldn’t count my chickens yet.  The stay was denied without prejudice and the Order at least suggests that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals might want to reconsider its denial of mandamus in the case.  Of course, plaintiffs almost certainly have multiple objectives and, while they would presumably like to win, just getting to trial and having the opportunity to put on their case would itself presumably be considered a major public relations victory.

On the state litigation front, a judge in Alaska has dismissed similar claims under State law.  As other courts have done, Judge Miller dismissed certain of the counts as raising non-justiciable political questions and others on prudential grounds, concluding that the Court should not entertain declaratory judgment counts, because:

declaratory relief would not advance Plaintiffs’ interests in obtaining a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions….

These cases remain very much uphill battles for plaintiffs.  Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see whether a public trial of the plaintiffs’ claims in the Juliana case will have any impact on the public perception of climate change science.

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