Massachusetts DPU Sets Highest Energy Savings Goals in the Nation

Boston, MA– On Thursday, the Massachusetts DPU approved the 2016-2018 Energy Efficiency Investment Plans, setting the course for the next chapter of the award-winning MassSave energy efficiency programs. The Plans feature goals and strategies for saving energy and reducing bills for Massachusetts homes and businesses. The programs will provide an estimated $8 billion in economic benefits and energy savings over the three year period – on top of $12.5 billion in benefits that the programs have delivered since 2008. The plans also set the highest savings goals in the nation – annual reductions of 2.93% of electric retail sales and 1.24% of natural gas retail sales – even higher than the 2015 savings goals that resulted in Massachusetts being ranked #1 in energy efficiency by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy for the 5th year running. These energy savings will deliver environmental benefits equivalent to removing over 410,000 cars from the road.

“Massachusetts’ energy efficiency programs are delivering on their promise to create large energy savings for consumers, and move the Commonwealth toward a clean, affordable and secure energy future,” said Daniel L. Sosland, Acadia Center President. “Efficiency is the best near-term energy strategy for reducing Massachusetts’ residents’ energy bills. Investing in energy efficiency produces immediate bill savings that persist for years to come,” said Sosland.

The DPU’s Order approved National Grid’s plan to enhance efficiency offerings on Nantucket, in the hopes of reducing load growth sufficient to defer construction of a third undersea transmission cable for 7 years – something that they estimate will save ratepayers $2.8 million. The Order also recognized the utilities’ commitment to explore targeting efficiency investments to specific geographic locations that can yield benefits for customers and the electric system. Acadia Center is hopeful that the programs will follow-through on deploying geo-targeted demonstration projects in this three year period, particularly in areas that are subject to gas constraints or those where enhanced efficiency can alleviate congestion on the electric grid or defer the need for transmission and distribution infrastructure investments.

“Energy efficiency is a resource just like energy from Brayton Point, Pilgrim Nuclear, or other centralized power plants” said Acadia Center Senior Attorney, and Energy Efficiency Advisory Council representative, Amy Boyd. “But energy efficiency is much cheaper, cleaner, and lower risk. By approving this plan, the DPU is helping customers save money by using less energy and reducing spending on new infrastructure.”

By investing in as much low-cost energy efficiency as possible, Massachusetts is reducing the cost of doing business in the state and leaving consumers with more money in their pockets. Such consumer savings are often spent right in Massachusetts —where they can support our local markets, our students, our education and health facilities—while payments to fossil fuel providers head immediately out of state. Every dollar invested in cost-effective energy efficiency boosts the Massachusetts Gross State Product an estimated $6.40 and every $1 million invested in energy efficiency generates around 43 job-years of employment.



Amy Boyd, Senior Attorney , (617) 742-0054 x102

Kiernan Dunlop, Communications Associate, (617) 742- 0054 x107


Acadia Center is a non-profit, research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. Acadia Center is at the forefront of efforts to build clean, low-carbon and consumer-friendly economies. Acadia Center provides accurate and reliable information, and offers a real-world and comprehensive approach to problem solving through innovation and collaboration.


The Supreme Court Gives a Big Win to Energy Conservation and the Environment

Good news for everyone who likes clean energy, lower electric prices, and more local control of energy sources!  A US Supreme Court decision on Monday upheld the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)’s  Order 745, concluding that wholesale demand response programs are within FERC’s jurisdiction.  In a 6-2 decision, the Court confirmed that grid operators can do more to promote cleaner alternatives to simply building more power plants – saving consumers money, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and preventing blackouts.

A bit of background:  in 2011, the FERC put out an order to promote “demand response,” which pays big energy users and groups of smaller consumers to cut their consumption during critical peak hours. This means the grid operators do not need to call upon the most expensive and dirtiest peaking generators to make more power.  Because demand response is playing the same role as generation in this market, the FERC rule dictated that demand response should be paid in the same way as generation.  Since this saves a lot of money in energy costs, reduces the need to build power plants and transmission lines, and helps the grid stay reliable and stable, it all seems like a great idea, right?

Only if it’s legal.  Opponents of the rule, including industry groups for the power generators argued that the rule was unfair and, more importantly, beyond FERC’s jurisdiction.  In a nutshell, the Federal Power Act divides authority over electricity sales between wholesale (FERC-jurisdiction) markets and retail (state jurisdiction) markets.  The DC Circuit determined in May 2014 that because demand response made retail customers change their behavior, by dictating what participants in demand response programs were paid, FERC had overstepped their jurisdictional limits to regulate states’ retail markets.

Monday, the Supreme Court disagreed, holding that when FERC regulates what takes place on the wholesale market, and works to improve how that market runs, their action is jurisdictional, no matter the effect on retail rates.   Since Order 745 regulated bids in the wholesale market and the prices paid by the wholesale market, it stands firmly in FERC’s jurisdiction.

This decision came as a surprise to many who had predicted a 4-4 split, which would allow the DC Circuit decision to stand.  But by supporting demand response and FERC’s jurisdiction, the Supreme Court potentially paves the way to grid operators being able to offer even farther ranging programs to support a clean, efficient grid and the environmental benefits that come with it.


Amy Boyd is Senior Attorney in Acadia Center’s Boston office. She works on energy, transportation and climate AEB headshotchange issues in Massachusetts and regionally. Amy came to Acadia Center from Foley Hoag LLP in Boston where she had been an associate in the Environmental Practice Group & Administrative Department since 2006.

National Grid Backs Down on New Fees

“The Conservation Law Foundation, Acadia Center, the New England Clean Energy Council and the Narragansett Bay Commission all opposed or expressed concern about the proposed fees. They filed to intervene in a proposed docket with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers. National Grid told ecoRI News that it withdrew the proposed fees Jan. 19 after considering recommendation from the intervenors and the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers…”

Update: National Grid Pulls Rate Reform Proposal in Rhode Island

In a sudden turn of events, last week National Grid submitted an unopposed motion to the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission to withdraw its distribution rate reform proposal. The utility had been required by legislation to identify potential rate reforms in light of the increasing amount of distributed generation, like solar photovoltaics (PV), that will be connected to the grid. In July 2015, National Grid submitted a proposal – summarized here – that included a tiered customer charge for residential and small commercial and industrial customers and an access fee for standalone distributed generation.

The proposal was roundly rejected by intervenors in the proceeding. The Division of Public Utilities and Carriers (the State’s ratepayer advocate) and thirteen other parties collectively had seventeen expert witnesses testifying against the rate reforms proposed by National Grid. (An overview of Acadia Center’s concerns and why withdrawing the proposal is a good thing is available here.) This lack of support and the parties’ interest in a more comprehensive discussion regarding rate reform were cited in the utility’s motion as reasons for withdrawing its proposal.

On January 19, the Commission unanimously approved National Grid’s motion. They concluded that all requirements under the law have been met and decided not to approve any new rates at this time. However, Chairperson Margaret Curran noted that the electricity system is expected to change in the coming years and this is just the beginning of the conversation. As such, the Commission will open one or more dockets by February 25, 2016 to review the changing distribution system.

While National Grid’s decision to walk away from its proposed reforms is a victory for Rhode Island, it is unclear what this means for Massachusetts. The utility has made a similar tiered customer charge and access fee proposal in that state; however, the significant opposition faced in Rhode Island may give them pause for thought. Public hearings will be held across Massachusetts starting in mid-March.



Leslie Malone is a Senior Analyst, Climate & Energy and Canada Project Director working from Acadia Center’s Providence office. She works on distributed and large-scale renewable energy and transmission policy as well as energy efficiency and carbon pricing issues in the U.S. and Canada.

What do we want? Rate Reform! When do we want it? Not in this docket: Distribution Rate Reform in Rhode Island

Over a dozen parties, including Acadia Center, have intervened in a proceeding currently before the Rhode Island Public Utility Commission (Docket No. 4568). The issue at hand is a new electric rate structure proposed by National Grid.

Under legislation passed in 2014, National Grid was required to identify potential rate reforms in light of the increasing amount of distributed generation, like solar photovoltaics (PV), that will be connected to the grid. The scope of National Grid’s proposal was limited by the legislation to only one component of our electricity bills – distribution rates – and the utility could not propose reforms that would require additional expenditure, like advanced metering.  Unfortunately, these restrictions have narrowed the conversation and we are now discussing incremental change that may in fact be regressive.

Rhode Island is emerging as a leader in grid modernization efforts. It has a good foundation of existing policies and processes, which the Systems Integration Rhode Island (SIRI) working group mapped out in a recently released report.  National Grid’s DemandLink pilot in Tiverton and Little Compton and the RI Office of Energy Resources’ Solarize program are great examples of using new technology, energy efficiency, and distributed resources to avoid more costly investments in traditional infrastructure.

Now how do we capitalize on the learning to date and make the electric grid and energy system as a whole more dynamic, clean, and responsive to consumers?  How do we more accurately value and compensate distributed generation for the benefits they provide while ensuring that they pay for the services they get from the grid?  That is the conversation we should be having, but instead we are butting heads over a tiered customer charge for residential and small commercial and industrial customers and an access fee for standalone generators (National Grid’s rate reform proposal is summarized here).

Acadia Center’s concerns and arguments against the proposal are laid out in Dr. Abigail Anthony’s testimony on the tiered customer charge and access fee and her rebuttal testimony filed last week.  The gist is that:

  • National Grid is only considering the costs of distributed generation. The benefits should also be included.
  • The tiered customer charge is confusing and customers will not be given enough information or technological tools to understand and manage their electricity consumption.
  • High customer charges and low variable charges reduce the value of energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy investments.
  • It is hard to see how the proposed rate design will help reduce the overall costs of the energy system.
  • The renewable energy access fee is not based on thorough analysis of costs and benefits.


Acadia Center has recommended that the Commission reject National Grid’s proposal. There needs to be a better understanding of the costs and benefits of distributed generation, and how those customers should be compensated. Evaluating the potential costs and benefits of new metering technology will also help in developing long-term rate design that actually advances the state’s energy vision.

Hearings in this proceeding get underway on January 19, 2016.




Leslie Malone is a Senior Analyst, Climate & Energy and Canada Project Director working from Acadia Center’s Providence office. She works on distributed and large-scale renewable energy and transmission policy as well as energy efficiency and carbon pricing issues in the U.S. and Canada.

Summary of National Grid’s Distribution Rate Reform Proposal in Rhode Island

Legislation passed in 2014 required the Public Utility Commission to open a docket by July 1, 2015 to consider rate design and distribution cost allocation in light of the increasing amount of distributed generation, like solar photovoltaics (PV),that will be connected to the grid. Only reforms to distribution rates are being considered and National Grid was required to file a revenue-neutral proposal, meaning they could not propose a rate design that requires new investment in, for example, advanced metering.

National Grid submitted a proposal that includes: 1) a tiered customer charge for residential and small commercial and industrial (C&I) customers; 2) an access fee for standalone distributed generation; and, 3) a merger of the two larger industrial rate classes. Acadia Center let the US Navy and Walmart take on the rate class merger issue and focused our testimony on the first two issues.

Tiered Customer Charges

Residential and small C&I customers in Rhode Island currently pay a customer charge on their electricity bills to cover meter reading, billing, etc. Regardless of the amount of power you use in a given month that cost is always on the bill.

National Grid has proposed moving from a uniform customer charge to tiered customer charges based on monthly usage (kWh). For residential customers the customer charge would range from $5.25/month (Tier 1) to $18.00/month (Tier 4) compared to the current charge of $5.00/month. For small commercial and industrial customers the fixed customer charge would range from $10.50/month (Tier 1) to $26.00/month (Tier 4) compared to the current $10.00/month.

In practice this means that if you use more electricity in a given month (think heat wave in July) then you may be placed in a higher tier with a higher fixed customer charge. If you move up a tier then you get locked in at that higher level for the next 12 months. This obviously has implications for all customers but it is particularly worrying for customers that use electricity for heating – typically renters and low-income customers. The proposal could also penalize customers that install electric heat pumps or own electric vehicles.

Also, since this is a revenue-neutral proposal, increasing the amount of revenue collected through fixed charges leads to a corresponding decrease in the variable distribution rate, which has negative implications for energy efficiency and net metering credits by making energy savings and credits less valuable.

Access Fee

National Grid has proposed a monthly access fee for all “stand-alone distributed generation,” defined as generation connected to the distribution system that does not have on-site load. In other words, virtual or community net metering projects.

The access fee is $5.00 per kW-month for projects connected to the distribution system at primary voltage and $7.25 per kW-month for projects connected at the secondary voltage level. These fees are adjusted by a technology-specific “capacity availability factor” of 40% for solar, 30% for wind, 10% for hydro, and 40% for anaerobic digestion.

Ultimately, the access fee proposal discourages stand-alone distributed generation by imposing additional hurdles on municipalities and farms. It also fails to take into account the benefits of distributed resources.

National Grid has made a similar tiered customer charge and access fee proposal in Massachusetts. In both these states we should be encouraging more innovative analysis and reforms that have the potential to advance a clean energy future.




Leslie Malone is a Senior Analyst, Climate & Energy and Canada Project Director working from Acadia Center’s Providence office. She works on distributed and large-scale renewable energy and transmission policy as well as energy efficiency and carbon pricing issues in the U.S. and Canada.

Energize Connecticut announces eesmarts statewide student contest

…“Over the past 11 years, we have encouraged students across the state to demonstrate their understanding of smart energy with creativity and to develop sustainable solutions that help our environment,” said Bill Dornbos, chairperson of the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Board and also with the Acadia Center. “We are excited to be able to expand the contest this year to include college students”…

Community Energy Proving Successful in Boothbay

A few hundred hours a year during the hottest afternoons in the summer months, when air conditioning is operating at full blast, Maine’s Boothbay peninsula comes close to critically straining the area’s electricity transmission lines. One option to avoid potential power outages was an $18 million upgrade of existing transmission lines so they could handle peak demand. But several years ago the Maine Public Utilities Commission instead approved an innovative pilot project that flips the conventional transmission solution around: meeting demand by generating power and improving energy efficiency right in Boothbay. The Boothbay Smart Grid Reliability Project is now fully operational and is proving that local energy resources can provide electrical services traditionally delivered by utilities.

The Boothbay pilot is first of its kind in Maine, and one of several “non-transmission alternatives” (NTA) pilots in the Northeast. NTAs can include local energy resources like energy efficiency, demand response, smart grid technologies, and small scale, clean distributed generation. Adopted alone or in combination, they can replace or defer the need for new transmission lines. In this way, NTAs also address concerns over the land use impacts of new lines. Contracted by the Maine Public Utilities Commission to oversee the pilot, GridSolar, LLC has positioned a total of 1,677 kilowatts of NTAs on the Boothbay Peninsular and is able to activate these resources as necessary to reduce stress on the grid and ensure grid reliability. The pilot includes five categories of NTAs: energy efficiency (243 kW), solar photovoltaics (PV) (308 kW), back-up generation (500 kW), demand response and peak load shifting (252 kW), and energy storage (500 kW). From its control center in Portland, GridSolar can dispatch these resources within 5 minutes to reduce the amount of power imported into Boothbay during peak hours.

The cost of the Boothbay Pilot Project is less than one-third of the $18 million estimated cost of the transmission line originally proposed by Central Maine Power. GridSolar estimates that the total savings to Maine ratepayers will be greater than $12 million. The long sprawling fingers of the Boothbay Peninsula make it particularly expensive to build transmission lines, improving the economics of the pilot project.


Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Despite the compelling economics of the Boothbay pilot, widespread use of NTAs faces several obstacles. Financial incentives are skewed in favor of transmission companies, which can earn a higher rate of return (13%) to build transmission lines than to invest in cleaner, lower cost options. In New England, the costs of paying for transmission projects are spread across all 6 states, while lower cost local options are rarely considered and not eligible for this type of regional cost recovery.

Maine is on the leading edge of changing the system to level the playing field for local energy resources, and various stakeholders are taking steps to change traditional ideas about the power grid and provide a different view of how to solve the state’s energy challenges. In October 2015, the Maine PUC proposed hiring a competitively-selected, independent NTA Coordinator that would be responsible for working with the transmission and distribution utility to identify and analyze NTA opportunities, pursue solutions, solicit and select proposals, and operate NTA resources. The PUC also proposed establishing an NTA Advisory Group that would review 10 year distribution and transmission plans and report back to the Commission. In December the PUC announced that it will continue to advance the concept of the NTA Coordinator in an adjudicatory proceeding. The Commission has also started analyzing whether NTAs can be used to address reliability needs in Maine’s Mid-Coast region.

Maine’s experience demonstrates that opening up the existing utility system to market forces can accelerate NTA integration, growth, completion, and innovation- all to the benefit of Maine ratepayers. The model of building very costly transmission infrastructure for brief periods of peak demand should not survive forever. States across the Northeast are asking utilities to actively incorporate clean, low cost local energy resources into their power grid planning, but reforming utilities’ financial incentives will be necessary to see widespread change.



Abigail Anthony leads Acadia Center’s Grid Modernization and Utility Reform initiative, focusing on changing regulatory and economic incentives in order to achieve a sustainable and consumer-friendly energy system. A Rhode Island native, Abigail is director of the Providence office and has played a leading role in advancing the state’s energy efficiency procurement policies.