Phil Murphy reverses Christie and brings Jersey back into climate change pact

With New Jersey back in, RGGI will have 10 members. Virginia is considering joining the pact, as well. If Virginia joins, the 11-member agreement would represent the world’s fourth-largest economy, according to the Acadia Center, a nonprofit group that advocates for the expansion of clean energy.

Murphy also noted that New Jersey lost $279 million in revenue by leaving the agreement and that returning to it will create jobs. According to analysis from Acadia Center, New Jersey has forgone $232 million in RGGI auction revenue since the state left the regional program.

Read the full article from nj.com here.

Murphy directs New Jersey to re-enter Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

But Murphy said Monday that Christie’s withdrawal from the compact “lacked any common sense,” left money on the table and “robbed” New Jersey of the opportunity to invest in clean energy options. In his executive order, Murphy cited a study from the Acadia Center, a clean-energy nonprofit group, that said New Jersey lost as much as $279 million by its absence from the program.

Read the full article from northjersey.com here.

NJ Senate Ushers in Revamped Nuclear Bailout Bill

Participating states use revenue from the auctions for energy efficiency and renewable projects. An analysis by Acadia Center found that New Jersey had foregone $232 million in RGGI auction revenue since Christie pulled it out of the initiative in 2011.

Read the full article from RTO Insider here.

Public Scrutiny Needed for Eversource Northern Pass Project

BOSTON—Acadia Center is calling for a public review and full transparency following yesterday’s announcement that Northern Pass Transmission’s hydro-only bid, a partnership between Eversource and Hydro Quebec, was selected as the sole winner of the Massachusetts Clean Energy RFP.

The RFP, called for by a 2016 energy law, sought clean energy for about 17% of Massachusetts’ annual electricity needs.  Although more than 40 bids were submitted in the summer of 2017—including several with a blend of on-shore wind and hydroelectricity, the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and a group of Massachusetts utilities, which included Eversource, chose one controversial project, owned in large part by a subsidiary of Eversource. As the winning bid, Eversource and Hydro-Quebec will begin the process of negotiating long-term, multi-billion-dollar contracts with Eversource, National Grid and Unitil, the other distribution companies.

“Acadia Center is disappointed but not surprised that the process has resulted in the recommendation of the Northern Pass project,” said Daniel Sosland, president of Acadia Center. “Acadia Center has long asserted that clean energy bids should include the region’s wind resources and not only hydropower imports and has further been concerned that having utilities review bids in which they have a financial interest creates a clear conflict of interest that undermines public confidence in the process.”

Acadia Center supported the 2016 energy law and the Commonwealth’s pursuing a large-scale procurement of clean energy, particularly arguing for environmental protections, a preference for a blend of new renewables and hydro, and guaranteed winter energy delivery to control price spikes, all of which the statute and RFP specified. One provision that Acadia Center argued against—but was still allowed in the 2016 energy law—was allowing the utilities to bid for the contract and serve on the selection committee.

“Under the terms of the RFP, the selected project was to provide the greatest benefit with limited risk to Massachusetts ratepayers.  We don’t know the relative benefit-cost ratios because the price terms are confidential, but choosing only one project from an existing importer of electricity has major risks,” said Amy Boyd, Senior Attorney at Acadia Center. “Hydro-Quebec has previously curtailed power to New England in winter months, when demand in Quebec is highest. Similarly, reliance on a single project has its own risks. Northern Pass Transmission faces serious opposition due to its land use impacts and its projected in-service date has been delayed previously.”

After the contract is negotiated it will be reviewed by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), and the review must include a report from an independent evaluator and the participation of the Attorney General’s office. Under the statute, Eversource is also eligible for an additional incentive of up to 2.75% of the contract price for its share of the energy, as one of the contracting distribution companies. The public must be privy to any evaluation of the fairness of this and other aspects of the contract.

“Acadia Center believes that a full public report from the statutorily required independent evaluator and scrutiny by the Attorney General are important next steps. The public needs to have full confidence that this was a fair process and the benefits of other bidders were evaluated reasonably. The current ongoing procurements for offshore wind and future procurements are even more crucial to progress towards a clean energy future,” said Mark LeBel, Staff Attorney for Acadia Center. “If this contract is approved, the DPU should deny Eversource an additional incentive as a distribution company. Ratepayers don’t need to give Eversource additional money as a backstop for a contract where they are also on the other side.”


Media Contacts:

Amy Boyd, Senior Attorney
aboyd@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x102

Mark LeBel, Staff Attorney
mlebel@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x104

Krysia Wazny, Communications Director
kwazny@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x107

Fossil fuel burners, clean energy sector, and Democrat Setti Warren pan Eversource hydro deal for Massachusetts

Acadia Center president Daniel Sosland said he is “disappointed but not surprised” with the choice, which allowed for no wind or solar added to the mix.

The Boston-based think tank and advocacy group had argued against letting the utilities bid for the contracts while also sitting on the selection committee, Sosland said.

Acadia Center senior attorney Amy Boyd added that the selected project was supposed to provide limited risk to Massachusetts ratepayers, but that key information has been hidden from public view.

“We don’t know the relative benefit-cost ratios because the price terms are confidential, but choosing only one project from an existing importer of electricity has major risks,” said Boyd.

Read the full article from MassLive here.

Will the country’s first mandatory residential demand charge slow the Massachusetts solar boom?

Environmental and DER advocates strongly objected to the new rate design. Acadia Center argued it is “inconsistent” with “rate design principles of efficiency and fairness.” The New England Clean Energy Center (NECEC) argued it will cause “arbitrary” and “extraordinary and unreasonable” bill impacts. Both Massachusetts’ Attorney General (AG) and Department of Energy Resources (DOER) concurred.

[…]

Acadia Center Attorney Mark Lebel told Utility Dive the approval of the non-coincident demand charge and the separate rate for DER owners was unexpected because they were unprecedented. “Most students of rate design generally tend to find those two things not the best kind of ratemaking.”

A non-coincident demand charge applies a per-kW charge for the customer’s highest 15 minutes of usage, whether that 15 minutes coincides or does not coincide with the system peak demand. It is considered poor ratemaking because the customer’s reduced usage, in response to the price signal, does nothing to reduce the system’s peak like it would if the demand charge coincided with the system’s peak.

“Acadia Center proposed a distribution reliability charge that could be implemented more gradually with current metering,” LeBel said. “It would be a variation on a three-part rate where the third part, instead of a demand charge, would be a rolling 12-month average of kWh consumption.”

It deals with Eversource’s displaced distribution revenues by not counting months “in which exported generation exceeded imported electricity,” he added. “It addresses the cost shift as effectively as this non-coincident demand charge. A coincident demand charge should be on the table when we have the right advanced metering technology and customer education,” he said.

The argument by Eversource and the commission that DER owners will figure out how to avoid running major appliances at the same time is harder than it sounds, he added. And the DPU order on customer education highlights “how unprepared Massachusetts residential customers are for the complications of a demand charge.”

Good and bad demand charges

The Acadia Center, along with NECEC, Vote Solar and others argued in their filings that a customer’s non-coincident peak “fails to track the peak demand that drives system costs.” The result is that “customers whose demand peaks outside of system peak periods would pay too much, and customers whose individual peaks coincide with system peaks may pay too little.”

[…]

But the DPU ruling does not say the customer education program must be executed ahead of the rate implementation, LeBel noted.

DPU rulings are often appealed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) and the attorney general, who acts as a ratepayer advocate, is already contesting parts of the November decision, he added. “You could reasonably expect an appeal of the rate design at the SJC and a judgment before the end of the year.”

Addressing the DPU ruling will also likely “rise to the shortlist of priorities for clean energy advocates at the state legislature,” LeBel said. Eversource is politically influential, but “the message that this is a threatening precedent will resonate with a lot of Massachusetts legislators.”

The legislature could enact a prohibition on demand charges for residential customers, he suggested. Lawmakers could also provide more specific guidance about the MMRC that prevents using it in this way.

“The problem is the legislature didn’t define MMRC and there is no pre-existing policy definition, which gave discretion to the DPU, which it used,” Lebel said. “This is an opportunity to clean all that up and there’s nothing like a really bad proposal to unite stakeholders around a remedy.”

Read the full article from Utility Dive here.

Advocacy groups oppose National Grid rate hike

The groups that oppose the rate settlement include the Alliance for a Green Economy, PUSH Buffalo, Acadia Center and Syracuse United Neighbors. They jointly released a statement earlier this week opposing the plan, which would gradually increase the typical monthly residential gas and electric bill for upstate National Grid customers by $16 by 2020. The coalition said the rate plan did not go far enough to make gas and electric service affordable for low-income customers or do enough to push renewable sources of energy.

Read the full article from the Times Union here.

Consumer and environmental advocates release statements opposing National Grid settlement proposal

After months of negotiations, a Joint Proposal was filed Friday, January 19, in the National Grid rate case, representing the settlement position of some parties in the case. The new proposed increases are as follows:

Under the agreement, the fixed charge for electricity would remain at $17.00 per month. The fixed customer charge is the portion of the bill that does not change, no matter how much electricity the customer uses. For more information see: www.lowerfixedcharges.org.

The Joint Proposal will now be open for public comment and consideration by the Public Service Commission. In response to the filing, some parties to the case who do not support the settlement released the following statements:

Cullen Howe, Acadia Center’s New York Director, said: “Acadia Center is disappointed that the Joint Proposal filed today does not address National Grid’s high fixed charges of $17 per month for residential customers.  In contrast to its high fixed charges in New York, National Grid has a residential fixed charge of only $5 in Rhode Island and $5.50 in Massachusetts.  These high fixed charges reduce customers’ ability to lower their electricity bills by using less energy, and they are ultimately incompatible with the energy future envisioned by New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision, which anticipates wide deployment of distributed energy resources and increased energy efficiency.  By not addressing these charges, these goals are much more difficult to achieve.”

Jessica Azulay, Program Director of Alliance for a Green Economy, said: “We are disappointed that we were unable to reach an agreement with the parties in this case that would prevent a rate hike and support the State’s environmental goals. While there are some improvements made in the filed agreement as compared to National Grid’s original proposal, it does not go far enough to protect low-income households and the environment. In particular, we oppose any rate increase at a time when there is already an untenable affordability and economic crisis in Upstate New York, and we further call on the Public Service Commission to reduce the fixed charges on our bills. These fixed charges, which customers must pay regardless of how much energy they use — disproportionately hurt low-income customers by impeding their ability to control their bills through conservation, efficiency, and renewable energy participation. Finally, we oppose the provisions in the proposal that support ratepayer investments and incentives for gas expansion. The climate crisis demands that we stop investing our public money into gas infrastructure and that we support renewable-based heating options instead.”

Clarke Gocker, Director of Policy and Strategy at PUSH Buffalo, said, “Low income National Grid customers in Buffalo and Western NY struggle to afford the high cost of utility bills and want nothing more than to take control over their energy consumption, whether it’s through conserving energy, participating in no cost or cost-effective energy efficiency programs, or accessing rooftop and community solar opportunities that afford them real decision making power and actual savings. The Joint Proposal filed today with the Public Service Commission in the National Grid rate case fails to deliver the kind of direct benefits that can permanently reduce household energy burdens and create the conditions for energy democracy in marginalized communities. While settlement negotiations in the case, together with fallout from the recent federal tax cut plan, have appeared to reduce the potential rate impact for customers, any increase in utility rates is extractive and unaffordable for low income customers in our community, and for that reason PUSH Buffalo opposes the terms reached in the Joint Proposal.”

Rich Puchalski, Executive Director of Syracuse United Neighbors, said: “The Joint Proposal fails to once again look at the historic policies that have forced high electric and gas rates on low income families in Syracuse for all too long. Those living in 1, 2 and 3 family poorly insulated wood frame homes are shelling out hundreds of dollars especially in the last couple of months of below freezing temperatures.  Shutoffs will escalate. Credit will be ruined, and the poor can’t manage their way out of the bills they get from National Grid. And this is a 3-year plan! HELP.”

The public can submit comments to the Public Service Commission on the Joint Proposal at this web address: http://documents.dps.ny.gov/public/Comments/PublicComments.aspx?MatterCaseNo=17-E-0238

Comments can also be submitted through the following websites, which have samples and talking points available to aid in comment writing:
www.allianceforagreeneconomy.org/new-year
www.lowerfixedcharges.org

All documents related to the case can be found here:
http://documents.dps.ny.gov/public/MatterManagement/CaseMaster.aspx?MatterCaseNo=17-E-0238&submit=Search


Media Contacts:
Cullen Howe, Senior Attorney & New York Director
chowe@acadiacenter.org, 212-256-1535 x501

Krysia Wazny, Communications Director
kwazny@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x107

Is cap and trade the climate solution? The jury’s still out

Acadia Center Policy Analyst Jordan Stutt said the most impressive thing about RGGI is that it has proved “ambitious emissions reductions” and “economic growth” can be achieved together. “A major part of that is the benefits from the reinvestment of auction proceeds,” he told Utility Dive.

Read the full article from Utility Dive here.

New Hampshire, Northeast states mull building Quebec-to-D.C., EV charging network

That infrastructure is “certainly a region-wide priority,” said Mark Lebel, staff attorney at the Acadia Center, a clean energy nonprofit with offices across the Northeast. “Many of the plans are still in development, and they’ll have to solicit public comment, but there’s great interest in maximizing use of the 15 percent,” said Kathy Kinsey, a senior policy adviser at NESCAUM, a nonprofit association of air quality agencies in the Northeast. 

Read the full article from the New Hampshire Business Review here.