MA Legislature Takes Measured Step Forward on Clean Energy
Further Action Will Be Required to Address New and Unresolved Issues
BOSTON – Yesterday evening, a conference committee of the Massachusetts House and Senate released a compromise clean energy bill, H.4857, which is expected to pass both chambers of the legislature today. The bill enacts several key policies for supporting clean energy in the Commonwealth and represents a significant accomplishment by the legislature, but it falls short in other areas that are equally necessary for swift progress toward clean energy goals.
“The compromise bill takes measured steps forward that will enhance Massachusetts’ ability to meet its climate commitments, but future progress will be necessary to ensure that programs are administered equitably and clean energy resources are prioritized,” said Deborah Donovan, Massachusetts Director for Acadia Center. “This bill continues to advance renewables, offshore wind, and energy storage, and these technologies are poised to revolutionize the Commonwealth’s and the region’s electricity system and eliminate the need for expensive bailouts for aging fossil plants or new fossil fuel infrastructure. However, details of the legislation also raise concerns.”
The bill includes an increase in renewable energy requirements from 25% to 35% by 2030, provides for a ramp up in energy storage, expands the scope of energy efficiency programs to promote strategic electrification and renewable energy technologies, removes unfair charges on new solar customers, allows solicitations of local clean energy resources to replace infrastructure investments, and could double the Commonwealth’s offshore wind procurements to 3,200 megawatts by 2035. However, the bill does not include significant measures previously passed by the Massachusetts Senate to advance solar equity or implement carbon pricing. In addition, the new clean peak standard could potentially incentivize burning trash to generate electricity, which damages public health.
Similarly, other provisions mark steps both forward and sideways. “Today’s bill helps address one major issue for the future of local solar generation in Massachusetts by eliminating the unfair and inefficient solar charges introduced by Eversource earlier this year, but it leaves several important questions unanswered for solar,” said Mark LeBel, staff attorney at Acadia Center. “It risks leaving out low-income residents and other groups requiring additional focus by failing to increase the net metering caps and implement a new requirement to distribute the benefits of solar incentive programs equitably. Acadia Center will closely monitor the types of projects built under the new solar incentive program and work to ensure that the program benefits all communities in the Commonwealth.”
“Acadia Center has long called for expanded use of clean technologies such as electric heat pumps in Massachusetts’ energy efficiency programs to give residents greater ability to move away from expensive oil, and with the Legislature’s action on this bill, it advances strategic electrification and renewable resources,” said Amy Boyd, senior attorney at Acadia Center and member of the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council. “Acadia Center is also very pleased to see the full legislature pass the House’s provision requiring the electric companies to identify reliability issues and solicit local, clean energy resources to fill those needs, rather than spending more and more on infrastructure.”
“Massachusetts’ continued progress in the electric sector provides a blueprint for success in the transportation sector, where we are falling behind,” said Jordan Stutt, carbon programs director at Acadia Center. “Our outdated transportation system now accounts for twice as much CO2 as any other sector, and we are in desperate need of new investments to modernize and decarbonize how we get around. A price signal to reduce transportation sector carbon emissions, as called for in a bill that the Senate passed, would set us on the right track to a cleaner, modern and more accessible network of transportation options.”
Deborah Donovan, Massachusetts Director & Senior Policy Analyst
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Mark LeBel, Staff Attorney
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In Northeast, net metering in flux as states look to reform solar policy
“I’m willing to say it’s OK if you get out in front of it a little bit. It’s not the end of the world,” said Mark LeBel, a staff attorney with the regional environmental advocacy group Acadia Center. But self-consumption of electricity — owning, storing and using your own generation — needs to be protected. “That’s the future,” LeBel said.
Read the full article from Energy News here.
CT’s natural gas expansion plan well behind schedule
While utilities are still gung-ho on natural gas conversions, Emily Lewis, policy analyst at the nonprofit Acadia Center, says Connecticut should shift its incentives away from the heating fuel and toward heat pumps, which in colder months capture outdoor heat energy and transfer it inside a home or building.
Technological improvements in heat pumps have made them more efficient than natural gas heat in many instances, she said, as well as more effective in cold winters.
And according to Acadia’s projections, Connecticut simply cannot meet its emissions-reduction targets over the next three decades without a big increase in the number of households using heat pumps (it’s about 2 percent or less currently, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection).
Read the full article from Hartford Business here.
Op-Ed: Raise the Renewable Portfolio Standard
“As the legislative session draws to an end, state lawmakers are considering bills that would increase the annual growth rate of the Massachusetts Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). As these proposals move ahead, it is important that decision-makers not be deterred by unsubstantiated claims made by opponents that an RPS increase is incompatible with procurements of hydroelectricity required by statute (Section 83D) or will undermine compliance with the state’s Clean Energy Standard (CES). This argument against an increase is a red herring based on a mischaracterization of the relationship between clean energy policies designed to fulfill different, but complementary objectives.”
Read the full article from CommonWealth Magazine here.
Pacheco: ‘No excuse’ for House not to act on energy bill
Last week, the Northeast Clean Energy Council and the Acadia Center — organizations that co-chair the Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions — sent a letter to Golden, Sanchez and other members of House leadership, calling it “essential” that the House approve four bills: H 4575 to increase renewable energy and reduce high-cost peak hours; H 4576 to increase grid resiliency through energy storage; H 4577 relative to net metering; and H 1724 relative to energy efficiency.
“These four bills would greatly advance Massachusetts’ clean energy leadership and deliver economic, energy, environmental, and health benefits to residents, businesses and industries across the Commonwealth,” the coalition’s letter said. “Prompt action by the House is needed to ensure final passage of legislation on these topics this session.”
Read the full article from the Taunton Gazette here.
‘RGGI for transportation’ could be in the works in Massachusetts
Jordan Stutt, director of the carbon program at the Acadia Center, a Boston nonprofit that promotes clean energy solutions, is glad to see the discussion focusing on ways to invest carbon pricing revenue to needed projects. Even a charge of $10 per ton on transportation-related carbon emissions would generate close to $300 million, much of which could be used for much-needed improvements in the state’s transit system, he said.
“It’s not enough to completely replace the need for other funding, but it’s enough to make some real progress,” he said.
Read the full article from Energy News here.