Massachusetts has fallen behind its neighbors in exploring and enacting policies that will help the Commonwealth keep pace with clean energy technologies that offer enormous promise to make the electricity grid more responsive to consumers, improve economic competitiveness, and produce substantial reductions in climate pollution. Acadia Center comments on this trend in a three-part opinion series for CommonWealth Magazine. Part One of the series reviews the recent history of grid modernization and utility reform in Massachusetts, its uncertain future, and the need for legislative reforms and oversight. Part Two describes how the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) decision on revenue, return on equity, and utility business model reform fails to benefit consumers and ultimately approves approximately $460 million in additional ratepayer costs. Part Three discusses the DPU decision issued on January 5, 2018, covering rate design.
Just over a year ago, on January 17, 2017, Eversource filed a comprehensive electric rate case in Massachusetts, requesting significant revenue increases, new rate structures, and an array of investments. On November 30, 2017 and January 5, 2018, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities issued its Orders in the case approving nearly all Eversource’s requests. This document describes Acadia Center’s principles for reform and key components of the recent Orders on Eversource’s rate case proposals, followed by next steps and further recommended reforms.
The Community|EnergyVision Action Guide is a tool for communities seeking local clean energy options. It promotes greater alignment between state rules and actions that communities may take to advance clean energy at the local level. The Action Guide provides an overview of the types of clean energy projects that residents, neighborhoods, and municipalities can pursue; a checklist that shows where state rules create barriers to local action across seven Northeast states, as well as where local action is permitted; and detailed state-specific considerations in each area. The Action Guide is customized for seven states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Fixed charges are the flat monthly fees that every customer pays, regardless of the amount of electricity they consume. Starting in the 1990s, New York instituted high fixed charges for residential customers. In the Joint Principles on Residential Fixed Charges in New York, 53 organizations call on New York utility regulators to lower these inefficient and regressive rates. These organizations come from many different perspectives, including low-income and consumer advocates, environmental and clean energy public interest organizations, solar advocates, and clean energy industry groups, and span national organizations as well as community organizations all across New York.
Acadia Center's 2017 RGGI report shows that over its eight and a half years of operation, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has helped Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States achieve significant reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants from the electric power sector. Over the same period RGGI states’ economies have outpaced the rest of the country, and electricity prices within RGGI have fallen, even as prices in other states have increased.
A key component to achieving a decarbonized energy future, offshore wind is now a reality in the Northeast. The Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island is operational, Massachusetts is actively reviewing offshore wind project bids, and New York, Maryland, and New Jersey are all developing their own ambitious programs. In Connecticut, offshore wind offers the state an opportunity to grow its clean energy economy, particularly along the shoreline. With three deep-water ports and a skilled manufacturing sector, Connecticut is well-suited to move forward on offshore wind—all that is needed now is policy action.
Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Public Utilities Regulatory Authority requested addendum comments following the August 17, 2017 public hearing on the scope of their study of the Millstone Power Station. Based on the conversation and testimony presented at the public hearing, Acadia Center advocates that the study must include greater modeling transparency, consider the most recent data available, and increase the modeling timeframe to fully understand the long-term impacts of closure on the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act.
Seventeen organizations signed a letter to encourage the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to develop a generic formula for the residential fixed charge that remains consistent with the outcome of the recent United Illuminating electric rate case---in which the residential fixed charge was cut by 45%---and that also does not deviate from the limited scope of eligible costs defined in Connecticut’s 2015 residential fixed charge statute. The letter outlines how lowering fixed charges will benefit a majority of residential customers, particularly low-income and low-usage customers.
Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Public Utilities Regulatory Authority requested comments on the scope of their study of the Millstone Power Station. Acadia Center advocates that the study should develop a robust and transparent modeling approach that includes a base case representative of current trends and procurements, as well as sensitivities to different penetration levels of various demand-side technologies, clean energy resources, and commitments under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
Reforms proposed in Connecticut's 2017 draft Comprehensive Energy Strategy appear to raise significant new challenges to distributed solar deployment. Distributed solar must play a key role in reducing the state's greenhouse gas emissions, and these proposed changes put its climate mitigation role at real risk. In this report, Acadia Center raises four high priority concerns that the state must resolve through revisions to the strategy.