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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.”


Media Contacts:

Deborah Donovan, Massachusetts Director & Senior Policy Analyst
ddonovan@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x103

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

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.

Massachusetts and Rhode Island Select Offshore Wind Projects Totaling 1200 MW

BOSTON – Today, Massachusetts utilities, in coordination with the MA Department of Energy Resources, selected Vineyard Wind’s offshore wind proposal and will begin contract negotiations. Simultaneously, Rhode Island selected one of the other two bidders in the competitive selection process, Deepwater Wind, to build a new wind farm for the state. The decision moves large-scale offshore wind one step closer to construction in the Northeast, and it expands Rhode Island’s offshore wind capacity by more than ten times. Vineyard Wind’s winning project in Massachusetts will provide 800 MW of electricity to the state—enough to power about 440,000 homes—with the first phase coming online as early as 2021. The Deepwater Wind project will provide 400 MW of electricity, powering about 225,000 homes.

“Acadia Center congratulates Massachusetts and Rhode Island for taking these crucial steps that cement them as leaders on offshore wind,” said Deborah Donovan, Acadia Center’s Massachusetts Director. “Massachusetts is now leading the region and the country in offshore wind development and is making strides to fulfill its promise to clean energy. The Commonwealth is locking in its position as the offshore wind hub for the Northeast, and both states will reap early economic benefits from their commitment to this clean energy technology.”

In addition to providing clean energy, the Vineyard Wind proposal contains several provisions to boost the Massachusetts economy, including use of the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal and $15 million of investment in a Massachusetts Offshore Wind Accelerator Program. Vineyard Wind expects the project to generate about 3,600 jobs. The proposal also includes innovative community partnerships, support for low-income ratepayers and a demonstration of battery energy storage benefits. Acadia Center urges the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to advance the process to secure these benefits by submitting negotiated contracts to the Department of Public Utilities for approval on schedule, by July 31, 2018.

Rhode Island’s selection of Deepwater Wind’s Revolution Wind project will also create hundreds of local and indirect jobs. Erika Niedowski, Acadia Center Policy Advocate in Rhode Island, said of the project, “With the Block Island wind farm, Rhode Island became the first state in the nation to produce electricity through offshore wind. Today’s announcement shows the state’s commitment to making clean energy generation available to all residents while spurring the economy and reducing climate pollution.”

“Massachusetts and Rhode Island are setting the example for how the Northeast states can commit to and follow through on large-scale offshore wind developments,” said Emily Lewis, policy analyst at Acadia Center. “Today’s announcement should inspire all the Northeast states to set their own offshore wind commitments, and states with existing processes should keep things moving forward. We hope to hear from Connecticut on their RFP in June as planned, for example.”

Following Massachusetts’ announcement that it would bring 1600 MW of offshore wind to the state by 2027, New York committed to 2400 MW by 2030 and New Jersey to 3500 MW by 2030. Currently, as part of its commitment, New York is soliciting input to inform an upcoming request for proposals. Connecticut is currently evaluating three offshore wind proposals for up to 200 MW. Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 suggests that New England and New York should develop 6400 MW of offshore wind by 2030 to stay on track to meet their emissions reduction targets.


Media Contacts:

Deborah Donovan, Massachusetts Director
ddonovan@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x103

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

N.Y. grid operator floats carbon price

The document is meant to get power-sector stakeholders down to brass tacks on how, in practical terms, New York can put a price on carbon if the U.S. government won’t.

Parties are digesting the proposal as they prepare for a May 14 meeting. The minute details will be heavily debated, but so far, many just seem glad the process is underway.

“NYISO’s draft proposal for a carbon adder would send an important and overdue price signal to the market necessary for New York to achieve its ambitious carbon reduction policies in place to meet long-term greenhouse gas reduction targets,” said Deborah Donovan, Massachusetts director for the Acadia Center, an advocacy organization focused on clean-energy issues in the Northeast.

Read the full article from E&E Energywire here (article may be behind paywall).