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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Mass DPU OKs new ‘demand charge’ on residential solar customers in Eversource territory
The non-profit Acadia Center said the DPU “rubberstamped” a ruling for Eversource that is “harmful to consumers” and counterproductive to the growth of energy efficiency, storage, electric vehicles, and rooftop solar. The groups said that Eversource does not provide “smart metering” that lets customers understand and manage their peak usage, leaving consumers with little control over the demand charge.
Read the full article from MassLive here.
Massachusetts approves new demand charge for Eversource’s net metering customers
Demand charges are very controversial among renewables and clean energy advocates, and Massachusetts’ decision has set the stage for intense debate over rate design. “Massachusetts needs to step up its game and embrace smarter electricity rates and more customer control,” Daniel Sosland, president of Acadia Center, said in a statement. He said eliminating optional residential time-of-use rates and approving demand charges shows the state “is moving backwards instead of forward.”
Read the full article from Utility Dive here.
Proposed Eversource rate hike unpopular with some residents, politicians
Mark LeBel, a staff attorney with the Acadia Center — a nonprofit advocacy group intervening in the rate case — said the imposition of a demand charge based on a 15-minute peak would be “unfair, and really hard to manage” without “smart meters” to keep track of peak usage dramatically adding to costs.
Also, LeBel said, moving from existing rate structures that provide customers with incentives to reduce consumption in peak months or during peak hours would “be bad for energy efficiency and low-income customers who tend to use less electricity. For customers who use more, they’ll be paying less per kilowatt-hour, while people using less will see their bills rise because of the higher customer charge.”
Read the full article from the Greenfield Recorder here.
Eversource seeks higher fees on customers with solar
Mark LeBel, a staff attorney at the Acadia Center, an environmental advocacy group, said Eversource’s demand charge isn’t fair to small consumers of electricity because there is no way for a customer to forecast the fee or manage it. He also said a utility’s costs are never driven by the peak demands of an individual, residential customer.
Acadia recommends creating a distribution reliability charge based on the customer’s electricity consumption over a 12-month period, which would give the homeowner an incentive to reduce his or her use of electricity. LeBel – the coauthor of a report on demand charges entitled “Charge Without a Cause?” – said Eversource’s response to growing solar use appears to be an overreaction. “There’s not a big enough problem to go there anytime soon,” he said.
Read the full story from Commonwealth Magazine here.