PURA approved a fixed customer charge of $9.50, down from $19.25, which adheres to a law passed by state lawmakers in 2015.
High fixed charges burden seniors and low-income customers and reduce customers’ incentives to conserve electricity, Acadia said.
“Consumers everywhere prefer choice and control, and this lower monthly fixed charge will give customers substantially more control over their electric bills,” Bill Dornbos, Acadia Center’s advocacy director, said in a statement. “The new rate design will also help promote energy efficiency and renewable energy, more closely aligning Connecticut’s electricity rates with its energy policy goals.”
Read the full article from Hartford Business here.
PURA’s decision also lowers the fixed fee Eversource customers are charged, regardless of how much electricity they use, from $19.25 to under $9.50 a month.
Katz said that reduction will primarily benefit lower-income Eversource customers and consumers that significantly reduce their electricity use. She said most residential consumers will see their overall Eversource bills rise by that $5.40 per month.
“By enacting this significant reduction, Connecticut brings the state’s residential customer charges down to levels that are comparable with national best practices and recognizes that high fixed charges run counter to consumer interests and a clean energy future,” said Mark LeBel, staff attorney for the activist group Acadia Center.
The 50 percent cut in fixed charges was mandated under legislation passed by the 2015 General Assembly to limit residential customer charges.
Read the full article from the Hartford Courant here.
57 Consumer, Clean Energy, and Community Organizations Call on State Leaders to Address Counterproductive Decisions
BOSTON — Today, Acadia Center, Health Care Without Harm, MASSPIRG, Vote Solar, and 53 other organizations released a joint statement pointing to serious concerns over decisions by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) in Eversource’s recent electricity rate case. These decisions are inconsistent with the consumer-friendly clean energy future that Massachusetts is striving for. The 57 organizations bringing forward these concerns come from many different perspectives, including low-income and ratepayer advocates, environmental, health and clean energy public interest organizations, solar advocates, and clean energy businesses.
“Massachusetts is embracing many innovations on clean energy, including energy efficiency and offshore wind, that will boost the Commonwealth’s economy, benefit consumers, improve public health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” noted Daniel Sosland, President of Acadia Center. “Unfortunately, in four important ways, the DPU’s decisions in Eversource’s rate case represent a significant step away from embracing a clean energy future. Instead, these DPU decisions provide incentives for the company to invest in outdated and expensive energy infrastructure, reduce customer control, and impose significant unnecessary costs on consumers.”
Two of these decisions, unnecessarily high profit margins (known as the return on equity) and automatic annual revenue increases going forward, could collectively cost ratepayers an extra $460 million over five years. The other two decisions, unprecedented new demand charges on new residential solar customers and the elimination of optional residential on-peak/off-peak rates, would move away from electricity rates that are efficient and consumer-friendly.
“Hospitals typically have very small margins, so every unnecessary penny per kWh for Eversource means a lot less money for healing patients,” said Paul Lipke, Senior Advisor for Energy and Buildings at Health Care Without Harm. “Unless addressed, Eversource’s rate changes also increase pollution and shift costs from energy to health care. This conflicts directly with efforts to constrain the Commonwealth’s health costs, and at a time when households already spend six times on health care what they spend on energy. We can and must do better.”
“The Commission has decided to effectively raise costs, remove value and reduce customers’ understanding of and control over bills by approving Eversource’s new solar demand charge,” said Nathan Phelps, Regulatory Director for Vote Solar. “This decision is out of step with Massachusetts laws to encourage the state’s transition to a clean and reliable electricity system, and out of step with the DPU’s own prior leadership ensuring that solar customers are treated fairly for the local power they generate. We urge the Legislature and the Governor to reject this decision and reinstate Eversource customers’ right to lower their own utility bills with rooftop solar, protect the thousands of solar jobs serving our state, and deliver on the Commonwealth’s commitment to building a clean energy economy.”
“For many of us, our electricity bills are a significant monthly expense, and we rely on regulators to make sure utility companies like Eversource don’t overcharge ratepayers or adopt pricing practices that are deceptive or unfair,” said Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG’s Consumer Program Director. “In this case, the DPU has approved Eversource’s new pricing schemes that will result in hundreds of millions in excessive charges; while at the same time, Eversource has made it harder for consumers to monitor their electricity use and reduce their bills.”
“Residential on-peak/off-peak rates should be used as a key tool to manage peak demand. Historically, these have been underutilized because the utilities do not publicize them and make them difficult to sign up for,” said Mark LeBel, Staff Attorney for Acadia Center. “Instead of optimizing these rates and making them easier to access, the DPU let Eversource eliminate them.”
The decision on the return on equity is currently being appealed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court by Attorney General Maura Healey, and the decision on demand charges for new residential solar customers is being appealed by Vote Solar and other parties. The decision on demand charges is the subject of a bill recommended favorably by the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy at the Massachusetts legislature, and a requirement for optional on-peak/off-peak rates is included in several different bills. The DPU recently denied the Attorney General’s motion for reconsideration on the automatic annual revenue increases.
Company officials say the other benefits of the project include reducing winter power costs by $80 million annually and generating $16.1 million in state, local and federal taxes.
Emily Lewis, a policy analyst with the Acadia Center, said wind power needs to be an important part of Connecticut’s energy future. The Acadia Center is a regional environmental group with offices in Hartford.
“We’re expecting there will be other offshore wind bids being made, including one from Deepwater Wind,” Lewis said, referring to the company that launched the nation’s first commercial offshore wind farm off Block Island at the start of 2017. “Massachusetts and New York already have mandates for wind power (as part of their overall energy mix) and if Connecticut doesn’t get involved, all of the other wind power capacity being developed will go to other states.”
Read the full article from the New Haven Register here.
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.”
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.
A group of local officials and environmental groups have also raised concerns about Eversource’s proposal, which they say would reduce the compensation paid to cities and towns for solar projects by about 40 percent.
“The Eversource proposal that impacts these municipal solar projects is part of broader rate proposals to reduce customer control over bills and lower incentives for local clean energy,” Acadia Center staff attorney Mark LeBel said in a statement. “Eversource’s proposals would set back efforts to promote energy efficiency, electric vehicles, storage, and efficient electric heating too. The DPU should be looking for economically sensible ways to advance innovative clean energy efforts and should not roll back the progress the Commonwealth has made to date.”
Read the full article from State House News Service, published in the Berkshire Eaglehere.
Peter Shattuck, Massachusetts director for the Acadia Center and the Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions, which is supporting the bill, told Microgrid Knowledge that declining cost of solar and efficiency, and the state’s growing interesting battery storage, are fueling an interest in modernization.
“We’re glad to see utilities entering the energy storage market. Eversource, in their rate case, has a significant $100 million of storage proposed across four projects. But there is a clearly a big market for behind-the-meter storage as well,” Shattuck said.
The Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions (ACES), a coalition of environmental and industry groups, discussed the bill and its other legislative priorities in an interview Monday, as it prepares for energy hearings at the state capitol this week.
“The appetite for local energy and microgrids continues to grow in Massachusetts because of declining costs for solar, progress on energy efficiency, and the attention the Baker administration has given to energy storage,” said Peter Shattuck, Massachusetts director for the Acadia Center and ACES co-chair.
The non-wires alternatives proposal is within a new grid modernization bill, H. 1725/S. 1875, that would “reset” a proceeding now before the state Department of Public Utilities, Shattuck said. The legislation puts greater emphasis on modernizing the grid via local energy than does the existing grid modernization docket.
At the same time, the bill would limit how much energy storage a utility or retail supplier could own. Shattuck said that the legislation places emphasis on securing more behind-the-meter – as opposed to utility-scale – energy storage than did last year’s energy storage bill.
“We’re glad to see utilities entering the energy storage market. Eversource, in their rate case, has a significant $100 million of storage proposed across four projects. But there is a clearly a big market for behind the meter storage as well,” Shattuck said.
Among the several green energy proposals, ACES’s top priority for this year is a bill that increases the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to 40-50 percent by 2030, with annual increases running two to three percent after that. The state’s current RPS requires that 12 percent of electricity come from renewables this year, rising to 15 percent by 2020. RPS requirements benefit microgrids because they create a revenue stream – renewable energy credits – for green energy development. New microgrids often include renewables, solar in particular.
“Given the federal government’s retrograde energy policies, it’s critical that states show a willingness to embrace clean energy solutions,” said Shattuck. “We’re proud of the direction our ACES members have taken in ensuring that Massachusetts remain a leader in the nation’s clean energy future.”
Read the full article from Microgrid Knowledge here.
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 Recorderhere.