National Grid can also collect on a performance incentive of $750,000 if 75 percent of the target number of chargers are successfully installed, and $1.2 million for 125 percent of the target. That feature drew criticism from groups including the state attorney general and the Acadia Center, which said the bonuses should be tied to metrics like increased electric vehicle adoption, emissions reductions and reduced costs.
Massachusetts is aiming to get 300,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025, and the number of EV chargers has been ticking steadily upward. As of a year ago, 1,158 Level 2 ports and 128 fast chargers were available, according to the DPU, compared to 963 Level 2 ports and 83 fast chargers in the prior year.
Read the full article from E&E News here (article may be behind paywall).
After months of hearings and negotiations, an energy initiative called grid modernization is moving forward in Rhode Island, along with new gas and electricity rates.
On Aug. 24 the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved a new model for compensating National Grid for operating and maintaining utility poles, transmission lines, and substations. For the next three years a portion of National Grid’s revenue will also go to making the power grid more cost-efficient and accommodating to renewable power, electric vehicles, and energy storage.
States are increasingly focused on efforts to transform the power sector, but regulators need to strike a delicate balance to ensure that customers are not over-burdened by costly grid modernization investments.
The agreement puts Rhode Island “into a leadership role among New England states seeking to reform utility regulations,” according to a statement from Daniel Sosland, president of the Acadia Center.
The final settlement represents a win for low-income customer advocates, most of whom will see a significant rate reduction. The current discount for income-eligible customers will be doubled to 25% of the total bill, with another 5% for customers who qualify through income restrictive federal assistance programs.
“The settlement includes several changes to the utility business model, which should begin to change the incentives for National Grid — away from traditional capital investments and towards outcomes that benefit consumers and the environment,” Mark LeBel, staff attorney for the Boston-based Acadia Center, wrote in comments to the PUC.
Read the full article from the Providence Journal here.
PROVIDENCE – Today, a comprehensive settlement was filed on behalf of all parties in two related dockets at the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission: National Grid’s rate case and the Power Sector Transformation docket. Acadia Center strongly supports the settlement because it begins to reform the utility business model, makes significant investments in a modern and efficient electricity grid and new clean energy programs, and lays out a pathway for even more ambitious and rigorous reforms. It also saves ratepayers over $40 million in base rates across three years from National Grid’s original proposal and results in a 25-30% bill discount for low income customers. This settlement follows in the footsteps of the Power Sector Transformation Initiative created at the direction of Governor Gina Raimondo.
“New clean energy technologies at lower costs offer an historic opportunity to build a modern, more equitable energy system that benefits consumers, reduces pollution and improves economic productivity,” said Daniel Sosland, president of Acadia Center. “With this settlement, Rhode Island jumps into a leadership role among the states on utility regulatory reform necessary to position it for further progress in coming years. Acadia Center is thrilled that Rhode Island is moving to embrace this future and remains committed to ensuring that the state and its residents see significant benefits from these reforms.”
Acadia Center participated in every phase of the Power Sector Transformation process in 2017 and filed testimony in both dockets covered by today’s settlement. Acadia Center has long advocated for states to embrace the types of reforms included in the settlement, through reports and materials such as UtilityVision. This includes reforms to the utility business model that place less emphasis on capital investments and more on results, improvements to the efficiency, intelligence and flexibility of the electric grid, and planning improvements to efficiently use local energy resources and provide customers with better incentives.
“Rhode Island is poised to be the first state in New England to implement serious reforms to the utility business model,” said Amy Boyd, senior attorney at Acadia Center. “This is a key step to incentivizing utilities to act in the public interest, instead of merely advancing their own bottom line.”
The settlement also includes new clean energy programs to facilitate increased adoption of efficient electric heating technologies, new investments in electric vehicle charging stations, and competitive procurements for advanced energy storage. It creates a pathway for critical next steps such as a study of advanced metering functionality and time-varying rates and further utility business model reforms.
“Electrification of heating and transportation are crucial pieces of a long-term greenhouse gas reduction strategy. New programs and investments should help push Rhode Island forward in the coming years.” said Mark LeBel, staff attorney at Acadia Center. “In addition, Acadia Center looks forward to next steps and further reforms in Rhode Island. Providing Rhode Island ratepayers with more efficient electricity rates that reflect the costs of electricity usage and help lower peak demand will be key to a smarter electricity system and integrating electric vehicles and heating.”
“Acadia Center would like to thank the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, National Grid, the Office of Energy Resources and other intervenors for all of the hard work and collaboration that went into this settlement,” said Erika Niedowski, policy advocate in Acadia Center’s Providence office. “Collaboration and an open exchange of ideas is crucial to developing policy solutions that meet the needs of a wide range of stakeholders. Establishing the Power Sector Transformation Advisory Group provides a new forum to continue this dialogue on key issues in the coming years.”
A chorus of opposition from upstate consumers and advocacy groups made a difference as state regulators severely limited National Grid rate increases. The new plan also sets the stage for expanded discounts for low-income households. The state Public Service Commission, in a ruling issued Thursday, allowed the company to phase in higher rates beginning April 1.
Read the full article from the Niagara Gazette here.
The groups that oppose the rate settlement include the Alliance for a Green Economy, PUSH Buffalo, Acadia Center and Syracuse United Neighbors. They jointly released a statement earlier this week opposing the plan, which would gradually increase the typical monthly residential gas and electric bill for upstate National Grid customers by $16 by 2020. The coalition said the rate plan did not go far enough to make gas and electric service affordable for low-income customers or do enough to push renewable sources of energy.
After months of negotiations, a Joint Proposal was filed Friday, January 19, in the National Grid rate case, representing the settlement position of some parties in the case. The new proposed increases are as follows:
Under the agreement, the fixed charge for electricity would remain at $17.00 per month. The fixed customer charge is the portion of the bill that does not change, no matter how much electricity the customer uses. For more information see: www.lowerfixedcharges.org.
The Joint Proposal will now be open for public comment and consideration by the Public Service Commission. In response to the filing, some parties to the case who do not support the settlement released the following statements:
Cullen Howe, Acadia Center’s New York Director, said: “Acadia Center is disappointed that the Joint Proposal filed today does not address National Grid’s high fixed charges of $17 per month for residential customers. In contrast to its high fixed charges in New York, National Grid has a residential fixed charge of only $5 in Rhode Island and $5.50 in Massachusetts. These high fixed charges reduce customers’ ability to lower their electricity bills by using less energy, and they are ultimately incompatible with the energy future envisioned by New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision, which anticipates wide deployment of distributed energy resources and increased energy efficiency. By not addressing these charges, these goals are much more difficult to achieve.”
Jessica Azulay, Program Director of Alliance for a Green Economy, said: “We are disappointed that we were unable to reach an agreement with the parties in this case that would prevent a rate hike and support the State’s environmental goals. While there are some improvements made in the filed agreement as compared to National Grid’s original proposal, it does not go far enough to protect low-income households and the environment. In particular, we oppose any rate increase at a time when there is already an untenable affordability and economic crisis in Upstate New York, and we further call on the Public Service Commission to reduce the fixed charges on our bills. These fixed charges, which customers must pay regardless of how much energy they use — disproportionately hurt low-income customers by impeding their ability to control their bills through conservation, efficiency, and renewable energy participation. Finally, we oppose the provisions in the proposal that support ratepayer investments and incentives for gas expansion. The climate crisis demands that we stop investing our public money into gas infrastructure and that we support renewable-based heating options instead.”
Clarke Gocker, Director of Policy and Strategy at PUSH Buffalo, said, “Low income National Grid customers in Buffalo and Western NY struggle to afford the high cost of utility bills and want nothing more than to take control over their energy consumption, whether it’s through conserving energy, participating in no cost or cost-effective energy efficiency programs, or accessing rooftop and community solar opportunities that afford them real decision making power and actual savings. The Joint Proposal filed today with the Public Service Commission in the National Grid rate case fails to deliver the kind of direct benefits that can permanently reduce household energy burdens and create the conditions for energy democracy in marginalized communities. While settlement negotiations in the case, together with fallout from the recent federal tax cut plan, have appeared to reduce the potential rate impact for customers, any increase in utility rates is extractive and unaffordable for low income customers in our community, and for that reason PUSH Buffalo opposes the terms reached in the Joint Proposal.”
Rich Puchalski, Executive Director of Syracuse United Neighbors, said: “The Joint Proposal fails to once again look at the historic policies that have forced high electric and gas rates on low income families in Syracuse for all too long. Those living in 1, 2 and 3 family poorly insulated wood frame homes are shelling out hundreds of dollars especially in the last couple of months of below freezing temperatures. Shutoffs will escalate. Credit will be ruined, and the poor can’t manage their way out of the bills they get from National Grid. And this is a 3-year plan! HELP.”
It is an exciting time for clean energy issues in New York. New York’s ongoing Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding, its goal of 50% renewable energy by 2030, and its continued participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative provide key elements for the future of the state’s energy system. Acadia Center’s recently completed report, EnergyVision 2030, shows that New York can reduce emissions 45% and be on a path to a clean energy system by the year 2030 if the state acts now to further strengthen its commitment to clean energy technologies. To facilitate the action necessary to achieve this vision for all New Yorkers, Acadia Center has taken the next step, strengthening its staffing capacity in New York and hiring a full-time staff director of its New York program.
Acadia Center has been active on selected issues in the state for several years, participating with colleague organizations in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and other energy and climate issues. New York’s REV process—one of the most comprehensive reassessments of energy policy occurring in the country—has offered opportunities for Acadia Center’s experience in energy policy, energy efficiency and climate mitigation to be applied in New York forums. Fully active in the many REV proceedings, Acadia Center has focused on energy efficiency, power grid modernization, and climate policy. In 2015, by invitation of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Acadia Center hosted a multiday meeting at the Pocantico Conference Center focusing on utility reform and grid modernization issues. Beginning in 2015, the organization helped to protect the integrity of New York’s new Clean Energy Standard by successfully arguing against counting large hydropower as a renewable resource eligible for ratepayer support. In addition, it participated in the settlement phases of Con Edison’s most recent rate case and successfully advocated for the utility to increase its investments in energy efficiency.
This past July, this work ramped up when Acadia Center hired me as Senior Attorney as its inaugural New York Director, joining Acadia Center’s New York project team of lawyers and energy policy experts. I’ve joined the team at an exciting moment for the organization and the state. I came to Acadia Center from the New York City Council, where I had been a legislative counsel and was responsible for drafting and negotiating a wide variety of legislation focused on energy efficiency, clean energy, and sustainability. Before that I was an environmental law specialist at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer’s New York City office, where I focused on federal and state environmental issues involving climate change, energy efficiency, and green buildings. My work at Acadia Center largely focuses on policies that I’ve been working on throughout my career—policies that move us toward a future fueled by clean energy and energy efficiency.
One of my first tasks has been representing Acadia Center in a rate case brought by National Grid. The utility is seeking to increase customer rates by $331 million beginning next year. Acadia Center has focused on National Grid’s high fixed customer charges, which are charges all customers pay regardless of the amount of electricity they use. In most states, fixed charges range between $5 and $10 a month for residential customers, but in some states, including New York, these charges are much higher.
Since I started in the role of director, Acadia Center has released a paper explaining the problems with high utility fixed charges, which detrimentally impact consumer incentives to invest in energy efficiency and solar power, and the organization has filed testimony in the rate case stating that a reasonable range for customer charges would be between $5.57 and $8.30. We have also focused outreach efforts on educating consumers about the issue of high fixed charges and about opportunities to make their voices heard. This work will continue as Acadia Center expands its reach in New York, advocating for sustainable solutions across the energy system.
Several intervenors contended that the proposal ran contrary to Massachusetts’ efforts to have its rate design more accurately reflect market conditions.
“Reforms to electricity rate design must strike a careful balance between economic efficiency, equity for all customers, protection of low-income ratepayers and access to community distributed generation,” Mark LeBel, staff attorney at Acadia Center, said in a statement.