The bill was a major issue in the energy landscape that met Gov. Lamont when he took office with an agenda that was at odds parts of the 2018 law.
“This was a big one coming into this year,” Arconti said just prior to the committee vote, two days before its deadline to act. “I think we have a really good framework going forward to a final product, and not having to address it for a while after the session.”
“It’s way better than it was, and it’s going to save Connecticut jobs, but it won’t expand the solar industry,” said Amy McLean Salls, senior policy advocate for the Acadia Center.
Anyone who thought legislation passed last year would extinguish controversy over the transition away from that widely used method of compensating solar energy customers for their excess power would have been wrong.
The direction from the Lamont administration has been clear, said Acadia Center Connecticut Director Amy McLean Salls.
“I don’t understand why, in my opinion, we’re regressing back to a place where we are not paying attention to Lamont administration goals,” she said. “We need to be moving forward here and fixing the problem.”
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.”
“I’m willing to say it’s OK if you get out in front of it a little bit. It’s not the end of the world,” said Mark LeBel, a staff attorney with the regional environmental advocacy group Acadia Center. But self-consumption of electricity — owning, storing and using your own generation — needs to be protected. “That’s the future,” LeBel said.
Last week, the Northeast Clean Energy Council and the Acadia Center — organizations that co-chair the Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions — sent a letter to Golden, Sanchez and other members of House leadership, calling it “essential” that the House approve four bills: H 4575 to increase renewable energy and reduce high-cost peak hours; H 4576 to increase grid resiliency through energy storage; H 4577 relative to net metering; and H 1724 relative to energy efficiency.
“These four bills would greatly advance Massachusetts’ clean energy leadership and deliver economic, energy, environmental, and health benefits to residents, businesses and industries across the Commonwealth,” the coalition’s letter said. “Prompt action by the House is needed to ensure final passage of legislation on these topics this session.”
Read the full article from the Taunton Gazette here.
This legislation effectively gets rid of net-metering, making Connecticut one of the first states to do that. For commercial projects, that would come in about a year and a half. For residential customers it will be in a few years. Existing customers would be grandfathered for about 20 years.
In place of net-metering consumers would have a choice. One would be rates – known as tariffs – and formulas for applying them that would be determined by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. Some argue those unknown factors might be disruptive, if not downright stagnating for the solar industry in the state.
Along with many allies, Acadia Center has worked for months to fix this critically flawed bill, which will imperil the future of distributed solar in Connecticut,” Amy McLean Salls, Acadia Connecticut director, said in a statement. “Several improvements were made, but it is unfortunate that important progress on grid-scale renewables was paired in S.B. 9 with a severe setback on distributed solar.”
A coalition that includes the environmental groups Acadia Center, Vote Solar, Environment Connecticut, Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment and Connecticut Citizen Action Group, as well as the solar companies Vivint and Sunrun, announced their opposition to the bill in a statement: “We favor smart, simple, and gradual net metering reform for rooftop solar, and not the complex and drastic reforms that exist in the present bill language,” it said in part.
“It’s definitely got a long way to go,” Reed said of the legislation. She said one of her prime goals for revising the bill is to make sure it “continues the current net metering we now have” for rooftop solar power.
That issue is one of the most controversial parts of the existing bill. The legislation would revise the way residential customers with solar power in their homes are now compensated for the power they produce. Critics claim the change would result in higher costs for homeowners and stall Connecticut’s solar power installation industry.
“Ending net metering would end a customer’s right to consume their own solar power, and would hamper the development of a clean, modern, efficient electric grid,” Emily Lewis, a policy analyst for the activist group Acadia Center, said.
Read the full article from the Hartford Courant here.
The CES and original legislation did away with net metering, replacing it with a “buy-all/credit-all” concept. Essentially a solar owner would have to sell all his or her power to the grid at a rate to be set by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) and buy back what he or she needed at the retail rate.
Such a system would mean higher fees for solar owners and would probably make it impossible to install battery storage or home-based smart energy systems that would help reduce energy demands and integrate with more modern grid concepts.
“Forcing people to go that direction is going be counter-productive in the long run and would undermine grid modernization,” said Mark LeBel, staff attorney for the advocacy group Acadia Center.
NEW YORK — The Public Service Commission (PSC) issued an important Implementation Order on September 14, 2017, in the Value of Distributed Energy Resources (VDER) proceeding (Case 15-E-0751). Unfortunately, this order will impede the advancement of solar energy in New York and impose unnecessary barriers on the ability of consumers, businesses and communities to benefit from this clean energy resource. The structure laid out by the PSC in March of 2017 promised to reform and update New York’s approach to valuing solar energy and expanding consumer solar markets. The Order undermines the new VDER net metering structure because it undervalues distributed resources on the basis of unvetted utility studies that minimize solar’s economic value. In doing so, the Commission’s Order conflicts with the distributed energy future envisioned by New York’s historic and ambitious Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) future.
“The promise of a modern energy system that allows clean energy to flourish depends upon a fair determination of the economic value of solar and other clean energy resources,” said Daniel Sosland, president of Acadia Center, which has provided detailed comments on solar values in the PSC case. “Defining solar power’s economic future solely on information provided by electric utilities, who want to tilt the playing field towards investments that benefit the utility and its shareholders, is not a formula for short-term or long-term success.”
Mark LeBel, Associate Director of Acadia Center’s Grid Modernization Initiative, said, “The Commission has made a major mistake by approving unvetted marginal cost of service studies from Central Hudson, NYSEG and RGE. These studies all improperly limited the potential values provided by distributed energy resources. In addition, Central Hudson used a new and untested methodology that has never been put forward before in an adjudicated proceeding, and the Commission failed to address several detailed critiques brought forward by Acadia Center and other parties.”
Cullen Howe, Acadia Center’s New York Director, noted, “Acadia Center supports the overall vision that has been laid out by the Commission and the Cuomo Administration over the last several years. However, implementation of this vision cannot ignore the details and the practical realities of how to animate markets for energy efficiency and clean energy.”