Governor Baker Burnishes His Green Credentials

Governor Baker has sent some mixed messages to the environmental community in his first term.  After promising during the campaign to increase environmental spending to 1% of the state budget, he’s made essentially no progress whatsoever.  More recently, the administration’s selection of Northern Pass to provide renewable energy under the so-called “83D” procurement was panned by pretty much everyone who is neither a member of the administration nor a resident of the Sovereign Nation of Eversource.

On the other hand, the Baker administration has advanced the ball in a number of environmental initiatives, particularly in the area of climate change.  These include pushing for more stringent GHG emission limits under RGGI and beginning the discussion of much-needed controls over GHG emissions from the transportation sector.

This week, the Governor moved even farther on the climate issue, introducing “An Act Promoting Climate Change Adaptation (and a bunch of other stuff).”  The shorthand description is that it is a codification of the Governor’s climate change executive order from 2016 combined with a really good environmental bond bill focused on investments in climate adaptation.

To me (and I don’t think I’m alone in this), the most interesting part of the bill is the introduction of the concept of “clean peak energy resources,” and the requirement that the Department of Energy Resources promulgate regulations requiring electricity suppliers to provide a minimum percentage of “clean peak energy resources” even during times of peak demand.

As at least local readers know, the January cold snap resulted in 2 million barrels of oil being burned for electrical generation.  These provisions are clearly intended as a response to the January problems.  However, regulations requiring use of clean energy resources during peak demand won’t be easy.  We’re going to need a lot more battery storage — and quickly!

In any event, the development of a clean peak energy standard is going to be a very closely-watched rulemaking.  Stay tuned.  It could be a bumpy regulatory process.

2 thoughts on “Governor Baker Burnishes His Green Credentials

  1. The Clean Peak Standard sure sounds catchy, but as currently written, is poorly defined and risks allowing more natural gas to be used as a “clean” resource. It’s an untested policy that hasn’t been implemented anywhere, as CA ultimately implemented a different policy. The core concept of the standard also has flaws — it excludes energy efficiency and load shifting efforts that aren’t true demand response (like charging EVs in off-peak hours). It’s also a policy in search of a problem — energy efficiency has already flattened the peak significantly, and the demand management resources to be included in the new EE plans may do even more. Plus, it’s duplicative with ISO-NE’s “pay-for-performance” which may address peak capacity needs at the system-wide level.

    Ultimately, time varying rates are a more straightforward way of addressing peak at the retail/distribution level, and would provide better incentives for all resources (including customers!) to help manage peaks. But the DPU is moving backwards on time-varying-rates — eliminating some in the recent Eversource rate case.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful reply. You’re not the first person to raise to me the spectre of natural gas. I’ve been wrong before, but I just can’t imagine that the administration would ever have the temerity to suggest a rule that allows natural gas to be considered a clean peak fuel. Even in the sovereign nation of Eversource, I’d bet the house against that.

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