Category Archives: Clean Energy

SMART Moves to a New Forum: Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to Consider a SMART Tariff

Stakeholders have been following the development of “SMART” as a successor to the SREC program in Massachusetts for more than a year.  (See our previous posts on the development process herehere, and here.)  As it stands, SMART reflects a determined effort by the Department of Energy Resources (“DOER”) to craft a program that balances multiple interests and sets a sustainable path for solar development in Massachusetts. … More

We’re Number 1! (And California Isn’t)

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy just released its 2017 Energy Efficiency ScorecardAfter sharing the top spot with California in the 2016 Scorecard, Massachusetts is back where it belongs – alone at the top.

The ACEEE notes that Massachusetts offers “some of the most comprehensive services in the country, addressing a range of customers and building types.”  It also noted Massachusetts’ efforts to make energy more available to those with lower incomes,… More

If China Can Cap-and-Trade Auto Fuel, Why Can’t We?

Bloomberg reported earlier this week that:

China will soon unveil a mandatory cap-and-trade credit program for electric cars, starting the countdown for carmakers to be in compliance with stricter rules on emissions and fuel economy.

It’s pretty well known that China is not the world’s most transparent government.  Thus, I won’t fully believe until I see it.  On the other hand, it does seem pretty clear that China is intent on cracking down on motor vehicle pollution. … More

State Programs to Encourage Zero-Emitting Generation are Really, Really, Constitutional

Hard on the heels of decision upholding the Illinois “zero-emission credit” program to prop up nuclear plants in that state, Judge Valerie Caproni of the South District of New York has now upheld a similar ZEC program in New York. There’s definitely a trend here.  So long as state programs do not directly interfere with wholesale markets, it looks as though they will be affirmed.

(Renewed caveat:  This firm represents,… More

State Programs to Encourage Zero-Emitting Generation Are Constitutional

Late last month, the 2nd Circuit Court of appeals rejected a challenge to Connecticut laws intended to encourage use of renewable energy.  Earlier this month, Judge Manish Shah, of the Northern District of Illinois, issued a companion decision, rejecting challenges to the Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act, which grants “Zero Emission Credits” to certain facilities, “likely to be two nuclear power plants owned by Exelon in Illinois.”

(Caveat:  This firm represents,… More

State Programs to Encourage Renewable Energy Are Constitutional (In Case You Were Worried)

Last week, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a District Court decision rejecting a challenge to Connecticut statutes intended to encourage renewable energy development in Connecticut.  It’s a critical win, not just for Connecticut, but for many renewable energy programs in other states across the country as well.

(Important caveat.  These cases are bloody complicated and no blog could possibly summarize them without omitting important details. … More

The Latest Executive Order: Any Kind of Consistency Is the Hobgoblin of Little Minds

Make no mistake, the Executive Order signed by President Trump at EPA yesterday is a big deal.  Time will tell whether the Administration’s U-turn on the Obama rules currently in litigation, such as the Clean Power Plan and the rule on fracking on federal lands will make any difference to judicial review of those rules.  There are plenty of states and NGOs ready to step into EPA’s and BLM’s shoes to defend those rules.… More

Climate Change Will Increase Peak Energy Demand By More Than We Thought: More Storage, Perhaps?

In an interesting study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors predict that climate change will have a more significant impact on peak energy demand than had previously been understood.  They conclude that, in a business as usual case, peak demand will increase 18%, leading to a need to spend $180B (in current dollars) to meet that increased peak demand.

The authors acknowledge that their estimates are based on current infrastructure and that the development of energy storage could play a role in mitigating the need for new generation sources to meet peak demand.… More

Does MassDEP Have Authority to Regulate Electric Generating Emissions Under Section 3(d) of the GWSA? I’m Not So Sure.

As I have previously noted, I sympathize with the difficulties faced by MassDEP in trying to implement the SJC decision in Kain.  However, that does not mean that MassDEP can simply take the easy way out.  After rereading Kain, I have come to the conclusion that DEP’s proposal to limit GHG emissions from electric generating facilities in Massachusetts would in fact violate Kain,… More

DEP Is Trying to Implement Kain. How Are They Doing?

When the Supreme Judicial Court ruled in Kain that § 3(d) of the Global Warming Solutions act requires MassDEP to promulgate emission limits for multiple source categories, requiring declining annual emissions enforceable in Massachusetts, I sympathized with the difficult task MassDEP was given.  To DEP’s credit, they are working hard, determined to get draft regulations out by mid-December.

I still sympathize, but evidence to date only demonstrates further that Kain was a mistake and it’s forcing a waste of resources at MassDEP and a misallocation of attention if we really want to attain further significant GHG reductions in Massachusetts. … More

DOER’s Solar Incentive Straw Proposal: Optimism, Anxiety, Uncertainty.

beautiful sunrise and cloudy sky

On September 23, DOER presented a straw proposal for the next phase of Massachusetts solar incentives. DOER’s ambitious proposal for a tariff-based program reflects a thoughtful development process and a laudable goal of crafting a program that is more efficient at promoting sustained solar deployment. There is plenty to like. But, DOER has bitten off quite a mouthful by proposing a structure that departs so dramatically from the SREC approach.  … More

RGGI Is a Success Story. When Will It Be Obsolete?

When RGGI rggilogo2was first implemented, I heard Ian Bowles, then Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs in Massachusetts, say more than once that the purpose of RGGI wasn’t really to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or jump start the clean energy economy.  Instead, the goal was much more modest; it was simply to demonstrate that a trading regime could work.  The RGGI states were to serve as a model,… More

Governor Baker’s Executive Order on Change: Good News; Still Work To Be Done By MassDEP

Last Friday, Governor Baker issued Executive Order 569, “Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth.”  tide-surgeEO 569 will advance climate policy in Massachusetts in a number of important ways.  It also leaves much to be accomplished by MassDEP.  Here are the highlights:

  • EOEEA and MassDOT are instructed to work with other New England and Northeastern states to develop regional policies to reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector.…
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DOE and DOI Release the New National Offshore Wind Strategy: Perhaps Prosperity Is Finally Just Around the Corner

Last Friday, DOE and DOI issued an update of their National Offshore Wind Strategyoffshore-windIt’s a moderately aggressive strategy, seeking to deploy at least 86 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2050.  The report highlights both the significant opportunities and potential for growth and also some of the remaining potential roadblocks.

On the plus side:

  • The combination of fossil retirements and demand growth provide significant incentive for offshore wind development.…
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A Lumber Mill Biomass CoGen Need Not Consider Other Fuels In Its BACT Analysis. Other Sources Should Be So Lucky.

Ever since EPA began considering how BACT analysis would be applied to greenhouse gas emissions, there has been concern that EPA would use its BACT authority to “redefine the source” – with the particular concern that BACT for a coal plant would now be to burn natural gas instead.  In Helping Hands Tools v. EPA, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals this week gave some protection to biomass plants biomassfrom such redefinition of the source. … More

Massachusetts Legislature Enacts Significant Energy Bill in Support of Offshore Wind and Hydro Procurement, Storage and Transmission

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Late last night, the Massachusetts legislature enacted House Bill 4568, an act to promote energy diversity (the “Act”). Overall, the Act marks a compromise between the House’s original procurement-only legislation and the Senate’s more comprehensive “omnibus” bill. It is expected Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker will sign the legislation shortly. After that, regulations will be required to be implemented and other regulatory actions will need to be taken by Massachusetts’ Department of Public Utilities,… More

Massachusetts Energy Bill Emerges from Senate Committee on Ways and Means

windmill-640x426-1Last Friday, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means released its version of the energy bill that passed the House earlier this month. Whereas the House bill would require distribution companies to procure 1,200 MW of offshore wind power by 2027 and 9,450,000 MWH of hydroelectric power by 2022, the Senate’s version would require 2,000 MW of offshore wind by 2030 and 12,450,000 MWH of “clean energy generation” by 2018.… More

Minnesota May Not Prohibit Power Sales That Would Increase Statewide CO2 Emissions. Why Not? Pick Your Reason.

If you needed any further proof that energy elec_mag_fieldlaw is very complicated, Wednesday’s decision in North Dakota v. Heydinger should convince you.  The judgment is simple – the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a Minnesota statute which provides in part that:

no person shall . . . (2) import or commit to import from outside the state power from a new large energy facility that would contribute to statewide power sector carbon dioxide emissions;… More

Draft Released of Highly Anticipated Massachusetts Energy Bill

This week a draft of the long-awaited Massachusetts energy bill was reported out of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. The bill would require the Commonwealth’s distribution companies to competitively solicit long-term, fifteen- to twenty-year contracts for large-scale offshore wind and hydroelectric power. Notably absent from the bill are provisions addressing resources such as solar, onshore wind, nuclear, energy storage, and energy efficiency.

The bill seeks to jumpstart the development of offshore wind in federal lease areas by directing distribution companies to enter into contracts for 1,200 MW of offshore wind power before July 1,… More

Coming Soon To A Roof Near You: Solar Panels (At Least If You Live in SF)

This week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors enacted an ordinance that will require that the developers of all new buildings of 10 floors or less that apply for building permits after January 1, 2017 install solar PV or solar thermal systems.  solar_homes_310x224I’m not an expert in the California Code of Regulations, so I’m not familiar with all of the potential exemptions, but the only one stated in the new ordinance is for buildings (residential or non-residential) with a “solar zone” of less than 150 contiguous square feet.… More

The Writing on the Wall Moves to the Federal Register: No 30-Year Take Permits

As we discussed last summer, the Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California ruled that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 30-year programmatic permit for incidental takes of bald and golden eagles SOARING EAGLE-1000 pixels widefrom wind farms violates NEPA.  This week, FWS bowed to reality and revised the permit to change the term to five years.

No word on any efforts by FWS to provide the necessary analysis under NEPA that might justify a 30-year term. … More

If It Walks Like a Carbon Tax and Talks Like a Carbon Tax, (Then the GOP Hates It.)

Yesterday, the White House released a fact sheet describing its efforts to create a “21st Century Clean Transportation System”.  There’s a lot of interesting material in the plan, but all the headlines have been on the President’s inclusion of a $10/barrel tax on oil in his FY2017 budget as a means of paying for the various improvements contained in the plan.

The fact sheet doesn’t use the words “carbon tax” carbon taxand it emphasizes the purposes for which the tax revenue will be used,… More

Good Law Catches Up With Good Policy: The Supreme Court Upholds FERC’s Demand Response Order

The Supreme Court today affirmed FERC’s Order No. 745, which required that demand response resources be treated the same as generation resources when participating in wholesale electricity markets.  I’m feeling vindicated, because the post-oral argument prognosticators said that it looked bad for FERC, but I always thought that FERC had the stronger argument.

As I noted after the D.C. Circuit struck down Order No.… More

Massachusetts Updates Its Climate Song: I Can Get By With A Little Help From My (Canadian) Friends

Earlier this week, Massachusetts released its updated Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020.  The headline for the press release was “Massachusetts on Track to Meet 25% Greenhouse Gas Reduction Target for 2020”.  The slightly more nuanced version is that we can do it, but only with a large dose of Canadian hydropower.

While that’s the main take-away, it really is a useful report,… More

Perhaps Massive Purchases of Canadian Hydropower Would Not Be a Panacea

Governor Baker recently submitted Senate Bill No. 1965 to the Legislature.  It calls for utilities to solicit long-term purchases of renewable energy.  We are talking about as much as 1/3 of Massachusetts’ annual electricity use over a 15-25 year period.  Two rationales are often provided to justify the large purchase of Canadian hydropower.  First, cheap hydropower will ameliorate the high cost of electricity.  Second, it will help Massachusetts attain its initial Global Warming Solutions Act goal of reducing GHG emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2020. … More

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker Releases Solar Net Metering Bill

One week after the Massachusetts legislature departed for its summer recess, Governor Charlie Baker released net metering legislation to rival the Massachusetts Senate’s recent bill on August 7, 2015.

Where the Senate bill would have simply raised the net metering cap to 1600 MWs and largely retained the current net metering credit calculations, the Governor’s bill would increase the metering cap but would substantially reduce the calculation of net metering credits.… More

DOE Releases Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Northern Pass Project

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Northern Pass Transmission, LLC’s proposed 187-mile transmission line across the United States-Canada border in New Hampshire.

If approved, the line would have the ability to deliver 1200 MW of hydroelectric power from Quebec into southern New England—a potentially tantalizing amount of power for policymakers seeking to diversify the region’s generation portfolio and lower its GHG emissions.… More