The Washington Post reported this week that Utqiagvik, Alaska (formerly known as Barrow), has gotten so warm, so fast, that NOAA’s computers can’t even believe it. The data for Utqiagvik (that’s hard to type!) were so high that the computers determined it must be anomalous and pulled all of the data from Utqiagvik from the NOAA monthly climate report. Only when scientists realized that Utqiagvik was completely missing from the report did they notice what had happened.… More
Category Archives: Energy Policy
The Houston Chronicle reported yesterday that electric generation capacity from wind now exceeds that of coal in Texas. That’s not even counting Vistra’s recent announcement that it intends to close three coal-fired plants.
To those who might point out that wind is intermittent and it thus has lower capacity factors, the same Chronicle story reports at least one expert prediction that wind generation will exceed that of coal by 2019.… More
Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities Investigates Issues Relating to Net Metering, Energy Storage, and Forward Capacity Market Participation
On October 3, 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (“DPU”) opened a new docket (D.P.U. 17-146) to investigate two issues: whether energy storage systems paired with net metering facilities are eligible for net metering and what should be done to clarify the rights of net metering facilities to participate in the Forward Capacity Market (“FCM”).
These issues have been percolating for years. In fact,… More
On September 28, 2017, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry sent a letter to FERC enclosing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking(NOPR), which Secretary Perry asserts “requires the Commission-approved organized markets to develop and implement market rules that accurately price generation resources necessary to maintain the reliability and resiliency of our Nation’s electric grid.” Both the timing and substance of the proposal have been criticized by energy industry representatives,… More
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 here, here, 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
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy just released its 2017 Energy Efficiency Scorecard. After 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
Last week, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a District Court decision approving a decision by the Bureau of Land Management to approve new leases on mines that account for 20% of U.S. coal production. The decision is just the latest in a series of cases making clear that courts will not approve new – or renewed – energy production that does not appropriately address the impacts of a project on climate change.… More
Last week, a divided panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that FERC violated NEPA in failing to assess downstream greenhouse gas emissions resulting from construction of the Sabal Trail pipeline, part of the Southeast Market Pipelines Project. If the decision stands, it is going to have a very significant impact on review and development of gas pipelines.
(Full disclosure – Foley Hoag represents NextEra,… More
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
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
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
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
According to the American Wind Energy Association blog, installed wind capacity in the United States has reached 82,000 MW. That puts it past the 80,000 MW of installed hydropower capacity and makes wind the largest installed renewable energy resource.
While the overall number represents a significant milestone, some of the details are interesting as well. Wind represents 5.5% of US generation. Moreover,… More
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
Earlier this week, the Climate Leadership Council rolled out The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends (note the absence of the “T” word in that title!). It’s a serious proposal and, if we lived in a world of facts, rather than alternative facts, it would be a useful starting point for a discussion.
Here are the highlights:
- A gradually increasing carbon tax,…
This week, the Department of Energy finalized regulations to increase energy efficiency for central air conditioners and heat pumps. The regulations apply to products manufactured or imported into the United States beginning in 2023. DOE estimates that, over the following 30 years, the regulations will reduce GHG emissions by 188.3 million metric tons, and will also result in similarly substantial reductions in emissions of conventional pollutants.… 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
Last week, DOE announced that transportation sector CO2 emissions in the US exceeded power sector CO2 emissions for the first time since 1978. Why? The combination of increasing vehicle miles traveled in the transportation sector and the decreasing use of coal in the power sector is certainly most of the answer.
The real question is whether this is good news or bad news.… More
Yesterday, the Energy Information Administration reported that “Energy-related CO2 emissions for first six months of 2016 are lowest since 1991.” The EIA gave three reasons for the drop in CO2 emissions.
- Mild weather. Of course, if global warming is our solution to reducing CO2 emissions, we better come up with something that works in the summer as well as the winter.…
On Monday, the TVA announced that Watts Bar Unit 2 had successfully completed what is known as its final power ascension test. It is now producing 1,150 MW of power in pre-commercial operation. Though EnergyWire did report it (subscription required), I would have thought this would have received more coverage. It’s been 20 years since the last nuclear facility came online in the United States.… More
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
When RGGI was 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
Last Friday, Governor Baker issued Executive Order 569, “Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth.” EO 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.…
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 Strategy. It’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.…
Massachusetts Legislature Enacts Significant Energy Bill in Support of Offshore Wind and Hydro Procurement, Storage and Transmission
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
Last 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 law 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
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
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. I’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 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.
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
Does the Paris Agreement Provide EPA With Authority Under the CAA To Impose Economy-Wide GHG Controls? Count Me Skeptical
In a very interesting article, Michael Burger of the Sabin Center and his co-authors suggest that, following the Paris climate agreement, § 115 of the Clean Air Act provides authority for EPA to develop economy-wide GHG emissions reduction regulations that would be more comprehensive and efficient than EPA’s current industry-specific approach. And what, you may ask, is § 115? Even the most dedicated “airhead” has probably never worked with it.… More
So COP21 resulted in an agreement. What’s a poor in-the-trenches lawyer to make of it? I think it’s pretty clearly a major step forward and reflects much more substantive progress than might have been expected. For a very helpful summary as to why the Paris Agreement was a success, check out Rob Stavins’s post. As good as Rob’s summary is, Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker (subscription required) had a slightly more concise explanation why the Paris Agreement is a good thing:
It changes the presumption that carbon emissions will continue to grow to the presumption that they must soon start coming down.… More
No Short Cuts Allowed: The FWS Must Comply with NEPA Before Extending Programmatic Take Permits to 30 Years
Earlier this month, the Judge Lucy Koh set aside the Fish & Wildlife Service’s decision to extend its programmatic permit for bald and golden eagle takes from five to 30 years. The extension was sought by the wind industry for the obvious reason that the uncertainty attached to a five-year permit makes financing a 20- or 30-year project very difficult. I agree with the concern and support the extension,… More
When the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative was first implemented, there were questions regarding how much of an impact it would actually have on GHG emissions. I recall Ian Bowles, then Secretary of Environmental Affairs in Massachusetts, saying that, while reductions would happen, the main purpose was to provide a template and to demonstrate that an emissions trading program could be implemented successfully.
Those doubts were only heightened when a combination of cheap gas and the Great Recession were understood to have caused low allowance prices in the RGGI auction. … More
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
So the Clean Power Plan is out. It’s difficult to be pithy about such a big, sprawling, mess, other than to say that it’s probably about as good as it could be, though that may not be enough. Here are a few items that have caught my eye so far:
- Although the initial deadlines have been eased, the goal of 32% reduction over 2005 emissions by 2030 is a slight increase over the 30% in the draft.…
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