E2 weighs in on renewable energy, RGGI and other state issues

Massachusetts has long been a leader in climate and clean energy policy.  Last year, for the 5th year in a row, the Commonwealth was ranked number 1 among the 50 states in energy efficiency.  Also, the 2015 Massachusetts Clean Energy Jobs Report showed unprecedented growth in the clean energy sector with nearly 100,000 employees; an annual growth rate of nearly 12%, and total revenues of $11 billion.

Yet, despite this impressive progress, an independent group that tracks the state’s progress on climate, found in its 2016 report that without new policy action, Massachusetts is not likely to achieve its 2020 legally binding requirement to reduce greenhouse gas pollution 25% below 1990 levels and its 2050 requirement of 80% below 1990 levels.

Administration Signals Support for New Gas Pipelines

The state Department of Public Utilities took the unprecedented step of allowing the state’s largest utilities, Eversource and National Grid, to propose charges for electric customers to help finance new pipelines with total costs of $5-$8 billion. This, despite the fact that an independent report, sponsored by Attorney General Maury Healy, showed that new pipelines were unnecessary; were not the lowest cost option; and would make it impossible to meet the state’s long-term climate mandate. E2 testified at the DPU and will be submitting written testimony on the topic.

Solar Bill Passes in Massachusetts

At long last, Massachusetts passed a bill that raises the cap on net metering by 3% for both public and private projects.  While positive in several ways, this is definitely a compromise with the Draconian bill passed by the House in November.

On the plus side, in addition to raising the cap, it maintains full retail compensation for small scale residential projects and municipal projects; and it instructs the Administration to develop a new incentive program as a successor to the current SREC II program.

On the downside, it lowers compensation for several types of solar projects, including community solar, by 40%; it allows the utilities to seek payment of a minimum bill via the regulatory process; and the new cap limits are likely to be met within 6-9 months. However, as MA state Senator Ben Downing, co-chair of the joint Energy Committee said, “We concluded that acting on this now was better than allowing solar projects to sit idle.”  No doubt the issue will re-emerge in the next session of the legislature.

For more information, see the E2 Solar Q&A that answers basic questions about complex issues of solar policy in the state.

E2 urges Governor Baker to lead in Regional Greenhouse Gas Program Review

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which is undergoing its 2016 program review, has been remarkably successful in helping the Commonwealth and the eight other Northeastern states achieve their 2030 and 2050 climate goals.
Massachusetts’ benefits since RGGI launched in 2009 include:

-35% emissions decrease from power plants covered by RGGI
-$740 million added to our economy and
-6,500 new jobs created from RGGI revenue

E2, along with several other business groups, sent a letter to Governor Baker signed by over 100 business leaders and professionals urging him to extend the RGGI cap on greenhouse gas pollution from 2020 to 2030, with an annual cap reduction equivalent to at least 2.5 percent of 2014 emissions.

The letter urges the governor to act in a timely fashion this year, as effective and immediate climate action by states is even more critical after the U.S. Supreme Court decision staying the federal Clean Power Plan. The press release can be found HERE.

E2 Joins Coalition Working on Massachusetts’ Omnibus Energy Bill
E2 is participating in a broad based coalition, the Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions (ACES), to present a unified position on a comprehensive energy bill that is under consideration by the legislature. E2 and others support procurement of new environmentally responsible clean energy imports including wind and hydropower; phased procurement of up to 2,000 MW of offshore wind capacity over 15 years; and additional distributed energy resources.

Berl Hartman is an E2 New England Chapter Director.