100% renewable energy omnibus clears Massachusetts Senate

Source: By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive • Posted: Tuesday, June 19, 2018

  • On Thursday, the Massachusetts state Senate approved 35-0 a package of energy bills including provisions that would set a 100% renewable energy standard by 2047, remove the state’s net metering caps and increase the state’s energy storage mandate to 2 GW by 2025.
  • One of the bills in the package, S. 2545, would also stipulate that utility regulators can only approve demand charges for customers with devices that provide “near real time” monitoring of energy consumption and only base those charges on system-wide peak usage, rather than an individual’s energy consumption.
  • The demand charge language would void a January regulatory ruling on a rate proceeding for Eversource, which allowed the utility to impose a monthly demand charge for new solar customers starting in 2019, according to Evan Dube, senior policy director at solar developer Sunrun.

Dive Insight:

The behemoth of a clean energy bill could reshape Massachusetts utility policy, if it survives the legislative process.

The measure also asks the state to consider adding 5 GW of offshore wind energy, directs electric vehicle charging station distributors to create time-of-use rate plans for infrastructure and increases the state’s renewable portfolio standard.

While the measure passed the Senate easily, PV Magazine reports it may face more difficulty on the House side, as Speaker Robert DeLeo has blocked similar measures in the past. DeLeo’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

While the speaker supported previous legislation to raise net metering caps, the House could consider breaking up the energy omnibus into separate issues. The House has its own versions of various components of the energy bill, including legislative proposals to lift net metering caps.

“The way the Senate’s chosen to approach this is to put a whole bunch of different issues into one energy package. It’s unclear whether the House will take that similar parliamentary approach,” Sunrun’s Dube told Utility Dive.

The language that would affect the Eversource rate ruling was crafted in the state’s joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, with House and Senate chairmen expressing support for language that would alter the utility’s demand charges.

The Senate’s version clarifies the statutory language authorizing a demand charge, addressing some consumer and solar advocacy criticisms of the DPU’s Eversource decision. The new language would allow charges that more closely resemble time-of-use rates, as they would define system-wide hours during which customers could be charged more.

Demand charges could also only be approved if customers have “metering functionality or technology is available to the customer at a reasonable cost to provide the customer with near real time access to electricity usage data.”

If the demand charge language is approved, the Eversource rate decision, which goes into effect at the end of the year, would need to be reconsidered under the new statutory language. The utility is still reviewing the legislation, an Eversource spokesman told the State House News Service on Thursday, while Sunrun is pushing for its final approval.

“Sunrun’s certainly been supportive of this legislation that’s been put forward and we are optimistic that in particular the very, very important demand charge language will ultimately pass and be sent on to the governor,” Dube said.

House Ways and Means Chair Tom Golden, D, told the State House News Service that he anticipates the House will act on energy bills this session.

Besides the demand charge language, the Senate also seeks to remove the state cap on net metering for non-governmental solar panel generators, allowing them to sell back more power to the grid.

The Senate’s package would incrementally increase the state’s renewable portfolio standard until it reached 100% in 2047. In early June, Hawaii became the first state to set a mandate for 100% clean energy, targeted for 2045.

Massachusetts has been active in addressing the storage targets it set in 2017, as the state awarded $20 million in grants for energy storage projects. The state is currently aiming to add 200 MWh of storage capacity by 2020.

The new bill directs the state to add 2 GW of storage by 2025. Utilities would be limited to owning up to 20% of their deployed projects and would be charged compliance payments if they fall behind deployment schedules.