Massachusetts Moves Clean Energy Forward with RPS Increase, Solar Fix (in Part), Storage Target, Energy Efficiency Expansion, Offshore Wind Boost

It was a long and hard-fought two-year legislative session in Massachusetts, and the Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC), AEE’s regional partner, was in the trenches on behalf of its members throughout. On the heels of landmark energy legislation in 2016, and with numerous other high-priority items on the agenda for legislators, clean energy faced a real risk of falling by the wayside before the session ended on July 31. However, a final push by a broad coalition of clean energy, environmental, healthcare, and business advocates helped legislative champions propel a strong, though incomplete, package of clean energy provisions over the finish line on the final day.

An Act to Advance Clean Energy, now codified as Chapter 227 of the Acts of 2018, was signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker on August 9, and all of its provisions will take effect in November. The Act includes a number of actions that will support the clean energy industry in Massachusetts: a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) expansion, a remedy for a harmful solar charge, an energy storage target and related provisions, significant new energy efficiency provisions, a new Clean Peak Standard, grid resiliency reporting and non-wires solutions, additional offshore wind procurement authority, and more. Unfortunately, the bill did not raise net metering caps, an important priority of the Massachusetts solar industry. Aside from this significant omission, the bill made progress in just about every top priority area for clean energy in the session.

Here are details on the important policies that emerged from the conference committee process and passed as part of the Act: 

  • Renewable Portfolio Standard– Raises the Class I RPS by increasing the annual RPS growth rate from the previous 1% annually to 2% from 2020 to 2029, dropping back down to 1% thereafter. This will increase the Class I obligation from 25% to 35% in 2030.
  • Solar– Addresses the unfair and inefficient mandatory residential demand charge approved in Eversource's recent rate case, requiring Eversource to refile with the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) a modified Monthly Minimum Reliability Contribution (MMRC) proposal to meet new criteria that protect customers.
  • Energy Storage– Establishes a strong 1,000 MWh energy storage deployment target for utility, third-party, and customer-owned systems in 2025, and empowers the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to consider a variety of policies to help achieve this target.
  • Clean Peak Standard – Creates the nation’s first “Clean Peak Standard,” which will require retail suppliers to provide a minimum percentage of retail sales during seasonal peak periods from eligible renewable, energy storage, and demand response resources. DOER is charged with setting the baseline for compliance and promulgating regulations to implement the new program.
  • Grid Modernization & Resiliency – Requires utilities to file annual resiliency reports with the DPU and authorizes the utilities to hold competitive solicitations for non-wires alternatives to distribution grid investments from third party developers. These project proposals will be evaluated for their ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, replace aging infrastructure, and provide benefits to stressed, congested, or severe weather-prone areas of the electric grid.
  • Energy Efficiency – Promotes energy efficiency by enabling more advanced technologies, such as renewable resources, energy storage, strategic electrification, and other clean energy technologies to qualify under the Commonwealth’s nation-leading electric and gas efficiency programs. Also requires cost-effectiveness evaluation to be conducted at the sector level (e.g., “commercial retrofits”) rather than measure level, and allows for the consideration of other benefits beyond “system benefits.”
  • Offshore Wind— Allows DOER, after studying needs, benefits, and costs, to conduct additional offshore wind procurements of up to 1,600 additional MW by 2035 (doubling the original 1,600 MW authorization enacted in 2016).

“The final bill represents a continued commitment to clean energy leadership in Massachusetts,” said NECEC President Peter Rothstein in our end-of-session press release. “We are at a pivotal point where key policy changes are needed to ensure that markets here continue to flourish and accelerate clean energy, including solar, wind, advanced energy storage, energy efficiency, peak demand reduction and more. This legislation is a step in the right direction and we look forward to continued collaboration with lawmakers to ensure that Massachusetts remains a leader in this sector.”

The new law addresses many of NECEC’s top priorities this session: increasing the RPS, expanding energy efficiency, and spurring development of energy storage. It also clarifies the structure for new charges for solar customers. But there remains uncertainty in the Commonwealth’s solar market due to caps on net metering that have been hit.

NECEC, like many of our partner organizations and member companies, is already gearing up for the 2019-2020 Massachusetts legislative session, as well as legislative sessions across the Northeast. Please get in touch with NECEC’s Policy and Government Affairs team if you’d like to get involved with NECEC’s efforts in Massachusetts and across the Northeast in 2019 and beyond.

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Jamie Dickerson

Jamie is NECEC's Policy Analyst.