The Policy Tracker: May 2016

Spring has sprung, and it’s time for the latest edition of NEEP’s Policy Tracker. We’re closely watching Maryland’s EmPOWER proceedings after indications of a possible rollback of efficiency programs, while positive developments on the regulatory front are moving New Hampshire and Delaware closer to full program implementation. Read on for more…

Maryland – We are closely watching Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC)’s semi-annual hearings for potential EmPOWER program rollbacks. In spite of recent support for energy efficiency in the past year, recently published emails between PSC Commissioner Michael Richards and members of Governor Hogan’s Administration hint at an uncertain future for the EmPOWER program. Perhaps even more concerning are comments filed by the newly-staffed Maryland Energy Administration during the EmPOWER semi-annual hearings providing several unsupported assertions in “strenuous” opposition to funding requested by the program administrators in order to comply with PSC-directed savings goals. Notably, these funding increases were supported by a wide range of stakeholders, including the state’s consumer advocate. Evaluators in Maryland also published guidance quantifying costs and benefits under (et al.) the Commission’s recently adopted societal cost test.   UPDATE: The Maryland PSC voted to expand program funding, yet the future of the programs are anything but certain. For further information on Commission developments in Maryland, see our recent blog.

New Hampshire – Parties to the New Hampshire Public Utility Commission’s Energy Efficiency Resource Standard Proceeding (DE 15-137) recently reached a settlement agreement that provides for a near doubling of electric efficiency savings goals, achieving savings at 1.3 percent of electric sales by 2020. As part of the settlement, the parties have agreed to reduced utility performance incentives, paired with a lost-revenue adjustment mechanism (LRAM) and commitment to decoupling for each utility upon filing of its next rate case. The Commission’s Grid Modernization Working Group is underway, with Jonathan Raab as process facilitator, and Tim Woolf serving as consultant to Commission Staff.

Delaware – The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) issued its Proposed EM&V Regulations for public comment, scheduling a pair of public input hearings during early May. The regulations include the Total Resource Cost (TRC) test using a societal discount rate as the standard for cost-effectiveness. It also suggests the TRC will include energy system benefits such as the Demand Reduction Induced Pricing Effect (DRIPE) and avoided environmental compliance costs, participant benefits such as operations and maintenance savings, and reasonably quantifiable non-energy benefits.  Written comments are welcomed by DNREC within the next month.

New York – In April, the Public Service Commission opened a new matter [16-00561] for the Clean Energy Advisory Council (CEAC), whose charter and inaugural meeting drew concern from several stakeholder groups. Building upon recommendations of Energy Efficiency Collaborative Guidance from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SEE Action Network, the groups filed a joint letter of concern regarding Council composition and facilitator impartiality. The Commission also opened a new matter [16-00681] for forthcoming chapters of NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Fund Investment Plan, after the recent filing of chapters concerning Market Characterization and DesignCommercial ProgramsCommunity-based Programs, Grid ModernizationInnovation Capacity and Business DevelopmentIndustrial ProgramsTechnical Assistance, and Resource Acquisition. The Commission also issued final guidance on Distributed System Implementation Plans, directing utilities to prepare for “de-carbonizing the transportation system,” in supplemental DSIP filings. Also notable is Con Edison’s recently approved system-wide investment in Advanced Metering Infrastructure, which Commission Chair Audrey Zibelman describes as “[A] milestone in Reforming the Energy Vision.”  

Connecticut – In April, the Connecticut General Assembly wrestled with whether to divert $22 million of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)  funds intended for efficiency and clean energy investments into the general fund to fill budget gaps, with a compromise in early May limiting the raid to $3 million. For further insights into the development, see NEEP's blog on the matter. Elsewhere in the Constitution State, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) began the process of updating its Comprehensive Energy Strategy (CES), with a workshop in late May. A draft CES expected for comment by the end of summer or early fall 2016. .

Maine –  After several months of discussions before the Public Utilities Commission, the Efficiency Maine Trust and other stakeholders may have reached a settlement (item No. 268) regarding the proposed 2017-19 Triennial Plan, though a final order in the docket remains pending [Docket 2015-00175]. In the legislature, both houses voted overwhelmingly to reauthorize Maine’s participation in RGGI, once again overriding a veto by Governor LePage in a show of bi-partisan support for energy efficiency. Also, in a unique turn of events, Governor LePage signed a bill submitted to him by the legislature that authorized utilities to finance air source heat pumps on behalf of low income electric customers.

Massachusetts – The Massachusetts Grid Modernization proceedings have hosted a recent burst of activity, with an early procedural scheduling indicating evidentiary hearings will take place by early November.  A recent Order from the DPU clarified that rate design is outside the scope of the proceeding  The Energy Efficiency Advisory Council’s Demand Reduction Subcommittee issued a draft report describing its scope, tasks, and timeline. On the broader energy and climate front, the Supreme Judicial Court recently declared the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection in violation of the Global Warming Solutions Act for not promulgating regulations that would cap the Commonwealth’s carbon dioxide emissions.  At the same time, an energy bill pending in the Senate (S.2372) contains a number of key emission reduction provisions to supplement the House's more limited bill, inlcuding establishing a task force to study strategies for energy efficiency programs that may not be constrained by traditional cost-effectiveness considerations.

Rhode Island – Governor Raimondo nominated Marion Gold, former Commissioner of the Office of Energy Resources, to replace outgoing commissioner Paul Roberti at the Public Utility Commission. Gold will be replaced in her current role by Carol Grant, who formerly held a role as Senior Vice President of External Affairs with SunEdison. The Commission’s Changing Distribution System Docket [4600] is building steam, with early working group meetings during the past two months. Outside of the Commission, Rhode Island’s stakeholder Energy Efficiency Council (EERMC) is in the process of developing targets for the state’s 2018-20 Least Cost Procurement Plan, with a first draft of plan due to the EERMC by September.

Pennsylvania — The Public Utility Commission gave its final approval to PECO and PPL’s Act 129 Phase III Program Plans, while its Docket examining alternative ratemaking methodologies [M-2015-2518883] remains pending. Governor Wolf also recently nominated David Sweet to the Commission.  Sweet will be Wolf's third appointment to the five member Commission.

The District of Columbia — The Public Service Commission’s Grid Modernization Docket [FC 1130] remains pending after several public hearings and comment opportunities were held on the matter in the first half of 2016.

Vermont – Recommendations regarding energy data aggregation, access, and transfer due from the Building Energy Labeling Working Group were postponed, but the Commission issued a Final Order in Docket 8550, outlining the details of their Renewable Energy Standard and Energy Transformation project requirements.

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