September Policy Tracker: Fall is in Full Swing

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Fall is upon us, though with typical New England weather, we are in the midst of our first fall and second summer of the season. This is the time of year where we dress for fall in the morning and for summer in the afternoon. It can cause lots of planning challenges! We see some similar state policy activity where some states are wrapping up items from the summer and others are in full swing on new activities this fall. Let’s take a look at recent activity.


In Connecticut, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) opened the 19-06-29 proceeding to study the value of distributed energy resources (DER), as required by Public Act 19-35. DEEP and PURA are required to submit a report on their findings to the General Assembly by July 1, 2020. On August 29, DEEP and PURA requested written comments on the draft DER study outline and the proposed technology use cases evaluated in their study. The outline includes a value of DER analysis section where individual impacts will be assessed in regards to different DERs, as well as a state DER program and policy principle section where existing state policies will be called out that relate to the proceeding. This will help establish principles for evaluating future DER programs.  NEEP submitted joint comments with E4TheFuture, NECEC, the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, and Acadia Center. The next technical conference where these comments will be reviewed is on October 4.

Governor Ned Lamont has also been busy, signing an executive order that sets a goal for the state to generate all of its power from renewable sources of energy. Executive Order 3 expands the Governor’s Council on Climate Change and gives the state a 2040 deadline to achieve a carbon-free power grid. This ramps up Lamont’s previous executive order which gave a 2050 deadline for achieving the zero-carbon goal.

The expanded scope of the Council on Climate Change includes monitoring and reporting on state progress towards carbon mitigation and adaption strategies. Mitigation strategies include oversight of progress towards 45 percent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction by 2030. Adaption strategies include a report by January 15, 2021 to the Governor on a revised statewide adaptation and resilience plan for the state that encompasses an analysis on the effects of climate change, including sea level rise, precipitation and temperature, storm preparedness. Each state agency will then report to the Council the alignment of climate adaptation strategies in their planning processes. This will significantly improve the state’s emergency preparedness and establish alignment across agencies for adapting to climate change. This recent order is an example of the Governor’s commitment to combating climate change by committing to reducing emissions on an expedited timeline and ensuring the state is resilient to its impacts.

In New Hampshire, SB286 was signed into public law. This bill will allow municipalities to operate approved electric aggregation programs. Municipalities will be able to aggregate the retail electric customers within its boundaries who do not opt out of or who consent to being included in an aggregation program. The governing body of a municipality or county will be able to form an electric aggregation committee to develop a plan for an aggregation program for its citizens. The plan would include details such as the organizational structure of the program, rate setting and other costs to participants, the methods for entering and terminating agreements with other entities and the rights and responsibilities of program participants. A final plan for an aggregation program would be submitted to the municipalities’ legislative body for adoption.

In line with this, SB284 was also signed into public law and will establish a statewide, multi-use online energy data platform. This will provide consumers and stakeholders with safe, secure access to information about their energy usage. It enables the aggregation and anonymization of community-level energy data and requires a consent-driven process for accessing or sharing customer-level energy usage data. The state can use this to open the door to innovative business applications that will save customers money as well as facilitate municipal and county aggregation programs.

While many states are ramping up efforts to reduce GHG emissions and making data available to municipalities, communities are also strengthening their efforts. For instance, Burlington, Vermont has released its zero energy roadmap to achieve zero energy by 2030. Burlington achieved 100 percent renewable electricity in 2014 and the goal to be zero energy by 2030 is defined as reducing and eventually eliminating fossil fuel use from the heating and ground transportation sectors over the next decade.

At the state level, the Vermont Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR) voted to adopt the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) with strengthening amendments on September 5, with an effective date to be set for summer 2020. With these strengthening amendments, this code is approximately 20 percent more efficient than the International version and propels Vermont towards having all zero-energy buildings by 2030.

Over in Maine, Governor Janet Mills has announced the members of the Maine Climate Council, which will recommend strategies for meeting the state’s new, ambitious goals on renewable energy generation and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The Maine Climate Council was created during the 2019 legislative session and will establish a climate action plan which will include the transition to a clean energy economy. The Council will set compliance rules with meeting the GHG reduction targets, including reducing statewide GHG emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and by 80 percent by 2050; and increasing the amount of electricity from renewable sources from the current 40 percent to 80 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

Similar to Maine, New Jersey is also looking to ramp up its efforts by introducing A5497, which requires that by energy year 2050, all electric power sold in by each electric power supplier and basic generation service provider to be from zero-carbon sources. This bill would require the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to adopt an emissions portfolio standard (EPS) that would eliminate carbon emissions from the power generation sector by 2050. This would be a first of its kind EPS and would set an example other states could learn from to ensure they are on track to meeting ambitious GHG reduction targets.

The BPU, in consultation with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), would be required to adopt the carbon emissions portfolio standard no later than one year after the effective date of this bill. The carbon emissions portfolio standard would include: (1) a multi-year schedule, with gradual emissions reduction requirements to require that all power sold to customers in the state be derived from sources that have zero carbon emissions; (2) provisions to mitigate leakage or to transfer any customer to a supplier that meets the carbon emissions portfolio standard; and (3) an exemption for basic generation service pursuant to a purchase and sale agreement.

Furthermore, AR266 and SR151 were introduced. These resolutions urge the Governor to impose an immediate moratorium on fossil fuel infrastructure projects until the state adopts rules regulating carbon emissions and other climate pollutants adequate to achieve the 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2006 levels by 2050 as required under the Global Warming Response Act. We are starting to see moratoriums on fossil fuel infrastructure rise as an immediate action to help states transition away from deploying infrastructure that will last far beyond the 2050 GHG reduction target deadline.

On another note, over in Maryland, the public service commission (PSC) opened Docket 9619, In the matter of the Maryland Energy Storage Pilot Program. The PSC opened this proceeding to implement the 2019 Energy Storage Pilot Project Act. The Act requires the Commission to establish an energy storage pilot program and each investor-owned electric company to develop energy storage projects and submit applications to the Commission for approval. The applications for energy storage projects shall address the impact of each project on state policy goals, including environmental and clean energy objectives and the development of the state’s retail energy markets. The Energy Storage Working Group shall develop and propose metrics on environment and clean energy objectives and impacts on the retail energy market, for use in evaluating project proposals by December 31, 2019.

As we near the year 2020, state targets for 2030 and 2050 will feel much closer. Knowing we have to act now and seeing what states are working on reassures me that we can achieve our long-term goals. There is a lot happening as we transition into fall. I am excited to see what states can accomplish by the end of the year.

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