by Julia Pyper
June 28, 2018

Set a goal, make a plan, and take action. It sounds like a phrase from a book of motivational sayings, but that's effectively what stakeholders are doing to advance ambitious clean energy policy in states across the nation.

To that end, Massachusetts lawmakers are moving forward a bold plan to reach 100 percent renewable energy, New York has released a road map to deploy 1,500 megawatts of energy storage and Nevada's clean energy industry has a road map to add 92,000 new jobs. Meanwhile, Northeast utility National Grid has published a plan for how to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent.

In this week's State Bulletin, we take a look at recent state-level plans to accelerate cleantech adoption and cut emissions. Plus, a roundup of the latest state clean energy policy news.

Massachusetts clean energy report

The Massachusetts State Senate recently passed a comprehensive clean energy bill — the “Act to Promote a Clean Energy Future” — with several provisions designed to address climate change while strengthening the state’s economy.

The bill (S.2545) includes four policies that focus on the electric sector: 

  • Accelerate the increase in the Massachusetts renewable portfolio standard (RPS) from 1 percent to 3 percent per year, boosting the state’s renewable energy mix to 50 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2047.
  • Build 5,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035. 
  • Reach an in-state battery storage goal of 2,000 megawatts by 2030, with a subsequent target to be reached in 2035. That’s a significant increase over the current 200 megawatts of storage mandate by 2020. Utilities are permitted to own 20 percent of storage projects.
  • Remove the net metering cap on commercial solar projects (there is no cap for residential projects in Massachusetts).

The legislation also would require the state’s Secretary of Energy and Environmental to establish a plan for reaching statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits of between 35 percent and 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, with stricter limits in future. 

In addition, the bill sets a goal for 25 percent of vehicles in Massachusetts to be electric vehicles by 2028, and creates a plan to run MBTA buses and trains on electric power. S.2545 would also create a framework for a revenue-neutral, market-based carbon fee.

The Senate bill would get rid of a demand charge regulators allowed Eversource to impose upon new residential solar adopters.

Last week, the Applied Economics Clinic, housed at Tufts University, released a new report analyzing the key policies from the legislation and found the bill would strengthen Massachusetts' economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while having little or no effect on consumers’ electric bills through 2030.

Benefits from the bill include 1,800 new in-state jobs and $263 million in economic growth per year — for a total of $3.4 billion in growth over the period from 2018 to 2030 — as compared to a business-as-usual scenario. Researchers calculated Massachusetts would build a total of 9.8 gigawatts of solar, wind and hydro generation as a result of the new policies.

As more clean energy comes online, Massachusetts' statewide greenhouse gas emissions are forecast to see a 36 percent reduction from 1990 emissions levels by 2030. 

"Emission reductions from the electric-sector policies are not enough on their own, however, to achieve the full 43 percent emission reduction called for in the Bill to comply with the Global Warming Solutions Act,” the report states. “Additional emission reductions from transportation, buildings, and other sectors are needed in combination with electric-sector emission reductions to achieve this lower target.”

Clean energy advocates heaped praise on S.2445 and the report.

“This report from the Applied Economics Clinic demonstrates how important the Senate's visionary passage of S. 2545…is for the Commonwealth's future,” said Sean Garren of Vote Solar.

“This analysis shows that accelerating the growth of the renewable portfolio standard, increasing offshore wind and battery storage targets and removing solar net metering caps will further catalyze the clean energy economy Massachusetts has built over the last decade, creating new jobs and more choices for energy customers, with little effect on bills and rates,” said Northeast Clean Energy Council Executive Vice President Janet Gail Besser, who is also co-leader of the Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions, a coalition of business groups, clean energy companies, environmental organizations.

While the comprehensive energy bill has strong support and passed unanimously in the Senate, its future remains uncertain. The Massachusetts House is considering similar policy measures and will have to reconcile its legislation with the Senate version before a bill reaches Governor Charlie Baker’s desk. As PV Magazine noted, prior bills aimed at supporting renewable energy, including lifting net metering caps, have met with opposition by House leadership under Speaker Robert DeLeo. 

New York releases a comprehensive Energy Storage Roadmap

New York governor Andrew Cuomo released the state’s comprehensive Energy Storage Roadmap this week, with the aim of jump-starting technology development and supporting Cuomo’s target to deploy 1,500 megawatts of storage by 2025 — the equivalent electricity demand of one-fifth of all New York homes. 

Achieving the target is projected to create 30,000 jobs and deliver approximately $2 billion gross lifetime benefits to New Yorkers, while making the grid cleaner and more reliable. 

The Energy Storage Roadmap, developed by the Department of Public Service and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) with input from numerous stakeholders, includes a specific set of recommendations designed to position the state as a leading national market for advanced energy storage projects. Highlights include:

  • Providing $350 million in statewide market acceleration incentives to fast-track the adoption of advanced storage systems to be located at customer sites or on the distribution or bulk electric systems
  • Adding incentives for energy storage to NYSERDA's successful NY-Sun initiative to accelerate the development of solar-plus-storage projects and allow those projects to access federal tax credits before they expire
  • Regulatory changes to utility rates, utility solicitations and carbon values to reflect the system benefits and values of storage projects
  • Continuing to address project permitting and siting challenges and reduce system indirect expenses and soft costs
  • Recommending modifications to wholesale market rules to better enable storage participation, including allowing storage to meet both electric distribution system and wholesale system needs to provide greater value for ratepayers

New York state currently has approximately 60 megawatts of advanced energy storage capacity deployed with another 500 megawatts in the pipeline, in addition to 1,400 megawatts of traditional pumped hydro storage. 

The New York Power Authority is currently working on several energy storage projects, including a partnership with the State University of New York to deploy storage projects that would allow the university system to utilize stored solar power during emergencies and times of peak energy demand. NYPA President and CEO Gil Quiniones recently told GTM his organization is also looking for new opportunities to deploy batteries as a way of boosting system efficiency.

The state’s capacity utilization is currently about 54 percent, according to Quiniones. Energy storage could play a pivotal role in boosting grid utilization and bringing down system costs. NYPA’s work on storage will continue to increase as the plan is implemented. 

At the same time, the NY Green Bank seeks to invest at least $200 million in storage-related investments, and has released a request for information to solicit direct interest from project developers on how it can address financing gaps and support energy storage projects. The NY Green Bank is also planning to issue a request for proposals later this year for projects combining solar and energy storage.

This latest set of recommendations and commitments will not only advance New York state toward its 2025 energy storage target, but also put the state on a path to meeting a 2030 target that the Public Service Commission is expected to establish later this year.

National Grid floats 80 percent emissions reduction plan

As Massachusetts considers ambitious new clean energy legislation, Northeast utility National Grid has released a plan for how New York and New England can achieve deep decarbonization, while maintaining affordability and customer choice.

The Northeast 80x50 Pathway proposes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 with action across the three dominant sectors of combustion-related emissions: electricity generation, transportation and heat. The plan calls for three big shifts in our energy systems by 2030: 

  • Accelerating the zero-carbon electricity transition, by ramping up renewable electricity deployment to achieve 67 percent zero-carbon electricity supply 
  • A transformation of the transport sector, by reaching more than 10 million electric vehicles on Northeast roads (roughly 50 percent of all vehicles)
  • A transformation of the heat sector, by doubling the rate of efficiency retrofits and converting nearly all of the region’s 5 million oil-heated buildings to electric heat pumps or natural gas

Natural gas remains a part of National Grid’s future scenario as a fuel for heating. But the Pathway calls for the steady decarbonization of natural-gas supply through renewable natural gas, hydrogen and synthetic fuels.

Coincidentally, the Rocky Mountain Institute recently released a report that found reaching deep decarbonization of 75 percent or greater reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would require eliminating most of the carbon dioxide produced by furnaces and water heaters across the country, alongside other measures across the economy. 

Nevada's clean energy road map

Clean energy industry members and advocates have released a policy road map that seeks to encourage the next governor of Nevada to harness the economic potential and jobs opportunities the clean energy industry has to offer. The Clean Energy Project and Advanced Energy Economy delivered the road map this month to the gubernatorial campaigns of Republican nominee Adam Laxalt and Democratic nominee Steve Sisolak.

Nevada’s Clean Energy Roadmap outlines six key market-based policies for the campaigns to consider:

  • Increase the state renewable portfolio standard, which has the potential to generate an additional $5 billion in wages and create 92,000 jobs in the state. Nevada's current policy is to reach 25 percent renewables by 2025. According to the document, Nevada needs to have a target closer to 40 percent renewables to be competitive with other states.
  • Establish a community solar program, which would enable customers, both large and small, to purchase a portion of a large renewable project. The document notes that community solar has proven to be successful at meeting customers' clean energy needs in both regulated and deregulated energy markets.
  • Establish an energy storage requirement to help manage supply and demand, shift load to improve grid reliability and resilience, support higher levels of low-cost renewables on the grid, and maximize the value of all resources.
  • Encourage electrification of the transportation sector by setting an EV goal for the state to strive toward. 
  • Expand access to cost-effective energy efficiency and demand response investments. 
  • Modernize the electricity system to allow innovative technologies to thrive and to focus more on consumer needs.

The plan also recommends a set of specific executive actions for the state's next governor, including working with the legislature to maintain financial incentives for renewable energy programs and utilizing creative financing options for consumers and businesses to reduce the upfront cost of clean energy technologies and services

These recommendations come as Nevadans will vote on whether or not to deregulate the state's electricity market in this fall's election. 

Additional resources

South Carolina lawmakers did not approve amendments this week that would have increased the state's net metering cap and encouraged utilities to purchase more utility-scale solar. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, South Carolina will have a hard time growing solar and maintaining the state's thousands of solar jobs without a permanent solution that "enables solar businesses to compete and provides fair rates for consumers."

North Carolina regulators have rejected Duke Energy's request for special ratemaking treatment to recover the projected program costs for the utility's Power Forward Carolinas grid modernization plan. This comes despite an earlier settlement wherein Duke agreed to lower program costs for customers. 

California’s 100 percent clean energy bill is back in action, after failing to advance last fall. On July 3, the Utilities & Energy Committee of the California Assembly will hold a hearing for SB 100. The bill would require electricity providers to achieve a 60 percent renewable energy target by the end of 2030 and for 100 percent of total retail sales of electricity in California to come from eligible renewable energy resources and eligible “zero-carbon resources” by the end of 2045.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced an executive order last week that will begin the process of adopting advanced clean car standards. Colorado joins 13 other states and the District of Columbia, as rollbacks on federal clean car standards loom closer, NRDC writes.

Tennessee Valley Authority is on track for its worst solar year since 2011, according to solar advocates. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Tennesseans for Solar Choice coalition are questioning TVA’s commitment to its own programs. "Despite being halfway through the year, recent data from GTM Research show less than 2 megawatts of solar were installed in the first quarter, and year-to-date applications for residential and small business solar are down 73 percent from where they were a year ago,” Southern Alliance writes.

New York Senate Bill S.8273 failed to advance on June 21, in a loss for critics of the state’s Value of Distributed Energy Resources (VDER) policy, which they say has hindered solar development. Companion bill A.10474, which passed the State Assembly would have place a three-year moratorium on the current policy and temporarily restored net metering as the compensation policy for community solar.

The California Public Utilities Commission has adopted three new programs to promote the installation of solar energy to serve customers in disadvantaged communities, including up-front incentives for home solar installations, a 20 percent discount for two different types of green tariff programs. All programs will be funded by California’s greenhouse gas allowance proceeds.