A Single Word Could Restore Maine Energy Efficiency Funding

Apr 8, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

A recent decision by the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) severely limits energy efficiency funding in the state. If the decision stands, Efficiency Maine Trust – the public entity that runs energy efficiency programs – would see its near-term budget cut from about $60 million to $22 million. This drastic cut in energy efficiency funding would essentially eliminate the cornerstone of sound energy policy in Maine. Fixing this mistake is vital to the state’s energy future.

The fix is easy (the entire fiasco boils down to the single word “and”), but the backstory is more complicated.

The Backstory

Energy efficiency works 

shutterstock_129267746 lightbulbThe more energy consumers use, the more energy must be generated. Whether that energy comes from coal, natural gas, or renewable sources, the cost to generate that energy goes beyond the dollar figure on your utility bills. Part of that cost is sunk into the generation facilities themselves, and part is in the poles and wires needed to bring that energy into our homes and businesses.

Energy efficiency has the power to reduce the overall demand for electricity by encouraging technological advancements that produce the same service while using less energy. Less overall energy use means less transmission and distribution build out, less energy generation, and, ultimately, a lower energy bill for consumers.

Energy efficiency saves ratepayers money, improves the environment, stimulates commerce, and creates jobs. Since 2011, Efficiency Maine has saved ratepayers almost $1 billion in lifetime energy savings while creating thousands of jobs. Over their lifetime, the projects Efficiency Maine helped install in 2014 alone will save more than 1 billion kilowatt hours of energy consumption – the equivalent of more than 22 million gallons of oil. This translates to nearly $200 million in ratepayer savings. Every dollar Efficiency Maine invests provides at least three dollars in return.

All this raises a pressing question: Why would the PUC slash funding for energy efficiency?

How we got here

In 2013, the Maine Legislature passed the bipartisan Omnibus Energy Act. One piece of this legislation mandates that Maine, through Efficiency Maine, fund and pursue all maximum achievable cost-effective energy efficiency.

Let’s be clear – that is the law.

A single phrase of this voluminous statute determines how much annual funding Efficiency Maine receives to meet (or not) the law’s mandate. This funding, which is included in electricity rates, is capped at “4% of total retail electricity transmission and distribution sales in the State.”

The current fiasco all boils down to what “total retail electricity transmission and distribution sales” actually means. If you find that phrase confusing, you’re not alone. For those working in the electric industry, “retail electricity” sales mean sales of electricity generation. And “transmission and distribution” sales mean sales of the transmission and distribution of electricity. But mashing them together creates a phrase not used anywhere in Maine law, or in any other law in the country.

The problem stems from a missing “and.” The phrase as originally drafted by the legislature was: “total retail electricity and transmission and distribution sales.” That phrase means something. So what happened to the “and”? No one knows. But somewhere along the line, without any discussion, debate, or request, it disappeared from the final version of the bill – after a legislative committee approved a version containing this critical conjunction.

A matter of interpretation?

So, what does the PUC have to do with this? The 2013 Omnibus Energy Act directs the PUC to make a rule that interprets this phrase and thus the amount of energy efficiency funding. In making this rule, the PUC must follow what the legislature intended when it wrote the law. If what the law says is clear, the PUC need look no further than the text. But if the law is not clear, the PUC looks to the bill’s legislative history to determine what the legislature intended the law to mean.

As it turns out, the only people who have found that confusing phrase absolutely clear are two out of three PUC Commissioners. They read the language to include sales from only transmitting and distributing electricity, not sales from generating the electricity. That reading translates to a huge difference in how much money goes toward Maine’s energy efficiency initiatives – a $38 million difference.

Even as written – in other words without the “and” – the PUC got this wrong. The only thing that’s clear about the phrase is how unclear it is. That means the PUC must look to the legislative history to see what the legislature intended. And no one – not even the legislators who drafted the bill – disputes that the legislature intended much greater funding for energy efficiency by including sales from both electricity generation and electricity transmission and distribution.

The Future

Frustrated yet? There’s more.

The Maine Legislature now has the opportunity to fix the PUC’s decision. Doing so would save Maine ratepayer dollars. Unfortunately, as the Portland Press Herald reported recently, prospects for an easy legislative fix look dim.

Remember, the 2013 Omnibus Energy Act, which mandates energy efficiency measures, passed with bipartisan support. Legislators have introduced an amendment to the Energy Act that simply reinserts the word “and” – as the legislature originally intended.

But other lawmakers are trying to block this version. In an op-ed in the Portland Press Herald, House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette (R-Newport) admitted that the Energy Act was intended to increase the funding cap to “roughly $60 million” instead of the roughly $22 million under the PUC’s interpretation. Nonetheless, he claims that the PUC correctly interpreted the law it was given, mistake and all.

What Representative Fredette and other lawmakers are now arguing is this:

  1. Yes, the Energy Act meant to increase energy efficiency funding.
  2. Yes, the PUC interpreted it to severely limit this funding.
  3. Yes, we the legislature should fix this.
  4. But NO, we are not going to simply insert a single word in order to do what a bipartisan legislature intended in the first place when it passed the law.

 

Why not? Governor Paul LePage. He is almost guaranteed to veto a fix of the bill because he does not want to invest more in energy efficiency. The legislature might not garner the two-thirds vote needed to override that veto, let alone pass the amended version in the first place.

What’s the alternative? A bill that compromises further on sound energy policy in Maine. To be clear, the original Omnibus Energy Act was itself the result of bipartisan compromise – which was meant to vastly increase energy efficiency funding. Now, because of one word, the governor and Republican legislators want another bite at the apple.

Tell your legislators to pass the clean fix of the bill and restore Maine energy efficiency funding! You can find your legislator’s contact information here. Help restore adequate funding for energy efficiency in Maine!

Gas Pipelines — Misinformation and High Costs

Mar 26, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

The high cost and pollution from new gas pipelines are no secret. They deliver a clear reminder that investing in new fossil fuels is a bad bet for our energy future – bad for the environment and bad for our pocketbooks.

When costs ballooned for Vermont Gas Systems’ proposed new pipeline, the company failed to tell regulators, or the public, until months later. Vermont Gas is now facing penalties for the failure.

photo courtesy of Tom @ flickr.com

photo courtesy of Tom @ flickr.com

Unfortunately for the public, only the Public Service Department and the Company were allowed to present information during the hearing to evaluate the penalty. Since the two of them already agreed to a penalty, the proceeding took on an air of the sound of one hand clapping. A few concerned citizens resorted to waiving posters in the back of the room with questions they’d like answered.

At the hearing, a Vermont Gas executive acknowledged the loss of faith and lost credibility that resulted from not disclosing the cost increase sooner. Sadly that credibility was not restored when the same executive had to acknowledge that cost figures reported to regulators were not accurate.

A new gas pipeline is a big energy project. All big energy projects need to demonstrate that they advance the public good. With high costs and misinformation, confidence is sure waning on this project.

Smart Moves for Maine’s Electricity Grid

Mar 10, 2015 by  | Bio |  2 Comment »

Several years ago, Maine took a small but significant and unprecedented step toward modernizing its electric grid. Rather than implement a traditional “poles and wires” transmission build out to address growing electricity needs in the Boothbay Harbor region, the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved an innovative pilot project.

GridSolar's Boothbay Pilot program is finding innovative ways to meet electricity demand without an expensive transmission rebuild.

GridSolar’s Boothbay Pilot program is finding innovative ways to meet electricity demand without an expensive transmission rebuild.

The Boothbay Pilot relies on so-called non-transmission alternatives, or NTAs, to reduce electric load in the region by 2 megawatts (MW). Using these alternatives eliminated the need for an $18 million transmission rebuild, while also improving energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and saving ratepayers approximately $3 million per year. A smart move. Now, the PUC has the opportunity to take many of the pilot’s concepts statewide.

Non-transmission alternatives are, as the name implies, alternatives to the traditional way of distributing electricity. For most of Maine’s power grid, state-regulated transmission and distribution utilities, such as Central Maine Power, transmit bulk electricity from a generation source – for example, natural gas, oil, or hydro – through power lines, substations, and distribution lines to your home. To ensure reliable and constant energy flow the power grid must be continually maintained and at times rebuilt or upgraded to meet demand.

Instead of expending ratepayer dollars on expensive transmission solutions, electric power needs can be met by various NTAs, including energy efficiency, passive electric power generation closer to the consumer (like solar panels or wind turbines), and active devices that can be switched on when needed to reduce load on the grid. These alternatives create a more efficient grid and reduce total power needed.

For the Boothbay regional Pilot program, GridSolar developed just such an NTA solution. In a case before the PUC, GridSolar has petitioned to become the state’s lead developer of smart grid technologies – a new entity allowed under the Maine Smart Grid Policy Act. While PUC staff recently recommended that the Commissioners deny GridSolar’s petition – in favor of putting the coordinator’s role out to bid for proposals – their report nonetheless recognizes the value in having an incentivized actor forwarding non-transmission alternatives to utilities’ business-as-usual transmission projects.

CLF is an intervening party to this case and has advocated for the PUC to create just such a statewide NTA Coordinator. Designating this role is another small but critical step toward a more efficient and modern energy future for Maine. Another smart move on which we should all agree.

Time to Act: Guest Post by Olivia Gieger

Mar 6, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Last fall, CLF, Mass Energy Consumers Alliance, and four youth plaintiffs filed suit against the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for failing to fully comply with the Global Warming Solutions Act. In this guest post, one of the teen plaintiffs, Olivia Gieger, explains why she’s joined the court fight to defend her climate future.

As a sophomore in high school, I am all too familiar with procrastination. That group project assigned a month ago and now due tomorrow? We had a month; why start early? It’s a group project; won’t someone else do it? In my experience, I can tell you, those all-nighter–inducing group projects never turn out well.

Don’t be the sophomore in high school.

This 2015, we have the technology to know that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are rising at an alarmingly fast rate. We’ve had this technology since 1960 when carbon dioxide levels were at 315 parts per million (ppm). Now they’re at 395 ppm(1). We know that this carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which captures heat energy and slows its release from air. While greenhouse gases are necessary in our atmosphere and are needed to keep us warm, an unnatural amount is strikingly dangerous. More greenhouse gases mean more heat held in the atmosphere, which means a hotter Earth.

Side effects of global warming are countless, and they are happening today. Sea levels are rising. Ice caps are melting. Forest fires are raging. Downpours are constant in the Northeast, yet droughts are ever more present in the West(2).

But, really, why should I care? Melting ice caps and a couple less polar bears don’t really affect me, right? I don’t live in California, so those wildfires don’t affect me, either. But other people are being impacted by the wildfires, the melting ice caps, the rising temperatures. The scary reality is that we all are. I may not know anyone who lives in California, but that’s where my food is grown. If there are droughts and wildfires, how is my family supposed to get some of our favorite fruits and vegetables that don’t grow here in Boston during the winter? And those melting ice caps affect a whole lot more than polar bears. When they melt, sea levels rise – not just at the North Pole, but globally. This means my favorite beaches on Martha’s Vineyard will be washed away. It means my favorite restaurants and museums – even my neighborhood – here in Boston will be underwater in my lifetime.

In order to do something about these concerns, I have filed a lawsuit, along with three other youth plaintiffs, against the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), because DEP has been procrastinating in fully complying with the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). The GWSA requires DEP to pass regulations establishing declining greenhouse gas emissions limits for Massachusetts. But DEP has not done so. The purpose of the lawsuit is to force DEP to comply with the law, because it appears unwilling to do so on its own. Thanks to the support from my lawyers at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak, & Cohen and Our Children’s Trust, we will ensure that DEP complies with the law.

So now my question is why? Why are we as a society being sophomores in high school about this? Why are we just waiting for someone else to solve this massive problem? We know the problems, and, better yet, we know the solutions. Using clean, renewable energy is one solution. Enough energy from the sun enters the Earth in one hour to power it for an entire year(3). This energy is unlimited, harmless to the environment, and virtually free. Sounds to me like it tops fossil fuels any day. It’s not just solar energy, however – wind power and hydropower are also unlimited and harmless to the environment. So why then are we oblivious to this? Why are we so incapable of making a change? We need to stop procrastinating. It is long past the time to include, encourage, and execute programs with wind and solar power as the energy of America. We cannot afford to be sophomores anymore; it’s time to graduate.

Works Cited:

  1. Pieter Tans, NOAA/ESRL (www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/) and Dr. Ralph Keeling, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (scrippsco2.ucsd.edu/).
  2. “The Current and Future Consequences of Global Change.”Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. National Air and Space Association, n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.
  3. “Solar Power Energy Information, Solar Power Energy Facts.”National Geographic. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.

Questions and Answers On CLF’s Supreme Court Filing

Feb 20, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

On February 19, I posted a blog about the fact that CLF had joined with several state consumer advocates and with other environmental organizations to file an amicus curiæ brief in the United States Supreme Court. CLF and the others are urging the Court to hear an appeal from a D.C. Circuit Court ruling about the legal authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to regulate Demand Response (DR) in wholesale electricity markets.

Since that blog was posted, I have received a number of questions from environmental advocates, legislators, and others about the case. Here are some of the most interesting questions, along with answers. (In order to understand what I am discussing here, you will want to read the earlier post first.)

Question: You said that CLF (and others) are asking the Supreme Court to hear this appeal, but that the Supreme Court has discretion whether or not to accept the case. What are the odds that the Supreme Court will hear the case?

Answer: On the one hand, the Supreme Court gets thousands of these petitions for certiorari per year, and hears only about 70-80 cases per year. Overall, the Supreme Court grants certiorari in about 1% of ordinary, routine cases in which it is asked. On the other hand, the Supreme Court grants certiorari in fully 70% of cases where the Solicitor General urges the Court to take a case, and that is what happened in this case (the SG asked). As I indicated in my Feb. 19 blog, the Solicitor General’s petition for certiorari was one of two separate cert. petitions filed the same day, on January 15.

Question: How come there were two different certiorari petitions filed the same day? What does that mean?

Answer: A group of DR providers (including EnerNOC and others) filed one cert. petition, because they would be harmed if the Circuit Court decision were not overturned. The Solicitor General filed a separate cert. petition on behalf of FERC, saying that FERC would be hurt if its legal jurisdiction were improperly constricted by the Circuit Court’s ruling.

In my earlier blog, I linked to both of the cert. petitions filed on January 15. If you read both of them, you will see that they focus on two very different areas.

The first cert. petition, filed by EnerNOC and other DR providers, focuses on the law. Their legal argument is simple. In 2005, Congress amended the Federal Power Act (FPA) to give FERC authority to regulate DR. Thus, the Circuit Court is wrong when it ruled that FERC lacks authority to regulate DR.

In contrast, the Solicitor General’s brief tells the Court why the case is important and why sound public policy supports the Supreme Court hearing the case: if DR is excluded from the wholesale electricity markets, it will cost ratepayers billions of dollars.

And CLF’s brief points out that if DR is excluded from the wholesale electricity markets, it will result in millions of metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions that could have been easily avoided.

Question: Assuming the Supreme Court hears the case, what is the likely outcome?

Answer: The legal argument that the 2005 amendments to the FPA gave FERC jurisdiction over DR is compelling. Also, when it comes to the merits of a case, the track record of the Solicitor General is excellent. During the time that John Roberts has been Chief Justice, the Solicitor General has been on the winning side of 90% of the cases she has been in. (But note that the SG does not participate in every case before the Supreme Court.)

This is one of those cases in which the legal arguments and the public policy arguments really align on the same side. The only parties who will express a contrary view are the owners of dirty, expensive old fossil fuel generating plants, who stand to lose money if DR continues to play a significant role in wholesale power markets.

Question:  Assuming the Supreme Court hears the case, what is the likely timing?

Answer:  The decision about whether or not to hear the case will almost certainly be made during the current Supreme Court term, which ends in late June.  If the Court does grant cert., the case would be heard and decided in the next term, which begins in early October 2015 and runs through late June 2016.

Question: There have been a lot of controversial Supreme Court decisions in which the Supreme Court has divided 5 to 4. Is this likely to be one of those?

Answer: I don’t think so. The issue of FERC authority is not really one that is susceptible to the familiar liberal-conservative divide. The last time the Supreme Court addressed a similar issue of FERC jurisdiction was 2002. That earlier case was New York v. FERC, 535 U.S. 1 (2002). The issue then was very similar to the issue now – whether FERC had jurisdiction to issue its Order 888. The Court ruled in favor of FERC.

Of the nine Justices who were on the Court in 2002, four are still there today: two liberals (Ginsburg and Breyer) and two conservatives (Scalia and Thomas). All four joined those portions of the Court’s opinion that used expansive language to provide a generous, broad reading of FERC authority under the FPA.

If the Supreme Court does take the case (which I believe is likely, but not certain), I would not be surprised if the ruling in favor of FERC were unanimous. The legal issue is not very complicated. And although some of most widely publicized Supreme Court decisions are decided by a 5-4 vote, even now nearly half of all Supreme Court decisions are unanimous. This could be one of those unanimous decisions.

CLF Files Brief in U.S. Supreme Court

Feb 19, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

On February 17, 2015, CLF joined with several state consumer advocates and with other environmental organizations to file an amicus curiæ brief in the United States Supreme Court, urging the Court to accept a case on appeal.  The appeal is from a ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which had ruled that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has no legal jurisdiction (authority) to regulate Demand Response in wholesale electricity markets. You can see the Circuit Court decision here, CLF’s amicus brief here, and a press release about the case here.

In this blog I want to help you understand four things: (1) What Demand Response is; (2) What FERC does to regulate Demand Response; (3) What the Circuit Court ruled (and why it is wrong); and (4) Why all of this really matters.

What is “Demand Response”?

Demand Response (DR) refers to electricity end-use customers reducing their consumption of electricity at certain specific times of peak demand.

Electricity demand varies considerably over different seasons of the year and over different hours of the day. Here in New England, we usually experience peak demand around mid-afternoon on the very hottest days of the year, when everyone has their air conditioners running. Most days of the year (in fact, about 99% of the time), New England needs no more than about 20,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity to meet the needs of all electricity customers. But on those hottest days, peak demand can spike to about 33,000 MW.

This is important because we have to build enough generators and transmission lines to accommodate that peak load, even though it only occurs a few hours every year! This extra capacity is really expensive; it costs billions of dollars, and you pay for that. This extra capacity is also really polluting, because these so-called “peaking” power plants (that are only turned on during times of peak demand) are the dirtiest, most polluting fossil fuel power plants on the system.

DR seeks to lower the cost of electricity and decrease pollution from peaking power plants by reducing electricity load when demand gets unusually high. This can be done in many ways. For example, an individual factory can move a shift of workers from daytime hours to nighttime hours so that its machines will not be running during the day, when electricity demand is highest. DR aggregators can automatically adjust air conditioners at, say, a chain of 500 grocery stores (or drug stores or shopping malls) upward from, say, 69 degrees to, say, 73 degrees, so that those stores use less electricity.

When hundreds (or thousands) of separate electricity users all participate in DR programs like these, electricity demand during peak hours can be significantly reduced. This reduces costs to all ratepayers by eliminating the need to build expensive infrastructure (like power plants and transmission lines) which only get used a few hours a year. DR also reduces costs to all ratepayers because those peaking power plants are the most expensive ones to run (and ratepayers pay a blended average of the cost of producing all electricity).

What Does FERC Do to Regulate Demand Response?

Under the Federal Power Act (FPA), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has authority to regulate all interstate sales of electricity and the interstate wholesale electricity markets. The FPA also gives FERC power to regulate everything “affecting” the electricity markets, and the power to ensure that electricity rates paid by customers are “just and reasonable.”

Over the years, FERC has issued a number of Orders concerning DR. In previous Orders, FERC had encouraged the non-profit ISOs that run most of the wholesale electric markets in the United States to use DR; and, in the past, FERC left it to those ISOs to decide how much to pay those DR providers. Here in New England, our electricity grid is run by ISO-New England; you can read more about what ISOs are, and how they work, here and here.

In March 2011, FERC Issued its Order 745; this instructed all ISOs to pay a certain price for DR. FERC set the price fairly high, because FERC wanted to create an economic incentive for DR to come into wholesale electricity markets.

FERC’s Order 745 was controversial. By creating economic incentives for DR to enter the market, ratepayers stood to save literally (not figuratively) billions of dollars. If DR had not been in the market, ratepayers would unnecessarily have had to pay much more for electricity.  Of course, those billions of additional ratepayer dollars would have flowed directly to electricity generators, mostly fossil-fuel generators. So a group of generators, the Electric Power Supply Association (EPSA), sued FERC, saying that FERC had no legal authority (jurisdiction) to issue Order 745. Such lawsuits against FERC are brought in the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia.

What the Circuit Court Ruled (And Why It is Wrong)

On May 23, 2014, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision. The case is called EPSA v. FERC, 753 F.3d 216 (D.C. Cir. 2014). By a 2-1 vote, the Court of Appeals agreed with the power generators; the Court said that FERC had no legal authority to order the ISOs to pay a certain (relatively generous) amount for DR. The Circuit Court reasoned that the FPA gives FERC jurisdiction over sales of electricity; and “demand response is not a wholesale sale of electricity; in fact, it is not a sale at all.” (753 F.3d at 221.)

The Circuit Court was wrong in two different ways.

First, the FPA gives FERC jurisdiction over all matters that “affect” electricity rates in any way at all. And all 3 Circuit judges agreed that DR affects rates. As even the majority conceded: “We agree with [FERC] that demand response compensation affects the wholesale market.” (753 F.3d at 221.) That alone should have been enough for the Court to rule against the power generators and in favor of FERC.

But there is more: In 2005, recognizing the benefits to ratepayers of DR, Congress amended the FPA and specifically gave FERC jurisdiction to regulate DR. Congress told FERC to issue regulations designed to promote and encourage DR. FERC issued its Order 745 in response to Congress’s instruction – and FERC said so right in the Order (on page 9, in footnote 21).

Why All This Matters

On January 15, 2015, a group of DR providers (that had taken part in the proceedings in the Circuit Court) filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. Technically, that appeal is called a “petition for a writ of certiorari.” What this means is that these companies are asking the Supreme Court to hear their appeal. (This type of appeal is discretionary on the part of the Supreme Court; it can choose to hear the appeal if it wants to do so, but it does not have to do so.) In their papers, the DR providers emphasized the 2005 amendment of the FPA that ordered FERC to promote and encourage DR. On the same day, the Solicitor General of the United States, representing both FERC and the United States, filed his own petition for certiorari. In urging the Supreme Court to hear the appeal, the United States emphasized the public policy benefits of DR.

And, on February 17, 2015, CLF joined with the statutory ratepayer advocates of several states (including Citizens Utility Board of Illinois, Delaware Division of Public Advocate, and the West Virginia Consumer Advocate Division) and with other environmental groups (including Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, and Sierra Club) to file an amicus curiæ brief with the Supreme Court, urging the court to take the appeal.

The ratepayer advocates that signed the petition for certiorari were concerned about the potentially dire financial consequences of removing DR from the market. For example, removing DR for just a single year could increase the price of capacity by more than 100% in the PJM area. (PJM is the ISO that runs the electricity grid for all or parts of 13 states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland.) This would result in added expense to ratepayers of over nine billion dollars – in just a single year, and in just one part of the country!

The environmental groups (like CLF) that signed the petition for certiorari were concerned about the dire environmental consequences of removing DR from the market. As we said in our brief: “Avoiding resort to the 10% most-polluting natural gas-fired power plants avoids millions of metric tons of annual greenhouse gas emissions, plus large quantities of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. Indeed, because peaking plants are frequently built near major population centers, the air pollutants they discharge do disproportionate harm to human health.” (Amicus Brief, at 8-9.)

Summing It Up

There are three different ways we can look at the May 2014 decision of the Circuit Court in EPSA v. FERC, which said that FERC cannot set prices for Demand Response.

  • As a matter of law, the Court is wrong, because in 2005, Congress amended the FPA to specifically give FERC authority over Demand Response.
  • As a matter of money, the Circuit Court decision, if not overturned by the Supreme Court, will cost electricity ratepayers billions of dollars.
  • As an environmental matter, Demand Response is a powerful, proven, effective tool for reducing carbon emissions and other dangerous pollutants.

That’s why CLF is so proud to be a part of this lawsuit as an amicus curiæ.

This Week on TalkingFish.org – February 2-6

Feb 6, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

February 6 – Massachusetts Releases the MA Ocean Management Plan 2.0 – Leading the Nation in Comprehensive Ocean Planning and Management - In early January 2015, Massachusetts issued the 2015 Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan. Major highlights of the revised plan include updates to the plan’s science and data foundation, identification of preliminary offshore renewable energy transmission corridors, establishment of standards for offshore sand and gravel extraction for beach renourishment, and a schedule for ocean development mitigation fees.

February 6 – Fish Talk in the News – Friday, February 6 - In this week’s Fish Talk in the News, NEFMC released public hearing and comment summary documents for the OHA2 DEIS; Maine lawmakers proposed a $3 million bond for researching ocean acidification effects on shellfish; a New Hampshire bill looks to protect local fishermen; Baker administration announces new head of state Fish and Game; Maine DMR is proposing reallocating tribes’ elver quota; Maine manufacturers and environmentalists support a bill to ban microbeads; Red’s Best sustainable seafood will keep the fishing industry afloat; regional fishery management council leaders will meet in DC; ASMFC winter meeting was this week; GARFO released its final five-year strategic plan; the Northeast Regional Planning Body released its monthly update; and USDA is considering new guidelines for organic fish.

CLF’s Top 10 Blog Posts of 2014

Dec 31, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Mapping the Road to a Low-Carbon Future for the Northeast

Dec 23, 2014 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

“All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination.”
–Radio legend Earl Nightingale (1921-1989)

How do we, efficiently and effectively, complete the transition from an energy system rooted in fossil-fuel generation to a much-needed clean energy system for our region? As participants in last week’s Lessons for a Climate & Energy Roadmap 2050 Process for the Northeastern US learned, it takes courage to embark on the collective journey to a low-carbon future, and it helps to bring a map.

Hosted by CLF, CLF Ventures, and The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy’s Center for International Environment & Resource Policy, and sponsored by The Oak Foundation and German Consulate General of Boston, the December 16 event at Tufts University brought together business and government leaders and environmental advocates from the Northeast with their counterparts from Germany and the European Union (EU), Canada, California, and beyond. The goal: explore how the EU’s experience pursuing renewable energy, energy efficiency, and climate protection policies and targets could offer lessons for our region’s clean energy and climate transition.

The Northeast Roadmap 2050 event drew inspiration from the EU Roadmap 2050 process, which convened key stakeholders to shape a shared vision for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the EU at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Here in the northeast US/New England, we have a very similar opportunity. The New England states and New York, along with the Eastern Canadian provinces, have adopted climate goals and mandates that mirror the EU mandate. We have a core of business leaders that can be mobilized, and a number of key energy players here are the same companies that sat at the table for the EU Roadmap 2050 process. Though the questions underlying a similar planning process for the Northeast are simple, the challenges are anything but: Can the leaders of our region articulate the vision of a sane energy transition that leaders and decision-makers in Washington have not? If so, how do we achieve essential buy-in from key regional decision makers, like executives and regulators, to move from a shared vision to an implementable course of action?

During the daylong event, participants joined in person and over videoconference to begin to build a foundation of shared knowledge upon which a Roadmap 2050 process can be built for the Northeast. Among the day’s highlights:

  • Tufts emeritus professor of international environmental policy and lead author on several Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports William Moomaw urged participants to accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources and emphasized that such a transformation is essential.
  • Mike Hogan, Senior Advisor to the Regulatory Assistance Project, shared several key lessons learned from the EU Roadmap 2050 process, including:
    • Derive legitimacy from a very broad base of stakeholder participants, including industry, governments, NGOs, governments, and technical experts.
    • Start from a point of broad consensus about the destination. Participants don’t need to agree on how to get there or even if they can get there, as long as they agree on the destination.
    • Focus on shifting the public narrative about what makes sense and re-defining the “middle ground.”
    • Keep everything on the table and take nothing for granted (except the destination).
    • 90 percent of the success of the Roadmap process is just getting people to sit in the room and stay in the room to work together on the process.
  • Dr. Patrick Graichen, Executive Director of Agora Energiewende, a German energy think tank, and Graham Weale, Chief Economist, RWE AG, a leading European utility, presented insights from Germany’s energy transition (Energiewende) and from the German energy industry, including the key role of wind and solar energy, and the importance of building both supply- and demand-side flexibility and strong market mechanisms into a low-carbon energy system.
  • V. John White, Executive Director, Center for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Technologies, offered insights from the ongoing California 2030 Low Carbon Grid Study. Among the Phase I findings:
    • The importance of balancing California’s energy portfolio both technologically and geographically;
    • The need to modernize California’s currently inefficient gas fleet and use gas differently;
    • The increased role of bulk storage and demand response to shift energy demand to different parts of the day and reduce demand on the overall system;
    • The emerging need for California to take a more regional approach to its energy grid.
  • Michael Jasanis (HotZero, LLC and former CEO of National Grid USA),Phil Giudice, CEO and President of Ambri, and Cindy Arcate, CEO and President of PowerOptions, contributed the perspectives of Northeast utility and energy industry leaders.

From the wide range of opinions and insights shared over the course of the day, participants were left with a sense of urgency to accelerate a clean energy transition for the Northeast as well as many questions that remain to be explored. Next steps? Participants expressed interest in a second, follow-up convening that will likely be planned for early 2015, hosted by an organization that can provide a supportive yet outcome-neutral role in advancing a Northeast Roadmap 2050 stakeholder process. Once the process is underway, the group will develop a framework for the multi-sector analysis and modeling work needed to create a powerful vision that will shape governmental and business decision making and that will be owned by a broad and deep regional stakeholder group.

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