Maine municipal street lighting inquiry opened

Monday, November 25, 2019

Maine utility regulators have opened an inquiry into issues related to municipal ownership of street lighting. The case could reshape the rights and responsibilities of Maine cities and towns with respect to municipally owned street lighting.

In 2013, the Maine Legislature enacted An Act to Reduce Energy Costs, Increase Energy Efficiency, Promote Electric System Reliability and Protect the Environment. Part E of the Act required that Maine's transmission and distribution (T&D) utilities must provide options to municipalities to purchase street and area lighting from the T&D utilities. In 2015, the Maine Public Utilities Commission issued an order directing the state's two investor-owned T&D utilities to file rate schedules and Terms and Conditions consistent with the law, and directed the utilities to work with a group of municipalities interested in street lighting issues to develop standard form agreements to be used when municipalities choose to purchase street lighting equipment from the utilities.

Earlier this year, utility Central Maine Power Co. proposed revisions to its municipal street lighting terms and conditions. CMP said its intent was to clarify that the maintenance obligations for underground equipment used to feed street lights does not change once a municipality takes ownership of any street lights that are fed by such underground equipment. Various municipalities opposed CMP's proposed revisions. CMP ultimately withdrew its proposed revisions, and asked the Commission to convene a meeting of a working group established by the Commission in 2015.

On November 22, 2019, the Commission issued a Notice of Inquiry into municipal street lighting issues, docketed as 2019-00315. The Commission says the inquiry "will examine issues related to municipal ownership of street lights in both the CMP and Emera Maine territories." The Commission requested comments from municipalities, interested persons, and the utilities on the following topics by Friday, December 13, 2019:
  1. Appropriate responsibilities of the municipalities and the utilities for performing maintenance, and appropriate allocation of associated costs, particularly those applicable to underground equipment;
  2. Street light safety issues, including compliance with safety standards; and
  3. Any other issues the parties would like the Inquiry to address.
Following receipt of comments, the Commission says it will schedule a conference to discuss the issues raised.

FERC accepts ISO-NE Order 841 storage compliance filing

Friday, November 22, 2019

U.S. utility regulators have issued an order largely accepting ISO New England Inc.'s revisions to its electricity market tariff as compliant with Order No. 841, designed to remove barriers to the participation of electric storage resources in the capacity, energy, and ancillary service markets operated by Regional Transmission Organizations and Independent System Operators (RTO/ISO markets).

In 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued its Order No. 841, requiring each organized power market to revise its tariff to establish a "participation model" for electric storage resources in the capacity, energy and ancillary service markets. Order No. 841 requires each market's participation model to include market rules that recognize the physical and operational characteristics of electric storage resources and facilitate their participation in those markets. The Commission later affirmed the rule, through its Order No. 841-A, and in October 2019 issued orders accepting the first round of compliance filings by Southwest Power Pool, Inc. and by PJM Interconnection.

For New England, ISO-NE submitted its proposed compliance filing on Order No. 841 on December 3, 2018, citing preexisting tariff provisions governing markets, services and resources; a number of market rule revisions that ISO-NE and NEPOOL jointly filed on October 10, 2018; and "limited additional Tariff revisions needed for full compliance with Order No. 841" including allowing any qualifying technology type to participate as a Binary Storage Facility, allowing electric storage resources as small as 0.1 megawatts to provide energy, reserves, and regulation; and eliminating the allocation of transmission charges to electric storage resources in certain circumstances.

On November 22, 2019, the Commission accepted ISO-NE’s Compliance Filing, to become effective December 3, 2019, with a limited number of revisions to become effective on December 1, 2019, and January 1, 2024, subject to a further compliance filing.

Maine PUC adopts RPS rule reforms

Friday, November 8, 2019

The Maine Public Utilities Commission has adopted an updated rule governing the state's electric renewable portfolio standards, following the enactment of a law that significantly expanded the renewable mandate.

During its 2019 session, the Maine State Legislature enacted a variety of laws designed to address climate change and promote renewable resources. These laws included a significant expansion of Maine's renewable portfolio standards, which generally require retail electricity suppliers to demonstrate that defined portions of the power they sell came from renewable resources by obtaining credits known as RECs. As amended, Maine law now contemplates four separate renewable portfolio standards -- the preexisting 30% Class II and 10% Class I standards, plus the newly enacted Class IA and thermal standards. The new Class IA requirement increases from 2.5% of retail sales in 2020 to 40% in 2030; the thermal REC mandate increases from 0.4% in 2021 to 4% in 2030.

The law required the Commission to adopt rules implementing the new standards. In August 2019, the Commission issued its notice of rulemaking, proposing to amend its rule Chapter 311 governing the renewable portfolio standards, along with a draft revised rule. After receiving public comment, the Commission deliberated on November 8, 2019 and issued an order adopting the final rule. Issues addressed in the final rule include a process through which most Class I resources may also qualify as Class IA resources, and setting the alternative compliance payment rate at the maximum $50 level.

The 2019 RPS reform law also requires the Commission to conduct a series of solicitations to procure long-term contracts for an annual amount of energy or RECs from Class IA resources equal to 14% of Maine’s annual retail electricity sales, with contracts from the first procurement round to be approved no later than December 31, 2020. Separately, the Legislature also enacted laws expanding net metering and creating utility procurement programs for distributed generation.

U.S. withdrawal from Paris Agreement climate treaty

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Following up on President Trump's 2017 statement that the United States would withdraw from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, this week the U.S. began the formal process of withdrawal from the international climate accord.

On December 12, 2015, the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted Decision 1/CP.21, adopting the Paris Agreement under that convention. The Paris Agreement requires all signatory nations "to undertake and communicate ambitious efforts" as "nationally determined contributions to the global response to climate change." In 2016, the United States and other nations signed the agreement and became parties, for a total of 195 signatory nations as of mid-2017.

But on June 1, 2017, U.S. President Donald J. Trump announced that the country would withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Under Article 28 of the Paris Agreement, a signatory may withdraw from the agreement one year after sending a withdrawal notification to the depositary, but can only give notice at least three years after joining. On August 4, 2019, the U.S. representative to the United Nations gave official notice that "that the United States intends to exercise its right to withdraw from the Agreement... as soon as it is eligible to do so."

This withdrawal process formally began on November 4, 2019, with an official notice that withdrawal shall take effect for the United States of America on November 4, 2020, the earliest date possible for withdrawal under the Agreement.

As described in a contemporaneous press statement from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, "On the U.S. Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement", "President Trump made the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because of the unfair economic burden imposed on American workers, businesses, and taxpayers by U.S. pledges made under the Agreement.  The United States has reduced all types of emissions, even as we grow our economy and ensure our citizens’ access to affordable energy.  Our results speak for themselves:  U.S. emissions of criteria air pollutants that impact human health and the environment declined by 74% between 1970 and 2018.  U.S. net greenhouse gas emissions dropped 13% from 2005-2017, even as our economy grew over 19 percent."