New Jersey Energy Master Plan released

Friday, January 31, 2020

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has released a new Energy Master Plan for the Garden State, presenting strategies supportive of reaching 100 percent clean energy by 2050, along with an executive order requiring further climate change regulations.

On January 27, 2020, Governor Murphy released his Energy Master Plan. The Energy Master Plan defines 100 percent clean energy by 2050 as 100 percent carbon-neutral electricity generation and maximum electrification of the transportation and building sectors, which are the greatest carbon emission producing sectors in the state. It features seven key strategies, including reducing energy consumption and emissions from the transportation sector; accelerating deployment of renewable energy and distributed energy resources; maximizing energy efficiency and conservation, and reducing peak demand; reducing energy consumption and emissions from the building sector; decarbonizing and modernizing New Jersey's energy system; supporting community energy planning and action in underserved communities; and expanding the clean energy innovation economy.

Governor Murphy also signed Executive Order No. 100, directing the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to adopt regulations and take other actions to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. Executive Order No. 100 directs the DEP to adopt, within two years, regulatory reforms to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. Known as Protecting Against Climate Threats or PACT, the regulations include a new greenhouse gas monitoring and reporting program, new regulations under the Air Pollution Control Act establishing criteria to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and short-lived climate pollutants; and revised environmental land use regulations to incorporate climate change considerations into permitting decisions. Governor Murphy described the PACT rules as "the most sweeping set of climate regulations in the country."

ISO-NE says lower-emitting resources supply most regional electricity

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Nearly 99% of the electricity consumed in New England in 2019 came from natural-gas-fired generation, nuclear, other low- or no-emission sources, and imported electricity (mostly hydropower), according to the latest report from regional grid operator ISO New England Inc.

Regional transmission organization ISO-NE operates New England's wholesale electricity markets and manages the region's bulk electric system. According to the grid operator, "Over the past 20 years, New England’s wholesale electricity markets have attracted billions of dollars in private investment in some of the most efficient, lowest-emitting power resources in the country—providing reliable electricity every second of every day, lowering wholesale prices, shifting costly investment risk away from consumers, and reducing carbon emissions."

For 2019, ISO-NE reports that natural-gas-fired power plants produced about 40% of the grid electricity consumed in a year (or "net energy for load"). The grid operator cites "low-cost fuel from domestic shale deposits, advances in technology, and smaller generators that are easier to site" as factors supporting the proliferation of natural gas-fueled power plants in New England over the past 20 years. Another 25% of net energy for load came from nuclear power plants in 2019, followed by renewables other than hydropower at 9.4% of net energy for load, and hydro at 7.4%.

Source: ISO-NE, Resource Mix

Collectively, these low-carbon-emitting resources provided over 99% of the New England region's generation in 2019. An additional 19% of net energy for load was imported from Quebec, New Brunswick and New York over external transmission tie lines, mostly representing hydropower or other low-emitting energy.

Meanwhile, coal provided about 0.4% of net energy for load, and oil provided another 0.1%. As ISO-NE has noted, "Aging coal-fired, oil-fired, and nuclear power plants are closing largely because their fuel and environmental-mitigation costs make them too expensive to effectively compete against natural-gas-fired generators and growing levels of renewable-energy resources that have no fuel costs, low operational costs, and incentives designed to lower their initial capital investments." The grid operator notes that about 7,000 megawatts of generation has retired or announced plans to retire in coming years -- mostly coal, oil and nuclear power plants -- with another 5,000 megawatts of oil- and coal-fired generation at risk.

FERC approves NYISO Aggregation Participation Model

Monday, January 27, 2020

U.S. utility regulators have approved a proposal by the operator of the New York electric grid to establish a new participation model for aggregations of distributed energy resources in the grid operator's markets. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's approval of the Aggregation Participation Model for the New York ISO could expand opportunities for small-scale solar projects and other distributed energy resources to participate in New York's wholesale markets, and represents a model for other regional transmission organizations to consider.

New York Independent System Operator, Inc. (NYISO) operates wholesale markets for electricity in New York and manages the state's electric grid. According to NYISO, prior to its adoption of the Aggregation Participation Model, distributed energy resources had "limited opportunities to participate in the NYISO-administered markets, in large part because many of these facilities are not individually able to meet the eligibility or performance requirements under an existing participation model to participate or to fully participate in its markets."

To better integrate distributed energy resources into the grid, following a stakeholder process, in 2017 NYISO adopted its Distributed Energy Resources Roadmap for New York’s Wholesale Electricity Markets (DER Roadmap) and subsequently a Distributed Energy Resource Market Design Concept Proposal (DER Market Design Proposal). That DER Market Design Proposal formed the basis for a June 27, 2019 tariff filing by NYISO, including language establishing the new Aggregation Participation Model.

Under the Aggregation Participation Model, a market participant or "aggregator" may combine individual facilities, including distributed energy resources, located on the transmission or distribution system as a single "Aggregation" for purposes of participating in the NYISO-administered Energy and Ancillary Services markets and NYISO’s ICAP Market for electric capacity. The model allows an aggregation to include facilities of differing technology types and capacities, so long as they are electrically interconnected at the same transmission node. It also allows "dual participation" in wholesale and retail markets, simultaneously participating in the NYISO-administered markets as well as offering energy and other services to a local distribution utility or to a host load.

On January 23, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued its Order Accepting Tariff Revisions and Directing Compliance Filing and Informational Report. In that order, the Commission found that the Aggregation Participation Model "provides a just and reasonable and not unduly discriminatory framework for Aggregations, including DERs, to participate in the NYISO administered markets." The Commission noted that NYISO’s filing "facilitates the participation of  DERs and other Aggregations of resources in its wholesale markets by enabling heterogenous groups  of technologies to aggregate and be compensated for services that they are collectively capable of providing."

US energy-related carbon emissions expected to decline through 2021

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

U.S. energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide will continue to decrease annually through 2021, according to the latest projection by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

EIA's most recent Short Term Energy Outlook projects that energy-related CO2 emissions will decrease by 2.0% in 2020, and by another 1.5% in 2021. For petroleum-related CO2 emissions, which are dominated by transportation uses as well as heating in New England, EIA projects no change for 2020, with a slight decrease in 2021. These projected declines build on 2019's year-over-year reduction of 2.1%.

EIA's historic data shows volatility in carbon emissions levels. According to EIA, if its short-term forecast is validated, energy-related CO2 emissions will have declined in 7 of the 10 years from 2012 to 2021. The most recent reversal occurred in 2018, when EIA cites weather-related factors as having driven a 2.9% increase.

U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, January 2020.

Over the long term, EIA attributes the declines in CO2 emissions to two trends that reduce the carbon intensity of electric power generation: the replacement of carbon-intensive coal-fired generation with more efficient, lower-carbon natural gas; and increased generation from wind, solar, and other renewable generation. According to EIA data, the share of coal-fired generation fell from 28% in 2018 to 24% in 2019 and will fall further to 21% in 2020 and 2021.

Maine proposals for beneficial electrification of transportation pilot program

Friday, January 17, 2020

Following legislation enacted in 2019, the Maine Public Utilities Commission is evaluating proposals for pilot projects to support the beneficial electrification of the transportation sector.

Last year, the Maine State Legislature enacted An Act To Support Electrification of Certain Technologies for the Benefit of Maine Consumers and Utility Systems and the Environment, P.L. 2019, ch. 365. The Act defined beneficial electrification as "electrification of a technology that results in reduction in the use of a fossil fuel, including electrification of a technology that would otherwise require energy from a fossil fuel, and that provides a benefit to a utility, a ratepayer or the environment, without causing harm to utilities, ratepayers or the environment, by improving the efficiency of the electricity grid or reducing consumer costs or emissions, including carbon emissions." Portions of the Act expand Efficiency Maine Trust's mandate to consider beneficial electrification, and direct the Trust to study barriers to beneficial electrification in the transportation and heating sectors.

Other portions of the Act required the Public Utilities Commission to solicit proposals for pilot programs to support the beneficial electrification of Maine’s transportation sector. The Commission issued its Request for Proposals in August 2019, with responses due in November 2019, and final decisions on proposals expected by March 1, 2020.

According to a procedural order, the Commission received five proposals in response to its solicitation, and posted a public synopsis of each:
  • Proposal 1 seeks "to test the effectiveness of two load management strategies, smart networked EV chargers with default off peak charging and simulated time of use rates." According to the Commission, in a subsequent filing, Efficiency Maine Trust revealed itself as the proponent, but then withdrew the proposal.
  • Proposal 2 involves three initiatives to promote customer engagement and awareness of electric vehicles (EVs) and EV charging infrastructure: instructional materials regarding EV charging; installing Level 2 chargers in workplaces, public places, and multi-unit dwellings, and developing further instructional materials; and public education programs to get buyers comfortable with EVs.
  • Proposal 3 entails a three year (2020-2022), seasonal (June - October) pilot study of the impact of an on-demand, EV shuttle service on the reduction of single-occupancy vehicles and their associated emissions on the Portland peninsula.
  • Proposal 4 is utility-oriented -- it involves investments in electricity delivery and charging infrastructure for new electric vehicle charger installations (to facilitate and gain knowledge about a make-ready program), and a new rate design and a demand charge rebate for electricity delivery for DCFC charging stations.
  • Proposal 5 is also utility-oriented -- the proponent says it would encourage and, if necessary, develop electric delivery infrastructure for public level 2 and 3 charging stations, noting the value of "utility supported development and pilots", while conceding the existence of policy "debate regarding the appropriate role of electric distribution utilities with respect to the deployment and operation of EV charging stations."
The Commission subsequently received a motion filed by a coalition, requesting that the Commission require the bidders to submit public versions of their proposals, redacted only as necessary to protect confidential materials. On January 16, the hearing examiners issued an order partially denying that request, but agreeing "that the public synopsis for Proposal # 4 does not provide sufficient content for meaningful public comment. Similarly, the synopsis for Proposal #5 lacks sufficient description of the bidder’s proposed project to allow for comment."

As a result, the order requires the proponents of Proposals 4 and 5 to resubmit their public synopses by January 22, 2020, to include a detailed description of the projects and programs being proposed, and allows public comment on all proposals through February 5, 2020.

Transportation tops Maine greenhouse gas emissions

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Cars, trucks and other vehicles used for transportation were responsible for most of the greenhouse gas emissions in Maine in 2017, according to a report released by state environmental regulators this week. Maine's transportation sector has emitted more greenhouse gases than any other sector every year for at least two decades, according to state data, and is the only tracked sector whose greenhouse gas emissions have increased since 1990.

A 2003 state law established a series of greenhouse gas reduction goals for Maine. The law set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the state, by 2010, to the levels of emissions recorded for 1990; to reduce emissions to 10% less than 1990 levels by 2020; and in the long term, "reduction sufficient to eliminate any dangerous threat to climate." The 2003 law required the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to issue a report every 2 years on progress toward these goals.

In 2019, the Maine State Legislature enacted An Act To Promote Clean Energy Jobs and To Establish the Maine Climate Council, which replaced these goals with requirements that Maine reduce its gross annual greenhouse gas emissions to at least 45% below the 1990 gross emissions level by 2030, and to at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. The 2019 law requires the Department of Environmental Protection to adopt rules to ensure compliance with these levels, and authorizes the Department of Transportation to adopt similar rules.

On January 13, 2020, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection issued its Eighth Biennial Report on Progress Toward Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals. The report shows that Maine’s electric sector has largely been decarbonized, while transportation and heating remain laggards.

As it has for decades, transportation dominates Maine’s greenhouse gas emissions at 54% of the total, because nearly all vehicles burn gasoline or diesel. Homes are the second-largest emitters, contributing 19% of the total, mostly by burning oil for heating. Commercial businesses (11%) and industrial businesses (9%) contribute relatively smaller shares.

Meanwhile electric power generation contributed just 7% of Maine’s CO2 emissions in 2017 (down from 9% in 2015). As Figure 7 from the Department's report shows -- reproduced below -- no sector has cut its carbon emissions by a greater percentage than the electricity sector, while transportation stands out for its dominant and growing share of emissions.

Figure 7, Maine Department of Environmental Protection Eighth Biennial Report on Progress Toward Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals

The 2019 legislation also created the Maine Climate Council to advise the Governor and state Legislature on ways to mitigate the causes of, prepare for and adapt to the consequences of climate change. Governor Janet Mills also issued an executive order calling for Maine to be carbon neutral by 2045. Achieving these goals will require substantial focus on decarbonizing Maine's transportation sector.

Maine energy legislation in 2020

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Here's a quick look at some of the energy-related legislation coming before the Maine state legislature in 2020:

FERC writes FCC re unlicensed 6 GHz rulemaking

Monday, January 6, 2020

U.S. electricity regulators have written a letter to the chair of the Federal Communications Commission, asking the FCC to consider how its proposed rulemaking regarding the unlicensed use of the 6 GHz spectrum band could affect electric reliability.

The Federal Communications Commission is the primary federal agency charged with implementing and enforcing America’s law and regulations regarding communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. In 2018, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding unlicensed use of the 6 GHz band, proposing rules it said would "promote new opportunities for unlicensed use in portions of the 1200 megahertz of spectrum in the 5.925-7.125 GHz (6 GHz) band while ensuring that licensed services operating in the band continue to thrive."

But as noted in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's December 18, 2019 letter to the FCC, "Many electric utilities use the 6 GHz spectrum band to support their real-time operations, including supervisory control and data acquisition that is used to monitor and control generating units, transmission lines, and substation equipment as well as system protection." The Commission urged the FCC to consider requests from states and utilities for testing of an "Automated Frequency Coordination" system designed to guarantee that unlicensed devices do not interfere with incumbent users.

The FCC unlicensed use of the 6 GHz spectrum band rulemaking proceeding, Docket 18-295, remains pending.