Debates Raise Net-Zero & Climate Action Questions  - Here's what the Industry has been doing in the Northeast

Posted by Ed Burke on Oct 23, 2020 12:20:03 PM

shutterstock_1797460684

With the Oil Industry, Climate Change, and emissions top of mind after last night's Presidential Debates, we thought it was a good time to review what Massachusetts, New England, and specifically, the Oil Industry in the Northeast have been doing on emissions and climate change recently. 

The Local Industry: In September 2019, the Northeast's heating oil sector voted unanimously at the NEFI energy conference to establish a goal of Net Zero GHG emissions by 2050 (drooping 15% by 2023, 40% by 2030, Net Zero by 2050). You can read the details of the the unanimous motion here: The Road to Net Zero Starts Here 

Beyond specific carbon level moves, the New England & Northeast region has been ahead of the game for decades on promoting biofuels and renewable energy projects. This is a great snapshot of regional Biofuel and renewable energy standards by state in the region: Biofuel & Electrification at a Glance

Massachusetts & the City of Boston were some of the earliest and most ardent adopters of biodiesel and other clean energy options, including sulfur limits in diesel fuel & heating oil. New York moved first to ultra low sulfur diesel regionally, and New York City adopted biofuels very early on.

Regionally though, all of the Northeast states have been working diligently on doing what they can to adopt more renewable and environmentally friendly options from regional food waste to fuel recycling, to major solar projects, to geothermal microzones, to making Crude from wood in Maine.

 

Massachusetts: In April 2020, the Baker-Polito Administration issued a formal determination letter that officially set the legal limit for emissions at net zero for 2050. The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) official statement is:

"A level of statewide greenhouse gas emissions that is equal in quantity to the amount of carbon dioxide or its equivalent that is removed from the atmosphere and stored annually by, or attributable to, the Commonwealth; provided, however, that in no event shall the level of emissions be greater than a level that is 85 percent below the 1990 level". 

In other words, not only net-zero on emissions but emissions overall (captured or not) need to stay below previously established levels. 

The net zero target was initially announced in January 2018 at Baker's State of the Commonwealth address. The way the State achieves the goal for 2050 will be laid out in the "2050 Roadmap", and the roadmap will also be used to set interim emission limits for 2030, and those limits will be officially laid out in the "Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2030". You can follow updates to the plan at mass.gov here: MA Decarbonization Roadmap

In addition to the newer net zero goals, Massachusetts has been on the leading edge of climate and emissions reduction goals for decades - for a refresher:

Massachusetts Green Communities -  Communities can compete for grants to support energy efficiency & renewable projects in the Commonwealth. This includes ventilation system upgrades, heating system conversions, electric vehicles, insulation projects, etc. 

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative & Transportation Climate Inititatives - regional incentivized emission reduction

Heres an overall recap on what the state accomplished for 2018 on Clean Energy: Massachusetts Pushes Clean Energy Forward in 2018

Overall: There is much work to be done on climate, and serious questions need to develop into serious policy based answers going forward.

One can only hope that we see some movement on climate initiatives in some form in the next 4 years that moves the needle while balancing the serious economic concerns of businesses and consumers, regardless of what the winning Administration looks like. 

We're glad to work in a region that is putting the work in to make changes while attempting to maintain that balance.

 

 

 

Read More

Topics: Massachusetts, climate change, renewable energy, maine

What's the TCI & how does it work?

Posted by Ed Burke on Mar 4, 2020 3:06:31 PM

Carbon

You may have been hearing about the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) on the news recently - in particular, you have probably been hearing about the implications the TCI would have on the gas tax. (That goes double for those of you in Massachusetts, where gas taxes were a major point of contention in the prior few election cycles)

The TCI is a cap-and-trade system for incentivizing development of fuel efficient technologies, while simultaneously putting a "cap" on emissions and a price on carbon offsets to reach those caps, where needed. 

So if it goes into effect, what happens? What you have probably mostly heard about is that depending on which option the TCI takes officially (25%, 22.5%, or 20% reduction in emissions by 2032) the gas tax you pay at the pump would go up 5, 9, or 17 cents per gallon (estimated). 

But there is a lot more to the program and it's goals than just an at the pump tax, in fact, that's not even the main part of the program. The main portion of the Initiative is the emissions cap and the corollary carbon allowances that would be required for transportation companies to offset their fuel's carbon dioxide production. Carbon allowances can be both auctioned and traded, and money from their sales would go to member states for further transportation emission reduction measures. 

There is a lot involved in the program, some of which is relatively complex. I wrote an article for Oil & Energy Magazine this past month that runs through the basic framework of the program, what the estimated goals are for both emission reductions and revenue generation, and what impacts are projected for consumers.

You can read that article here: TCI: What's Under the Hood?

Read More

Topics: Massachusetts, climate change, carbon emissions, TCI

Massachusetts Retires Last Nuclear Power Plant

Posted by Ed Burke on Jun 25, 2019 11:33:00 AM

Pilgrim Power

May 31st 2019, the Pilgrim Nuclear Power station in Plymouth, MA shut down for the last time. Now the lengthy process to fully decommission the plant and return the site to its former condition begins. 

Pilgrim has been operational for 47 years, producing approximately 15% of the State's energy needs through nuclear power generation. The loss of power generation from the Pilgrim closure should be offset by increases from new plants, as well as a continued decline in demand, particularly during peak periods. The forecast for this years usage for example, is down 600 megawatts as compared to the prior year. 

Not everyone is on board with seeing the Pilgrim closure as a positive though. Nuclear is a reliable, zero emission power source, and market conditions mean new nuclear plants are unlikely, so the shuttering of existing plants versus running repairs and safety/regulatory upgrades essentially means Massachusetts is most likely permanently out of nuclear power generation. 

I wrote an article for Oil & Energy magazine detailing some of the cited impacts the closure will have, the decommissioning timeline, regulatory concerns, and concerns about withdrawing from nuclear in general.

You can read that article here: Massachusetts' Only Nuclear Power Plant is Retired  

Read More

Topics: Massachusetts, power plant emissions, Clean Energy

Massachusetts Pushes Clean Energy forward in 2018

Posted by Ed Burke on Oct 17, 2018 10:59:00 AM

2016-01-20_18-21-41

2018 has been a busy and effective year for Massachusetts' quest to advance Clean Energy within the State. Here are some highlights:

  • Massachusetts surpassed 2,000 megawatts of installed solar capacity throughout the state (78,646 projects), almost half of which was installed in just the past two years. 
  • Residential energy storage increases accounted for 72% of all megawatt hours in the 2nd quarter. 
  • Community Solar projects have been gaining traction - these programs let people subscribe to solar farms and receive credits based on their share of the solar energy generated. 
  • The SMART (Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target) incentive program is now active, and is expected to generate 1,600 megawatt hours of new solar.
  • The Clean Energy Bill was signed into law by Governor Baker in August. The bill is a compromise measure that raises the renewable portfolio standard, imposes a minimum percentage of clean energy required for peak demand usage, and increases energy storage goals and requirements. 
  • SJC ruled in September that the state can enforce the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions related in a 2008 law. 

I wrote an article for Oil & Energy Magazine that gets further into detail on the SJC ruling, Clean Energy Bill, the advancements in energy storage, and changes in Solar Energy regulations. If you would like to get a more thorough picture of where Massachusetts is at the end of 2018 and what the next few years are looking like, you can read that article here:

Massachusetts Accelerates Clean Energy Agenda

 

 

Read More

Topics: Massachusetts, Clean Energy

Energy in the News - Are Utility Rate Reductions Really A Positive?

Posted by Ed Burke on Aug 8, 2013 1:09:00 PM

This week a Federal Judge ruled that New England utility companies guaranteed profit rates are too high at their current rate of 11.1% and advised they be dropped to 9.7%. According to boston.com, this is projected to save electricity customers in Massachusetts approximately 50 million dollars a year (out of 115 million for New England as a whole).  

You can read the Boston.com article here: Federal Judge Rules that Utility Profits Too High

However, utilities argue that these levels of return are necessary to make transmission improvements to avoid issues like those we experienced in New England in 2011. It was only about 2 years ago that Massachusetts and the New England region suffered huge, extended power outages from a couple brutal storms.  Additionally after Hurricane Sandy and events like it, we all seem to agree that there’s improvements needed in electric transmission and supply – and in fairness, utilities have projected huge spending on these projects in the coming years.  

An important point to remember also is the monumental, round the clock work utilities put in in emergencies like Sandy, tirelessly working to restore power to impacted areas. Our work in Emergency Fueling & Response has let us see that first hand and let me assure you, these people are unbelievably great in times of crisis. In theory these transmission upgrades should mean that in times of crisis, the outages will be a lot more manageable which should be a positive for just about everyone. 

The Edison Energy Group, according to Boston.com has stated that investor-owned utilities will spend over 26 Billion on transmission improvement projects in2014 & 2015, and Massachusetts alone is expected to see 67 million dollars in improvements by 2017. That’s a pretty impressive level of investment and utilities argue those dollars come from their ability to project profit levels based on the guaranteed rates in question.

On the flip side however, Massachusetts has some of the highest electrical rates in the country, along with Connecticut and other New England States. According to the US Energy Information Administration. You can see the chart of rates here: EIA.gov 

Additionally, one of the regions’ major utility parent companies reported earnings 33% higher than in 2012. The year before that saw some controversy over bonuses paid out to utility executives, which seems to have been what spurned the case for lowered rates started two years ago by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office.

Massachusetts consumers won’t see too much of an impact on their personal home bills, but businesses could benefit greatly from lowered costs. However, is there a potentially disastrous cost in the future without the transmission updates utilities say can only occur at the higher percentages?

What do you think?

Is this a good ruling or one that may seem “penny wise and pound foolish” in the event of another major storm impacting the area?

Read More

Topics: EIA, Hurricane Sandy, Utility Rates, Emergency Fuel, Massachusetts

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all