ESG & Industry Updates

Boston Based "Farm to Grid" Renewable Energy Pioneer Acquired

Posted by Kelly Burke on Jul 21, 2022 8:45:00 AM

Boston based Vanguard Renewables, a pioneer in the food & dairy industry waste-to-energy space has been acquired by BlackRock for $700 million dollars, with a plan to invest up to an additional billion dollars in the company’s expansion, according to the Wall Street Journal this morning. The expansion plan reportedly focuses on commissioning up to 100 anaerobic digesters for renewable natural gas production across the United States by 2026.

We’ve written about Vanguard’s projects in MA before, so this expansion is particularly exciting, and obviously timely with the push toward renewable natural gas we are seeing in the marketplace.

As a refresher, agricultural and food waste has been a continual issue in terms of both disposal, generated methane emissions, and waste forever. As part of the effort to address that, in 2014 Massachusetts  banned disposal of commercial organic waste by businesses that produce more than a ton of organic waste per week. Organic waste was the second largest contribution to landfills in the State before 2014 and the ban served to divert that waste. But the problem became, well, divert it to where?

The solution that arose in the form of anerobic digesters is genius and has the potential to have a transformative effect on both natural gas production and the impact of the agricultural sector on climate. As a sector of the economy, agriculture contributes 11% of total carbon emissions, not including land use and other factors, according to the EPA. 

carbon emissions EPA

Anaerobic digesters take the methane and other emissions from organic waste (chiefly cow manure, but also food waste) and transform it into renewable energy. The process as a whole serves to divert food and animal waste, reduce odor, capture methane emissions, and produces organic fertilizer which lowers chemical usage. Additionally, the energy farmers produce can be sold back to the grid. It’s a pretty perfect sytem. Extrapolated outward across multiple states, its pretty clear implementing this process would have relatively immediate and tangible impacts.

Anaerobic Digester Chart

 

For more information on how the digester process works (and a focus on the MA site), read this article from Oil & Energy: Farm to Grid 

For a more in depth look at the process and Vanguard’s currently operational projects in Massachusetts, check out their website: Vanguard Renewables

 

 

 

 

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Topics: Massachusetts, methane, carbon emissions, renewable energy, renewable natural gas

Offshore Wind Breathes New Life into Old Coal Facility in MA

Posted by Kelly Burke on Mar 25, 2022 10:45:00 AM

Brayton Point in Somerset was once the largest coal-fired plant in Massachusetts, and was the last to be decommissioned in 2017.

The plan for the site has been to develop it into Massachusetts' first major offshore wind manufacturing facility, as an integral part of the Commonwealth's approach to its renewable energy portfolio. 

This February, Governor Baker and State Officials announced that a 47 acre parcel of the property would be sold to Prysmian Group, who will manufacture high tech subsea transmission cables on the site that will be used to  bring offshore wind generated electricity back on site and into the grid. 

Prysmian is looking to invest up to $300 million dollars in the Brayton Point facility, and would create a projected 250 high paying jobs on site. Part of the enticement to the project for Prysmian was assurance from Avangrid Renewables that the manufactured cables would be used for the Commonwealth Wind projects, as well as the parallel project in Connecticut (Park City Wind). Avangrid is also the joint partner with Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners on the Vineyard Wind Project. 

Vineyard Wind (off Martha's Vineyard) is set to be the first large-scale offshore wind project in the country. Approved by the Biden Administration last year, the Vineyard Wind project will consist of up to 84 wind turbines and expected to produce 800 megawatts of power, or enough to power 400,000 homes. 

Back to Brayton Point - Mayflower Wind (also off Martha's Vineyard) will generate 400 megawatts, and feed into the Brayton Point site.  Mayflower will also be building a converter station at Brayton Point to facilitate movement of wind generated electricity into the grid. Mayflower also has said its proposal includes $42 million additional dollars in on-shore development and have proposed establishing an operations and maintenance facility at a former industrial site in Fall River and plan to utilize a Somerset based company for a crew transfer vessel for employees as well.  

This investment on local infrastructure and the tax revenue that involved facilities will generate, not to mention the creation of plentiful higher paying jobs for the area is a huge positive for Southeastern MA, an area that has been impacted over the decades by phase outs of manufacturing and changes in the fishing industries that were once the lifeblood of the area.  

Overall, Massachusetts looks poised to really be in the lead when it comes to offshore wind generation as we watch multiple projects come together. As the Governor said at the gathering in February "One of the biggest challenges we will all face as we go forward from here is figuring out how to get the generation where it needs to go" - that is a problem that the development of Brayton Point seeks to help alleviate. 

I wrote an article for the March issue of Oil & Energy Magazine on the Brayton Point site redevelopment, you can read that article in its entirety here: Revisiting Brayton Point: Offshore Wind Brings New Life to Closed Coal Site 

 

(Below: Brayton Point Currently (left), and to the right, a rendering of the proposed redevelopment)

Brayton Point  - PowerBrayton Point - Rendering

 

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Topics: Massachusetts, climate change, Clean Energy, offshore wind

Oh Truck No! Three Northeast States Adopt Zero Emission Vehicle Rules

Posted by Kelly Burke on Mar 23, 2022 10:31:17 AM

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The Advanced Clean Truck Rule, first adopted in California, has been adopted by three Northeastern States as well - namely, Massachusetts, New York & New Jersey. The rule requires an increasing percentage of medium & heavy duty trucks sold to be Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV), beginning in 2025. The Act requires manufacturers to participate in a credit/deficit program to increase the number of ZEVs sold in the state, and a one time report detailing in-state operation of vehicles over 8500lb to "inform future decisions about emission reductions from the transportation sector". 

Despite being a relatively small percentage of the total vehicles in the United States, medium and heavy duty trucks contribute an estimated 60% of tailpipe nitrogen and particle emissions. So far, California, NY, MA, NJ and Oregon have adopted the rule (Maine is expected to sign on later in 2022) and all combined their fleets constitute about 20% of the total vehicle class, so their adoption of the regulations is expected to have a major and relatively immediate impact. In New Jersey, their transportation sector is responsible for 40% of emissions and despite impacted vehicles (buses, trucks) only making up about 40% of their total number, they're responsible for 25% of transport related emissions. Massachusetts by 2050 expects to see a 51% reduction in nitrous oxide, 23% in particulate matter emissions, and 53% GHG emissions drops as a result of adopting this measure. If you extrapolate these expectations out, the impact of this rule's adaptation should be very significant.  

Of added significance is, as discussed with regard to current Administration concerns about environmental justice, the Advanced Clean Truck Rule is expected to be especially beneficial to historically impacted communities, as heavy transportation and its resultant particulate emissions disproportionately impact urban communities, including communities of color. The steep reduction in GHG and particulates expected from ZEV adaption will have the greatest impact where those emissions are currently concentrated most heavily. 

The rule is in effect pre point of sale, so it impacts manufacturers of these medium & heavy duty trucks. It's a little unclear yet how timelines, if any become put in place, would work for existent fleets - one can only assume that the one time reporting rule included in the ACT adoption will be used to address that question down the line. It's also unclear what exactly the mix of ZEV looks like, and how the timeline on the rules impact will impact sales cycles and equipment turnover going forward, and what impact that will have on fleets, fleet operators, and end level consumers. 

I wrote an article for Oil & Energy Magazine's Jan/Feb issue on the specifics of the rule and how it breaks out by each state that has adopted thus far in the Northeast. You can read that article in its entirety here: Oh Truck No! Three Northeast States Adopt Zero-Emission Vehicle Rule 

 

 

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Topics: Massachusetts, climate change, carbon emissions, emissons, environmental justice

Biden's Offshore Wind Plan Bolsters NE Clean Energy Goals

Posted by Kelly Burke on Jul 22, 2021 11:11:53 AM

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The Biden Administation has the ambitious goal of bringing 30 gigawatts of offshore wind online by 2030, and 1.4 of those gigawatts are slated to come from the New England coast. 

The move toward more offshore wind is part of the goal of reducing US carbon emissions in half by 2030, a goal that dovetails nicely with goals set by the New England region's member states on climate action. ISO New England's 2021 outlook report released in April outlines some of the anticipated advances, including both the 1.4 gigawatts of offshore wind, 3.5 gigawatts of solar power, and 800 transmission project to connect clean energy projects by 2030. 

All of the New England region's states have set specific carbon goals that line up with (or exceed in some cases) the Federal Government's goals.  These include:

  • Connecticut: zero-carbon electricity by 2040
  • Maine: Carbon Neutral by 2045
  • Massachusetts: 80% renewable energy by 2050 (more details on MA here: MA Climate Change & Environmental Justice Bill)
  • New Hampshire: 25% renewable energy by 2025 (no specific zero carbon goal outlined)
  • Vermont: 90% renewable energy by 2050
  • Rhode Island: zero-carbon electricity by 2050 

On the wind front specifically, Rhode Island is the only New England state with a currently operational wind farm, but the Vineyard Wind Project set to bring offshore wind online in Massachusetts received federal approval in March, and is projected, upon completion, bring 800 megawatts of power to businesses and homes throughout the state. 

I wrote an article for Oil & Energy Magazine detailing some more of the specific goals for the Wind push - you can read it in its entirety here:  Wind Ho! Biden's Offshore Wind Plan Bolster's New England's Clean Energy Goals 

 


 

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Topics: Massachusetts, carbon emissions, renewable energy, Clean Energy, offshore wind

MA Passes Landmark Climate Change & Environmental Justice Bill

Posted by Kelly Burke on Apr 1, 2021 3:07:36 PM

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Friday, March 23rd, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law Senate Bill 9 "An Act Creating a Next Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Change Policy" that includes provisions described as "some of the most aggressive greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets in the country"

The ultimate goal of the bill is for Massachusetts to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and includes 5 year sublimit goals to that end for impacted sectors (transportation, buildings, etc).

The bill also serves to codify Environmental Justice provisions into Massachusetts law, to both define disparately impacted communities, and provide new tools and protections for those communities going forward. As part of the Environmental Justice approach, $12 million in annual funding was established for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to create a pathway to clean energy for environmental justice communities, minority and women owned businesses and fossil fuel industry workers. 

The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) is additionally required to balance equity and accessibility as part of their decision making process regarding regulations in addition to safety, system security, and emissions reductions. Lastly, the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) is expanded to require environmental impact studies for all projects that impact air quality within a mile of Environmental Justice Neighborhoods and evaluate not just the proposed project's impact but the cumulative impact to the area of projects over time. 

Other major takeaways from the bill:

  • Utilities - first-time greenhouse gas emissions standard for municipal lighting plants, requiring 50% non-emitting electricity by 2030, 75 percent by 2040 and net-zero by 2050.
  • Solar - The bill prioritizes equitable solar program access for low-income neighborhoods. It also provides solar incentives for businesses by exempting them from net metering cap so they can set solar up on business properties to offset electric usage (and cost).
  • Wind - utilities will be required to buy an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind 
  • Natural Gas - Enhanced pipeline safety goals that require adopting provisions including increased fines for safety violations, and enhanced training/certification requirements for utility contractors. Also sets targets for leak reduction along pipelines. 
  • Technology & Other Related Items: Senate Bill 9 also sets benchmarks for clean energy technology - electric vehicles, EV charging stations, anaerobic digesters, solar technology, and energy storage technology. Additionally, on the consumer side there are new regulations set for appliance energy efficiency. 

Obviously, the bill is very comprehensive and there are a lot of details and policy changes involved, some of which we won't know the exact implications of until new projects that are under its scope start rolling out. You can read more on the exact provisions at the Mass.gov website if you are interested in digging into the details, starting with the official press release here: Governor Baker Signs Climate Legislation to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Protect Environmental Justice Communities

 

 

 


 

 

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Topics: EV Charger, Massachusetts, climate change, carbon emissions, renewable energy, environmental justice

MA refiles Vetoed Climate Change Bill, This Time with Potential Veto Proof Margin

Posted by Kelly Burke on Jan 22, 2021 1:58:54 PM

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Last week Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker vetoed a bill that committed Massachusetts to reducing carbon emissions to 85% of 1990 levels over the next 3 decades, with the goal being a 100% reduction versus 1990 levels. Included as well are interim 5 year goals, one of which is a 50% reduction by 2030. The ultimate goal of the bill is requiring Massachusetts to become carbon neutral by 2050 - which is a goal Baker has publicly endorsed throughout his tenure.

The issue with the particular bill seems to have been a lack of time for amendments, and concern that by allowing cities and towns to declare their own goals (i.e. similar to the "no new carbon based power/heat" rule in Brookline previously -  this rule was ultimately struck down) it could delay some of the housing access goals set previously by both the Administration and the legislature. 

The other major sticking point is the bill would require more off shore wind production to meet stated goals... and as we know, contention about offshore wind farms is a standing headline in MA, particularly along the Cape & Islands. 

This Monday, the MA legislature refiled the bill and it appears as though this time around, they may have a veto-proof majority. It's unclear whether amendments suggested will be considered prior to voting, and no vote has been scheduled as of this morning - so this is definitely one to watch. 

For more specifics on the bill, and its refiling this week in the MA legislature you can follow the developing story on WBUR here: State Legislature Files Climate Bill, Again 

 

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Topics: Massachusetts, carbon emissions

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

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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.

 

 

 

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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?

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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  

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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

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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

 

 

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Topics: Massachusetts, Clean Energy

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