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Energy Policy Update Blog

Energy powers society; society's choices shape energy policy. This blog is about our energy resources and the choices they present for society.

Recent Blog Posts

  • The U.S. National Park Service has adopted a final rule updating its regulations governing the exercise of non-federal oil and gas rights. The NPS states that the rule improves its ability to protect park resources, values, and visitors from potential impacts associated with nonfederal oil and gas operations located within National Park Service units outside Alaska. At issue are non-federal oil and gas rights within national park system units.  According to the NPS, these arise... More
  • As Maine utility regulators consider changes to the state’s net metering rule for solar panels and other customer-owned generation, revisions proposed by the Public Utilities Commission could change how consumers can participate in community and shared ownership solar projects.For years, the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s rules have allowed “net energy billing,” a metering and billing mechanism that promotes the development and operation of smaller renewable generation facilities. Net metering is responsible for nearly all customer-owned solar power projects developed... More
  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's enforcement program has shown consistency in recent years, according to a presentation by Office of Enforcement staff to the Commissioners.  On November 17, 2016, the Commission's Office of Enforcement released its 2016 Report on Enforcement.  This report, along with a presentation and two related white papers, provides insight into Commission staff’s views as well as emerging trends related to manipulation of FERC-jurisdictional markets.Federal law charges the Commission with enforcing a variety of laws and... More
  • As Maine utility regulators consider how drought and other factors affect water utility supplies, staff at the Maine Public Utilities Commission have again requested comments and information on water supply emergencies and regulatory responses.  The feedback will inform a preliminary staff recommendation to be released in January 2017, which could lead to changes in how Maine regulates water utility supplies.Drought and water shortage are affecting parts of the U.S., including much of New England.  In October, the Maine Public Utilities... More
  • U.S. hydropower regulators have requested public comments on whether to revise a policy setting the length of license terms for hydroelectric projects.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's notice of inquiry could lead to changes in how the Commission sets license terms.Under Section 6 of the Federal Power Act, the Commission may issue hydropower licenses for a term not to exceed 50 years.  Original licenses have no minimum license term.  Section 15(e) of the Federal Power Act provides that any new... More
  • What happens when a FERC hydropower licensee applies for a preliminary permit to study the feasibility of developing a micro-hydro project, where the new project will be sited at an existing project's dam?  In a recent case involving the city of Aspen, Colorado, Commission staff dismissed the preliminary permit application, instead suggesting that the licensee apply to amend its existing license to include the proposed new capacity and facilities.  Because many other existing dams may be candidates for the installation... More
  • The federal Bureau of Land Management has issued a final rule establishing a competitive process for leasing federal lands for renewable energy development.  The Obama administration describes the rule as strengthening the agency's existing "Smart from the Start" leasing program, consistent with the president's Climate Action Plan.  But following the 2016 election, the future Trump administration could change the agency's course.Part of the Department of the Interior, the BLM manages federal lands across the U.S.  While BLM lands have been... More
  • A Canadian tidal power developer has installed a turbine at a test site in the Bay of Fundy. Cape Sharp Tidal's project off Nova Scotia could demonstrate the feasibility of larger-scale marine hydrokinetic power plants connected to the mainland electricity grid.Cape Sharp Tidal is a joint venture between Canadian utility Emera Inc. and marine turbine manufacturer OpenHydro.  Its project entails a grid-connected 4-megawatt array consisting of two tidal turbines.  The project is located at the Fundy Ocean Research Center for... More
  • U.S. federal highway administrators have announced the designation of 55 routes as "alternative fuel" corridors, capable of accommodating electric vehicles or those powered by hydrogen, propane, or natural gas.  The announcement sets the stage for further federal action supporting alternative transportation fuels.An electric vehicle charging station, in an underground parking garage in Boston.The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) oversees construction and maintenance of the nation's highways, bridges, and tunnels.  FHWA data suggests U.S. drivers travel over 3.15... More
  • The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has issued a Final Sale Notice, setting December 15 as the date for auctioning the right to lease sites in federal waters off New York for commercial offshore wind development.The U.S. federal government is pursuing a national strategy to facilitate the domestic development of offshore wind energy.  Under federal law, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is responsible for administering renewable energy project development on the offshore Outer Continental Shelf.  The strategy calls for... More
  • The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources is developing a new solar incentive program.  DOER released its proposal for the next generation of solar incentives on September 23, 2016.  The 2016 legislation, An Act Relative to Solar Energy, included an extension and expansion of net metering, a policy which has supported the development of most solar projects in Massachusetts to date.  But because the state's solar renewable energy certificate (SREC) program is reaching its end, the recent law also directed the... More
  • New Hampshire utility regulators have issued an order conditionally authorizing Northern Pass Transmission LLC to operate as a public utility, with respect to its proposed 192-mile, high-voltage electric transmission line from Canada into New Hampshire.  The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission's Order No. 25,953 approves a settlement agreement between the transmission line developer and Commission staff.  Among its conditions are requirements that NPT obtain all necessary permits, contribute $20 million over 10 years to support energy efficiency and clean... More
  • A task force has released its report on the safety of underground natural gas storage, following the Aliso Canyon leak in California.  The Interagency Task Force on Natural Gas Storage Safety was formed by Congress and the Obama administration to analyze what happened at Aliso Canyon and to recommend actions to reduce the likelihood of future leaks from underground natural gas storage facilities. Its final report, "Ensuring Safe and Reliable Underground Natural Gas Storage," presents the task force's findings.Natural gas... More
  • Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed an executive order last month setting a comprehensive approach to climate change.  Executive Order No. 569, Establishing An Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth, directs state agencies to take a portfolio of actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect against the impacts of climate change, and improve resilience.The order opens with acknowledgements that climate change and associated extreme weather events present serious threats.  It also notes the state's Global Warming Solutions Act, and the... More
  • All Canadian jurisdictions will have put a price on carbon pollution by 2018, according to a speech earlier this month by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The federal government's "pan-Canadian approach" sets a nationwide benchmark, while giving provinces flexibility to choose a cap-and-trade system or a direct price on carbon pollution.On October 3, Prime Minister Trudeau announced the approach.  He proposed a minimum pricing of $10 per tonne in 2018, rising by $10 each year to $50 per tonne... More