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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

  • Massachusetts utility regulators have opened an inquiry to review the current standards and procedures by which distributed generation projects seek exceptions to the net metering rules and regulations that generally require each facility to be sited on a single parcel of land.  The case could lead to changes in the Department of Public Utilities' Single Parcel Rule and Subdivision Rule.On March 15, 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities issued an order opening an inquiry relating to the... More
  • A task force examining the deployment of emerging technologies across the North American electric grid has identified three imperatives necessary to ensure the continued reliability and efficiency of the bulk electricity system, relating to: renewable supply and integration; greater situational awareness; and controlling an increasingly distributed energy system, with increased deployment of distributed energy resources.The 39-page report, “Emerging Technologies: How ISOs and RTOs can create a more nimble, robust electricity system,” was published on March 16, 2017,... More
  • On January 31, 2017, the Maine Public Utilities Commission adopted revisions to its rule chapter 313, governing net energy billing.  Net metering, or net energy billing, is the metering and billing mechanism that Maine and most other states have adopted to promote the development of solar photovoltaic and other distributed renewable energy facilities.  While the Commission first adopted a net energy billing rule in the early 1980s, its 2017 revisions to that rule reduce the benefits of net metering for... More
  • Yesterday the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management completed a competitive lease sale for renewable wind energy development in federal waters offshore North Carolina.  Avangrid Renewables, LLC won the auction-based sale with a high bid of $9,066,650.  As a result, it has the right to lease 122,045 areas of ocean space in the designated Kitty Hawk Wind Energy Area.The Kitty Hawk Wind Energy Area sits 24 nautical miles from shore, off the northeast coast of North Carolina by the Virginia... More
  • U.S. energy regulators have scheduled a two-day technical conference to consider how state energy policies affect wholesale electricity markets.In a March 3 notice of technical conference, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave public notice that it will hold a technical conference on May 1 and 2, 2017.  The notice describes tensions between competitive wholesale energy and capacity markets and state policies.  On the one hand, the Commission noted, "Competitive wholesale energy and capacity markets bring value to customers by... More
  • A California dam in the midst of a federal relicensing process has experienced flooding and storm-related damage, prompting the evacuation of over 180,000 people.  Evacuation orders and a reservoir drawdown represent the most rapid responses to the Oroville Dam incident -- but future discussions of engineering, dam safety, and public policy are likely to continue after the emergency has been resolved.Oroville Dam is the tallest dam in the U.S.:  a 770-foot high earthfill embankment dam on the Feather River in... More
  • What happens when a storm damages utility transmission towers?  Some consumers in the Teton Village area near Jackson, Wyoming, are facing multi-day power outages as local utility Lower Valley Energy scrambles to restore power safely.Lower Valley Energy is a cooperative serving about 29,000 electricity customers in wesstern Wyoming and southeast Idaho, including the Jackson area.  Its 2015 financial statements describe about $126 million in net utility plant, and operating revenues of about $52 million. The Teton County outage started on the... More
  • Following the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission's adoption last summer of an energy efficiency resource standard, a regulatory board has scheduled a series of workshops to allow public input on how utilities serving the state plan to met the standard over the next three years.On August 2, 2016, the Commission issued its Order No. 25,932, approving a settlement agreement establishing an energy efficiency resource standard or EERS.  The Commission described the EERS ... More
  • The 128th Maine Legislature's first session kicked off last month in Augusta.  Over 2,000 legislative requests or proposed bills were submitted for the 2017 session, most of which will eventually be "printed" or released to the public as bills or "Legislative Documents."  Energy items on this session's docket are expected to include a variety of bills addressing solar energy.  While most of these bills have yet to be printed, energy-related bills that have been printed so far include items related... More
  • The National Park Service has proposed a solar-powered microgrid to replace a power line in a remote area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  If developed, the Mt. Sterling Sustainable Energy Project could serve as an example of microgrids as cost-effective alternatives to transmission or distribution lines.Solar panels on a campground facility inside Arches National Park, Utah.Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located in a rugged area of North Carolina and Tennessee.  Today, NPS radio equipment located at the Mt.... More
  • The regulatory process for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licensing of hydropower projects can take many years and significant expense -- but can it be improved following a two-year pilot process ordered by Congress?  After running a pilot process for one license application, the Commission has scheduled a workshop to discuss lessons learned from its pilot licensing process.Under the Federal Power Act, the Commission is responsible for licensing most non-federal hydropower development in the U.S.  Concerned over the duration and expense... More
  • U.S. plans to auction ocean sites off North Carolina for commercial offshore wind energy development advanced last week, as the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management scheduled a commercial lease sale for the sites for March 16, 2017.  But will the Trump administration continue the Obama administration's offshore wind leasing program?Under federal law, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is charged with leasing sites on the Outer Continental Shelf for fossil fuel or renewable energy development.  To date, BOEM has... More
  • With U.S. President Trump now in office, a look at his "America First Energy Plan" suggests potential directions for his administration.President Trump's energy strategy as posted on the White House website shortly after the inauguration describes energy as "an essential part of American life and a staple of the world economy."  The 7-paragraph document expresses the administration's commitment to policies that reduce consumer costs and "maximize the use of American resources."Some elements of the Trump plan aim to reverse policies... More
  • U.S. energy regulators have issued a policy statement addressing how electric storage resources may provide services at a mix of cost-based and market-based rates.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's January 19, 2017 policy statement on storage provides insight into how the Commission views its role in regulating the rates at which energy storage would be compensated -- but was accompanied by a dissenting view expressed by Commissioner LaFleur.   The result is a mix of both greater certainty and continued debate.Electricity... More
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a document answering "Frequently Asked Questions" about the removal of obsolete dams.  As noted by EPA, dams "provide important societal functions for drinking water supply, flood control, hydropower generation, and recreation."  EPA estimates that the U.S. is home to between 2,000,000 and 2,500,000 dams -- but that between 75% and 90% of these dams "no longer serve a functional purpose."  Given the expense of maintaining dams and their safety, and... More