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. 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
  • The governments of the United States and Canada have released a joint strategy for ensuring the security and resilience of their electric grid.  In recognition of the interconnected nature of the North American electric grid, the document, "Joint United States-Canada Electric Grid Security and Resilience Strategy," describes the nations' shared goals and objectives.  An action plan released alongside the strategy presents U.S. steps and milestones toward achieving the strategy's desired outcomes.The joint strategy centers on a vision of "a secure... More
  • New England should have sufficient electricity supplies to meet consumer demand this winter, according to regional power grid operator ISO New England, Inc.  But because natural gas pipeline constraints could limit electricity production, the grid operator has implemented a Winter Reliability Program to help ensure supply meets demand.ISO-NE is the regional transmission organization responsible for most of New England's electric grid.  In that role, it forecasts electricity demand, and operates markets to match up generation with demand.On December 5, 2016,... More
  • New York utility regulators have launched consideration of reforms to how retail electricity suppliers called energy service companies or ESCOs operate in that state.  A December 2, 2016 notice issued by the New York Department of Public Service describes a history of "substantial overcharges and deceptive practices by the ESCO industry harming New York consumers," and establishes a process to "push ahead with reforms to ensure that ESCOs provide useful, value-added, economical services to New York consumers."  New York's ESCO... More
  • Maryland moves closer to offshore wind development, as the state Public Service Commission reviews two applications for offshore wind projects.The Maryland Offshore Energy Act of 2013 contains a number of provisions that would benefit a “qualified offshore wind project” that is located on the outer continental shelf, between 10 and 30 miles off the Maryland coast, in an area that is designated for leasing by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management within the U.S. Department of... More
  • Enforcement staff at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have released a white paper presenting their view of effective practices to ensure energy trading complies with prohibitions against market manipulation. The November 2016 document, “Staff White Paper On Effective Energy Trading Compliance Practices,” provides examples of compliance practices that Office of Enforcement staff have found effective in detecting and deterring market manipulation – as well as examples of ineffective compliance practices. Staff’s identification of these best practices and pitfalls... More
  • 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