By Michael Kuser
WESTFIELD, Mass. — Massachusetts officials last week held three hearings across the state to get public input ahead of a September release of the statutorily mandated Comprehensive Energy Plan (CEP).
The state’s Department of Energy Resources is preparing the plan to project the state’s 2030 energy demands for electricity, transportation and thermal conditioning and help it meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets. The state’s Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) requires a 25% reduction in emissions by 2020 from the 1990 baseline and an 80% reduction by 2050.
The state accounts for 45% of electricity demand in New England.
“This report is really looking at supply and demand of energy going forward,” DOER Deputy Commissioner Joanne Morin said on July 19. “The CEP is going to demonstrate the modeling, the impact and required balance in pursuing these goals simultaneously, and looking at different pathways that we could take with our energy future.”
State lawmakers are now considering legislation to increase the state’s renewable energy and reduce high-cost peak demand. Earlier this year, two senators touted a goal to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2035 and to make the heating and transportation sectors 100% powered by renewables by 2050.
Asa Hopkins of Synapse Energy Economics, the DOER’s consultant on the energy plan, sought feedback on its assumptions and analysis of 2030 scenarios.
“Have we got it right or have we got it wrong? Should we be designing these policy features in some different way?” Hopkins asked.
The public has until July 31 to submit comments at the CEP website.
“That’s not much time for public comment,” said Rosemary Wessel, director of “No Fracked Gas in Mass,” a program of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team.
Wessel also complained about what she called a lack of transparency in clean energy data, saying the DOER shows state emissions data only up to 2014. She also said the DOER website “has become much harder to use.”
Several audience members murmured their agreement to the website assessment, and Morin said, “I’ll have to follow up on that.”
Soft or Hard Push?
Hopkins’ study included a status quo scenario and also analyzed the impact of adjusting “key levers,” including efficiency, renewables and electrification via electric vehicles and heat pumps.
Under the status quo or “sustained policies” scenario, renewables would supply 45.5 TWh in 2030, or about 35% of electricity in the region, with Massachusetts hitting its 25% renewable portfolio standard target. Under a “high renewables” scenario, the amount increases to 38% (49 TWh), with all of the increment serving Massachusetts, which would get about half its electricity from Class I renewables in 2030, Hopkins said.
“We’re looking at electrification, which in the case of electric vehicles, is associated with a substantial increase in efficiency, as it is with heat pumps, so there’s a common thread there,” Hopkins said. “There are distinctly more heat pumps in Massachusetts than there are EVs, but more people consciously see EVs than see heat pumps.”
Because they’re moving heat rather than generating it, heat pumps have efficiencies well over 100%.
“A typical seasonal average in Massachusetts would probably be well over 200%, and for a heat pump water heater it will go up well over 300%,” Hopkins said. A 300% efficient heat pump produces three units of heat for every unit of energy, Hopkins explained.
The “high electrification and high renewables” scenario includes a “clean peak” idea to incentivize generation or energy dispatch to be available to meet winter and summer peaks without emissions.
The scenario for increased efficiency, electrification and renewables would reduce the average commercial building’s heat energy by 25% or more with the state getting 50% of its electricity from renewables, Hopkins said.
Enhancing both electrification and renewables would push wind and solar growth to 33.7 TWh in 2030, while natural gas use would be 29% lower than today.
“Once those clean peak resources are there, it’s not like they’re only there on the peak day; they also run all the rest of the time around the year and are impacting what’s going on with dispatch of different resources,” Hopkins said.
Massachusetts has a goal of 300,000 EVs on the road by 2025 and 1.7 million in 2030. Hopkins said the state can probably only reach 160,000 EVs by 2025 under current policies but could exceed its EV goals by enhancing all policy levers.
Several people asked about energy storage and whether EVs can act as batteries for the grid.
“The place where storage makes a difference is on an hourly basis,” Hopkins said. “One learning from this is that what you assume about the load shape of when all those 1.2 million or 1.7 million EVs are charging, it really matters a lot. And what you assume then about when those batteries will charge and discharge really matters a lot.”
If peaks are in the afternoon and you have everyone charge their cars overnight, “you create a giant super-peak at 3 in the morning,” Hopkins said. “That’s probably not the actual path forward, but things we learn there can flow into policy development.”
Robert Camus, a Granby selectman and member of the town’s energy committee, said that if the state wants to increase solar energy by 50% by 2030, it should change policies to promote local ownership of solar farms.
“The SMART [Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target] program awards Eversource [Energy] and National Grid so much each year, but there’s no differentiating between a private landowner and a municipality,” Camus said. “If the municipality was to have the solar field, versus a private landowner, you’d have a lot more advantages.”
If a private landowner makes a deal with a solar developer, the money goes to one individual, he said.
“If you go to the municipality, every taxpayer in that town gets a share of the money, which would decrease the demand of the municipalities on the administration every year for money for schools, infrastructure and everything else,” Camus said. “If the money goes to the taxpayer[s] of Massachusetts rather than to out-of-state developers, we can more enhance our own economic growth, because the money stays.”
He suggested that the SMART program devote 75% of its money to municipalities, leaving 25% for individual landowners.
Morin directed Camus to contact Michael Judge, director of DOER’s renewable energy division. The CEP is intended to complement another effort, the Clean Energy and Climate Plan (CECP), which talks about emissions targets and how the state is going to meet them, Morin said.