By Michael Kuser
BOSTON — Massachusetts is seeking to broaden its already ambitious goals for procuring clean energy and reducing emissions, state officials said last week.
Topping the agenda: The state is considering to solicit an additional 1,600 MW of offshore wind energy even as it is barely halfway through a procurement process for the same volume as authorized by 2016 legislation.
“We’re launching an offshore wind study to look at … whether we can get an additional 1,600 MW,” Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Judith Judson said Wednesday at a meeting of the Environmental Business Council of New England.
Massachusetts last May awarded Vineyard Wind an 800-MW offshore wind contract that runs 20 years and has two 400-MW tranches. The first tranche starts at $74/MWh and the second at $65/MWh, with the prices increasing by 2.5% per year. Partially redacted contract summaries from the state’s Department of Public Utilities show an average nominal price of $64.97/MWh in 2017 dollars.
“We’re excited to be jump-starting the offshore wind industry,” Judson said. “Because of the way we set that up, with a long-term, revenue-fixed contract … we were able to get that at a price that no one believed was possible. I know when we opened the bids, we were like, ‘Whoa’; we were surprised. I think everyone was surprised.”
John Rogers, an energy analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote in a September blog post that the “price wasn’t just impressive; it caught us really off-guard. I had been expecting a price about twice as high.”
“We’re still in the midst of procuring our first 1,600 MW, and we will be issuing our next solicitation for offshore wind in the near term as well,” Judson said.
The young industry came of age in December, when the eighth federal lease auction brought in $405 million for three wind energy sites offshore Massachusetts — about six times the revenue from all previous auctions combined. (See Mass. Offshore Lease Auction Nets Record $405 Million.)
Judson outlined what the DOER has done in the four years since Gov. Charlie Baker was first elected (he won a second term in November) and said the state is a national leader in energy efficiency and solar energy.
In November, the state launched the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program, which provides incentives for projects on brownfields, landfills, parking lots and rooftops. The DOER is now in the final steps of developing its next three-year plan to submit to the DPU, she said.
She also pointed out the state’s utilities have contracted with the proposed New England Clean Energy Connect project designed to bring Canadian hydro energy to Massachusetts through Maine.
“One thing I’ll note about that, at about 5.9 cents[/kWh], if you look at that in total [compared] to what we pay for energy, capacity and ancillary services as well as renewable energy attributes, it’s a very cost-effective price; in fact [it’s] lowering bills,” Judson said. “But it doesn’t just lower bills in Massachusetts. When that project comes into the regional wholesale market, it provides those cost savings to every consumer in New England.”
The Maine Public Utilities Commission is holding hearings this month (Docket No. 2017-00232) on a certificate of public convenience and necessity for NECEC, a project of Avangrid subsidiary Central Maine Power and Hydro-Quebec. The project has drawn opposition from environmentalists, fossil fuel generators and renewable energy advocates who want more local solutions that don’t rely on hydro. (See Maine PUC Move Poses Hurdle for NECEC.)
Clean Peak and Leading by Example
DOER division directors briefed meeting participants on their activities. Michael Judge, head of renewable and alternative energy, explained the state’s new Clean Peak Minimum Standard, which was recently set to zero for 2019 while the agency works out the details of the program. (See Mass. Inaugurates Clean Peak Standard.)
“This is a big piece of legislation that was passed as part of last year’s energy bill [H4857] and sets a portfolio standard for resources that can deliver clean energy during peak periods,” Judge said. “The RPS doesn’t actually focus the delivery of that renewable energy to align with peak periods when you have the highest cost and the highest emissions on the grid.”
Judge referred to the solar “duck curve,” which demonstrates how output from solar resources tends to be highest at mid-day during periods of modest demand.
“Trying to shift that generation so that it’s actually addressing the peaks to flatten the load, that’s one of the big objectives, but also addressing seasonal peak issues,” Judge said. He said DOER will develop the clean peak regulations over 2019, and that there will be a higher standard in 2020.
The state Comprehensive Energy Plan (CEP) published last month says increased electrification in the transportation and thermal sectors may increase electric load — and peak load, depending on the timing of energy use, especially the charging of energy storage and electric vehicles.
DOER Director of Green Communities Nick Connors said the state has granted more than $100 million in the 10 years of the program to support towns in such things as speeding up their permitting process.
Eric Friedman, head of the Leading by Example Office, said his team had “put a lot of effort into moving away from heavy fuel oil,” with the use of about 18 million gallons avoided over the past decade and some 200 million kWh reductions in energy use. The state has 80 million square feet of building space, consumes more than 1 billion kWh and emits 1 million tons of greenhouse gases.
Even small steps add up, Friedman said. The state has moved to reduce mowing on its properties, as well as the use of gasoline-powered landscaping equipment, increasing pollinator habitat by letting the grass grow.
Storage and Energy Efficiency
Transportation’s share in emissions has been going up as the power and building sectors improve, so electric vehicles are going to be at the center of change in the next few years, said Will Lauwers, DOER director of emerging technology.
“EVs move with people, so load, consumers and EVs are in the same location, and that’s an opportunity for synergy,” Lauwers said. “Energy storage and dispatchable load such as EVs will enable continued greening of the grid.”
The state now has 380 MWh of energy storage capacity, but storage interconnection is becoming increasingly more challenging, as it is not addressed in utility tariffs, Judge said.
“In many cases what ends up happening is a utility will say, ‘Now you have 2 MW of storage here, you also have a 2-MW solar array, so you’re 4 MW; you can put 4 MW on our system,’ which is not necessarily how the system is designed to operate,” Judge said.
Director of Energy Efficiency Maggie McCarey said her office is focusing on developing and implementing the next three-year strategic plan for 2019 to 2021.
The expiring strategic plan — in effect through this month until the DPU approves the new one — had the highest EE goals in the country, while the new one is expected to deliver approximately $8 billion in savings to consumers, McCarey said.