Two thousand and sixteen was undeniably a year of clean energy policy progress in the northeast. Policymakers in the northeast turned out some of the most forward-thinking clean energy policies we have ever seen. A variety of new laws, regulations, and policies over the year have set the stage for a continued boom of renewable and distributed energy technologies across the broader clean energy industry in the northeast.
Here are some of the clean energy policy highlights from 2016:
States doubled down on their goals for renewables and clean energy. New York announced a Clean Energy Standard (CES) that will require electricity providers to obtain at least 50% of their power from renewable energy resources by 2030. Rhode Island took the bold step to expand and extend its Renewable Energy Standard (RES) to 38.5% renewable by 2035. Vermont boosted its RPS in 2015, and incoming Republican Governor Phil Scott recently announced his intent to maintain the goal of 90% renewables by 2050. With these successes, advocates look to achieve similar RPS expansions in states like Massachusetts and Connecticut in 2017.
American offshore wind took off in the northeast. The nation’s first offshore wind farm—Deep Water Wind’s Block Island Wind Farm—opened in late 2016 off the coast of Rhode Island. But offshore wind also got a huge boost from New York and Massachusetts policymakers, with both states going forward with plans for major offshore wind projects and procurements.
Energy Storage got the go-ahead from Massachusetts. A law passed in Massachusetts outlined the definition of an energy storage system and authorized the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to set targets for energy storage system deployment.
States grappled with how to compensate distributed generation. Net metering rules, and therefore the rates at which utilities compensate distributed resources such as rooftop solar, have historically varied on a state-by-state basis. In 2016, almost all states in the northeast engaged in robust debates about the best net metering policies for the future. In Massachusetts lawmakers lifted the state’s solar net metering cap by 3% for both public and private installations to 8% and 7% respectively, but reduced the value of net metering credits for future non-municipal projects. Lawmakers in New Hampshire, also raised the state’s net metering limit while New Hampshire’s Public Utility Commission took up a docket investigating potential alternatives to net metering for the future. New York is also looking at the future of net metering. Officials there issued an order that aims to transition the state away from its current net metering policy a longer-term incentive structure.
Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) got rolling. New Hampshire’s C-PACE Program launched this year to provide affordable, long-term financing for energy efficiency projects for commercial properties. Connecticut’s program was revised to allow the state’s Green Bank to offer financing throughout the state. The Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank also launched its CPACE program in 2016 to finance energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation, and environmental health and safety improvements. And last but not least, the Massachusetts legislature enacted C-PACE authorization as part of the omnibus clean energy legislation passed over the summer. Residential PACE (R-PACE) will be a focus of advocacy efforts in 2017.
Though we are far from a comprehensive clean energy plan that will help us build a clean, resilient, and affordable energy future, state policy successes like these are stepping-stones to making the northeast region a model, and to making the United States a “clean energy superpower.”
Here’s to even more clean energy progress in 2017!
By Christina Guerra on in Northeast