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New Solar Subsidy Program Gets It Right

Posted by Robert Rio on Feb 2, 2017 2:00:00 PM

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), after months of public comment, released on Tuesday its proposal for a new solar-energy incentive program to replace the complex and overly expensive program now in place.

solarpanels.small.jpgWe think the state got it right. And employers and other electric customers will be the better for it.

The proposal adopts suggestions made by AIM to rely on market competition to establish the amount of incentives that developers will receive to install solar energy. The result will be a program that costs half as much as the current one and still encourages the development of solar installations throughout the commonwealth.

Total savings to employer and other electric ratepayers: $250 million per year.

The new program will eliminate Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC), one of two methods through which solar developers currently collect subsidies. The other, net metering credits, will remain unchanged.

While some of the details are still being worked out, the new program, called the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target program or SMART program, will establish a solar tariff rate only after bidding is complete for an initial 200 megawatt block of solar projects. Developers will receive that bid price for 20 years.

That incentive rate will remain the same for all solar projects and will automatically decline 4 percent for every 200 MW block in the future. There will be some “adders” to the base price - for building-mounted systems, solar canopies, and cases in which solar is combined with storage technologies - that would add small amounts to the baseline price.

Projects may still receive net metering credits, but those will offset the tariff to determine the final subsidy. So if the base rate is established at 15 cents and the developer receives net metering credits of 10 cents, the utility will make up the 5-cent subsidy through the tariff.

AIM opposed the scope of the current solar program and was concerned that early proposals for the new program relied on government officials to set tariff levels for solar incentives without using the competitive market to drive down costs to the ratepayer. Such a system would fail to pass along to the ratepayer the 50 percent reduction in solar installation costs that have occurred over the last few years. 

Driving down costs is important for the future of the Massachusetts economy. Massachusetts not only has one of the highest electricity costs in the country, but one of the most generous solar and renewable incentive programs, adding up to nearly $1 billion in 2016 and $2 billion by 2020. Those subsidies add up to nearly 4 cents per kilowatt hour for individual customers even before the new solar incentive program kicks in.

AIM, in a series of comments, urged DOER to adopt a model based on competition. Other states where solar installations cost half as much as Massachusetts already use the competitive model.

Read First Set of AIM Comments

Read Second Set of AIM Comments

Competition reduces prices. Competition is also the hallmark of the recently passed Massachusetts energy bill, which requires utilities to solicit market proposals for hydropower and offshore wind, a notion AIM supports.

The solar proposal still needs to go through public comment and any tariff needs to be approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. During the transition period between now and the point at which the new program is approved by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) – expected January 2018 - the existing solar incentive program will remain in place at a lower incentive rate.  

DOER has developed a program that is well thought-out and enjoys wide support. AIM commends DOER for this step in the right direction and we look forward to working with the Baker Administration and others to get this program approved and implemented as soon as possible. 

If you are interested in following this issue and engaging with AIM on Massachusetts electricity prices, contact me at rrio@aimnet.org or 617-262-1180

Review the DOER Proposal

Topics: Energy, Solar Subsidies

Attorney General: Massachusetts Well-Positioned on Health and Energy

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 17, 2016 11:35:50 AM

The approach that Massachusetts takes to key employer issues such as health care and energy will depend heavily on decisions that will be made during the next several months by the Trump Administration, Attorney General Maura Healey said this morning.


The good news, Healey told several hundred business leaders at the AIM Executive Forum, is that Massachusetts is prepared for such uncertainty because of the collaborative policy work that has been done by several governors, the legislature, the attorney general’s office and the private sector.

She pointed to the fact that Massachusetts has its own health-care reform law that will remain even if President Trump and Congress change some or all of the Affordable Care Act. She also noted that the Legislature passed a wide-ranging energy bill earlier this year to diversify the commonwealth’s energy supply.

“I would love to have the Massachusetts way to be the American way,” Healey said.

The attorney general opened her remarks with several observations on the presidential election and her decision to establish a hotline for people to report incidents of bias or harassment. She reported that more than 200 people from all sides of the political spectrum have called the hotline in the past two days.

“It sends a message that we know the difference between right and wrong,” Healey said.

She acknowledged that the degree to which the Trump Administration changes Medicaid funding levels - and potentially shifts that funding to block grants - will have a significant effect on the Massachusetts health-care system. The attorney general’s office has issues multiple reports looking at rising health-care costs in Massachusetts and methods to improve the market.

“Regardless of federal changes, the legal framework Massachusetts put in place under Governor Romney, that served as the model for the ACA, remains. So, in key ways, I believe we are strongly positioned to keep our health care systems running smoothly. But we need everyone at the table and working together.

“While we get ready to respond to changes at the federal level, we will continue to work on our affordability agenda here at the state level. And there’s plenty to do on this front.”

Energy policy will also depend on the direction of a president who campaigned on the need to exploit coal and other traditional fuels to control the cost of electricity. Healey said the new Massachusetts energy law commits the commonwealth to diversifying its energy portfolio through a competitive market.

“I believe diversification of our energy sources is critical,” she said.

“The role for my office is to make sure that we have a competitive, transparent process that results in cost-effective contracts and minimize customer risk.”

Healey said the trend of collaboration between employers and her office continued earlier this year with passage of the nation’s first pay-equity law. AIM worked with Healey and legislative leaders on a compromise bill that ensures fair compensation for all workers while allowing employers to attract and retain skilled employees.

Topics: Health Care Reform, Energy, Maura Healey, Attorney General Maura Healey

Video Blog | Stop & Shop Turns Waste to Energy

Posted by Michele Slafkosky on Oct 3, 2016 3:15:57 PM

The Stop & Shop New England Division of Ahold USA will receive one of six inaugural AIM Sustainability Awards on October 24 for its innovative, state-of-the-art, Green Energy Facility in Freetown that uses anaerobic digestion to convert inedible food into clean energy.  The process produces up to 40 percent of the energy for Stop & Shop's 1.1 million square-foot adjacent distribution center. 

 

AIM will present Sustainability Awards at each of four regional celebrations in October. The events are open, free of charge, to AIM member employers.

Register | Worcester

Register | Springfield

Register | Foxboro

Register | Lawrence

Topics: Energy, Sustainability, AIM Sustainability Roundtable

Lawmakers OK Energy, Economic Bills; Non-Competes Remain Unchanged

Posted by John Regan on Aug 1, 2016 8:40:56 AM

A frenzied conclusion to the 2015-2016 Beacon Hill legislative session produced far-reaching measures on energy and economic-development, but no agreement on restricting the use of non-compete agreements.

statehousedome.jpgA consensus pay-equity bill supported by the business community passed a week earlier and is due to be signed by Governor Charlie Baker today.

Richard C. Lord, President and CEO of AIM, said employers should take encouragement from the fact that the final bills that passed around midnight Sunday largely reflected the moderate approach to business issues taken by the House of Representatives.

“The House and the Baker Administration again showed an understanding of the factors that contribute to business growth and job creation,” Lord said. “We give particular credit to House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who forged meaningful compromises on pay-equity, non-compete agreements and other key issues.”

He also noted that lawmakers and Governor Baker worked responsibly to balance a difficult budget with no tax increases.

The energy bill commits Massachusetts utilities to purchasing up to 30 percent of the state’s electricity from offshore wind generation and hydropower imported from Canada or upstate New York. The final version rejects a troublesome proposal to double the state's minimum requirements for renewable energy and also maintains funding mechanisms for development of natural gas pipelines.

“The bill will raise electricity rates as the commonwealth transitions to non-carbon fuel sources. That said, lawmakers approached the issue in a careful and thoughtful manner that recognizes the need to include a variety of generation sources for electricity,” said Robert Rio, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

Average electric rates in Massachusetts are the third highest in the nation for industrial ratepayers, and more than twice as high as companies pay in the competitor state of North Carolina. Those costs place employers at a significant disadvantage when competing with businesses located in other areas of the country.

The breakdown of negotiations on non-compete agreements brought a stunning, if temporary, end to a contentious effort by venture capitalists to do away with current law governing non-competes. AIM has waged a protracted battle to defend the vast majority of Massachusetts employers who wish to preserve the use of non-competes, but the association nevertheless negotiated a reasonable compromise measure that passed the House of Representatives.

The House bill would have limited the duration of non-competes to one year and required employers who did not compensate workers at the time they signed a non-compete to pay 50 percent of the worker’s salary during the non-compete period. A separate Senate bill would have limited the term of non-competes to three months and required employers to pay 100 percent of a worker’s salary regardless of existing financial compensation.

The deadlock means that opponents of non-competes will have to return to square one and refile their proposals when the 2017-2018 legislative session begins in January.

“The outcome of negotiations on the use of non-competes is disappointing to the business community, which worked in good faith with the House on a reasonable compromise. AIM continues to believe that non-compete agreements with common-sense limitation protect intellectual property and stimulate investment and innovation in Massachusetts,” said Brad MacDougall, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

The economic development bill includes $500 million in authorized borrowing for the MassWorks infrastructure program, $45 million in capital dollars for brownfields environmental projects and $45 million for equipment for career and technical education, among other measures. The bill also features a new tax deduction intended encourage families to save for college tuition costs.

The pay-equity bill is intended to promote salary transparency, limit upfront questions to job candidates about salary history, and encourage companies to conduct reviews to detect pay disparities. It explicitly recognizes legitimate market forces such as performance and the competitive landscape for certain skills that cause pay differences among employees. 

 Register for AIM Brown Bag Webinar:   Legislative Wrap-Up

 

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Economic Development, Non-Compete Agreements, Energy

Take Action to Limit Electricity Rate Hikes

Posted by Bob Rio on Jul 22, 2016 11:57:57 AM

Employers concerned about the rising cost of electricity in Massachusetts take note – it’s time to contact members of a legislative conference committee hammering out an energy bill that could make your current electric bill look like child’s play.

Electriclinessmall.jpg The message: Pass a bill that follows the detailed recommendations of a four-page letter sent by AIM earlier this week.

The Legislature and Governor Charlie Baker have made it a priority to secure passage of an energy/electricity bill prior to the end of the session on July 31. 

AIM supports the commonwealth’s efforts to transition its economy to non-carbon fuel sources and attract new businesses to Massachusetts.  At the same time, the complex House and Senate energy bills now in conference will have far-reaching and irreversible impacts upon employers and citizens alike during the next two decades. 

One fact is clear: The final bill will raise electric rates.  Under virtually any scenario the above-market costs passed to ratepayers in the form of rate hikes could be larger than any utility rate hike in history. Massachusetts could end up buying up to 40 percent of its electricity from high-priced renewable energy sources.

The disparity between electric rates in Massachusetts and those in competing states is hindering the ability of employers to attract and retain jobs. The list of internationally known companies that have moved out of Massachusetts just in the last year is long and includes Polartec in Lawrence; SABIC in Pittsfield; Kraft Foods in Woburn; General Mills in Methuen; General Foods in Woburn; and Notini and Sons in Lowell.

Traditional companies located in Gateway cities are at particular risk. These companies are not beneficiaries of the new economy, but still provide good paying jobs, tax revenue and spin-off spending to their communities. 

Other Massachusetts employer groups also sent a letter to the conference committee this week urging lawmakers to factor in costs to ratepayers.

Contact the Energy Conference Committee

 

Topics: Electricity, Energy

Senate Advances Energy Bill

Posted by Bob Rio on Jun 27, 2016 9:47:25 AM

The Senate passedan  energy bill last week that would require utility companies to buy almost half of the electricity used in Massachusetts from renewable generation sources. AIM remains encouraged by some elements and concerned about others.

WindTurbinesSmall.jpgThe Senate measure (S. 2372, An Act Relative to Energy Diversity) would commit the commonwealth to purchasing 2,000 megawatts of electricity generated by offshore wind and about 1,400 MW from other sources, such as large hydropower and onshore wind. Other sections add requirements for energy labelling on buildings and mandatory energy audits. 

AIM’s response to the Senate proposal is the same as its reaction to an earlier bill passed by the House -  employers support the concept of buying electricity from clean-energy resources, provided the following guidelines are followed:

  • Any contract must be cost-effective for Massachusetts ratepayers (i.e. the benefits of any contract to the ratepayer must be greater than its costs);
  • The procurement process must be competitive and decision-makers must have an ability to refuse any bids that do not meet standards (i.e. no carve-outs for favored technologies);
  • Any above-market or below-markets costs of the contract must be allocated fairly among  all customers;
  • The clean energy procured must qualify to be used for compliance with the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), which requires a 25 percent reduction in statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

The significant amounts of clean-energy solicitations contained in the Senate bill are a matter of concern for employers who already pay some of the highest electricity bills in the country. While the bill provides “off-ramps” allowing utilities to decline contracts deemed unreasonable or not cost-effective, the initiative could be economically damaging if wind and hydro power are priced higher than the electricity we current buy from other sources.

Positive elements of the legislation include:

  • The procurement process would require the price of each solicitation for offshore wind to result in lower prices than the solicitation before it, a good requirement.   
  • The bill would define cost-effective contracts simply as cost less benefits. Inexplicably missing from the requirement is that the benefits must accrue to Massachusetts ratepayers. The Senate version still leaves open the possibility that Massachusetts ratepayers could subsidize out-of-state ratepayers by paying for benefits that accrue to other states. AIM will work with the Senate to clarify this section.
  • The bill contains a detailed tracking mechanism to ensure that clean-energy generation is used for compliance with the state greenhouse-gas requirements.
  • There is no remuneration surcharge to utilities included, potentially saving customers millions of dollars.
  • The creation of a task force to develop a new energy efficiency program starting in 2018.

AIM remains concerned about several elements:

  • The bill doubles the renewable portfolio standard, which could increase cost, particularly since the increase in the RPS is not tied to the new timetable for the contracts. The mismatch would create a shortage of renewable power in the short term.
  • The cost-allocation methodologies for accounting for above-market power is inconsistent with what we believe should be fair to ratepayers.   

 Lawmakers are expected to propose a significant number of amendments to the bill this week.

Topics: Electricity, Energy

Beacon Hill Energy Bill Won't Lower Electric Bills

Posted by Bob Rio on May 31, 2016 7:30:00 AM

Those expecting the long-awaited Beacon Hill omnibus energy bill to lower the state’s highest-in-the-nation electricity costs will be disappointed.

Electriclinessmall.jpgIn fact, the bill will likely increase energy costs for employers and consumers.

The Legislature’s Joint committee on Telecommunications, Energy and Utilities released H.4336 on May 23.  The measure now goes to the House Ways and Means Committee for review.

The bill contains only two provisions – a requirement for utilities to solicit contracts for hydroelectric power combined with onshore wind; and a similar requirement to purchase offshore wind.

AIM supports the concept of soliciting for clean energy resources, provided the following guidelines are included:

  • Any contract must be cost-effective for Massachusetts ratepayers (i.e. the benefits of any contract to the ratepayer must be greater than its costs);
  • The procurement process must be competitive and decision-makers must have an ability to refuse any bids that do not meet standards (i.e. no carve outs for favored technologies);
  • Any above-market or below-markets costs of the contract must be allocated fairly among  all customers; and
  • The clean energy procured must qualify to be used for compliance with the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), which requires a 25 percent reduction in statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

The last guideline is important in light of a May 17 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruling that the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has not acted aggressively enough to enforce regulations to meet the GWSA emission-reduction targets. DEP must now develop new regulations that reduce emissions in Massachusetts, especially in the transportation and energy generation sectors.

The court decision complicates the omnibus energy bill because virtually all of the clean energy envisioned in the omnibus bill would be purchased from out of state and would thus not directly reduce emissions in Massachusetts.

AIM is seeking to add language in the energy bill to ensure that any emission credits received from procuring clean energy under the bill are properly credited in accordance with the SJC decision. If clarification language is not included, and further interpretation of the decision finds that greenhouse gas reduction from all this clean energy cannot be used as a compliance tool with the GWSA, billions of dollars will be wasted to “comply” with the law and policymakers will no doubt impose more Draconian limits and costs on ratepayers.

The House has the opportunity to improve this legislation.    

While the bill sets up a process to solicit hydro and offshore wind, there is no definition of “cost-effective” or “reasonable,” two standards that appear numerous times in the procurement language of the bill. A definition of those terms is sorely needed because current law classifies even expensive projects like Cape Wind as “cost-effective” even though the energy they produce is several times more expensive than other clean power.  

Legislators should also change what appears to a special status created for offshore wind at the expense of large hydro and onshore wind. The bill establishes a ceiling on the amount on amount of large hydro/on shore wind that can be procured at about 20 percent of the of the states total electric load, while establishing a minimum amount of procurement for offshore wind at about 10 percent of the state electricity load.

The language is puzzling. It puts a limit on what may be the cheapest sources of power (large hydro/wind), while encouraging virtually unlimited amounts of the highest-cost power (offshore wind). The inevitable result will make Massachusetts dependent upon high-cost energy sources at multiple times the cost of conventional power.  

A recent analysis performed through the AIM Foundation found that Massachusetts employers and consumers already pay more than $800 million in additional costs on their electric bills to support renewable energy. Add carbon taxes for power plants (passed on to the ratepayer) and energy efficiency surcharges and the cost balloons to $1.5 billion, not including the cost of the actual electricity.

Businesses pay nearly 55 percent of these costs. More importantly, business that have used the AIM Energy Calculator have found that these hidden costs can add up to 25 percent of a total electric bill.

AIM is working with the House Ways and Means Committee to ensure that these items are addressed.

Topics: Electricity, Massachusetts Legislature, Energy

It's Time for Massachusetts to Buy Local

Posted by Bob Rio on Apr 20, 2016 7:30:00 AM

It seems everyone these days wants to buy from local sources.

Farmers_Market.jpg“Buy local” has become a familiar battle cry in restaurants, retail stores and roadside stands among consumers who prefer to know where their favorite products are made. These consumers want to be confident that the items they buy are made sustainably and that their purchases support local jobs.

But why does the concern for locally made products in Massachusetts seem to stop at the farmers market? Why have scores of Bay State companies, some household names, and the thousands of local jobs they provided, disappeared with virtually no notice or outcry from state officials? And why has our commonwealth not resolved the problems that drove these companies away?   

Do you own a Polartec jacket for hiking (or to make it look like you hike)? The company, formerly known as Malden Mills, was started in 1906 and was miraculously able to recover after a devastating fire in 1995 nearly bankrupted the business. Polartec recently announced the closing of its Lawrence manufacturing facility, putting 350 unionized employees out of work and moving production to New Hampshire and Tennessee.

Use salad dressing on that locally sourced lettuce? Cain’s products, started in Boston 1914, is closing its Ayer plant, putting another 100 people out of work. The company is moving production to Pennsylvania, Georgia and Kentucky.

The list goes on. General Mills in Methuen, makers of Yoplait yogurt since 1993 closed, sending 144 jobs to other states. Kraft foods, located in Woburn for some 95 years, is putting another 200 people out of work. Sunny Delight is cutting 50 jobs in Littleton. Notini and Sons in Lowell, 100 jobs lost after 125 years. Courier Corp, a printer founded in 1824 and recently sold to an out-of-state firm, is shutting down its Westford plant putting 200 people out of work.

And those 1,144 jobs lost are just the ones that have been publicly announced in 2015 and 2016.

The reason for these closings are varied and complex. Some companies were sold to out-of-staters, while others cited high costs in Massachusetts for labor, housing, health insurance or energy. Some just used the euphemism “competitive realignments,” which probably includes a little bit of everything.

But all of the announcements have one thing in common – these companies and brands are not coming back and their employees and suppliers who depend on them are looking for jobs.

Massachusetts takes a back seat to no one in its ability to brag about the reason companies locate here – our universities, our educated work force, our innovation industries. General Electric’s announcement in January that it will move its corporate headquarters to Boston unleashed a euphoric wave of valedictories about the innovation ecosystem that GE hopes will help it to create the industrial Internet.

But the state seems strangely unconcerned with the reasons that companies leave. It’s disheartening, especially for the hard-working people who lose their jobs and their livelihoods. How can we make the Massachusetts economy successful for everyone if we don’t know why companies come or go?

The 4,500 member employers of Associated Industries of Massachusetts believe that the acceleration in business closings has much to do with the persistently high cost of health care and energy in Massachusetts.

Health-care costs in Massachusetts remain 36 percent more than the national average. Between 2005 and 2014, increases in health insurance premiums have outpaced income gains, consuming more than 40 percent of family income growth over the past nine years.

The relentless acceleration of health-care spending and health-insurance premiums threatens both the continued growth of the Massachusetts economy and the ability of citizens to access the commonwealth’s world-renowned medical system. It also threatens the commonwealth itself - MassHealth, the government insurance program for low-income residents, now accounts for 40 percent of the state budget at $14.7 billion annually.

Energy costs are likewise among the highest in the country – nearly double most places these companies are moving production to.

To those that care about the price of electricity – and that includes many companies outside the Boston area – our high prices are a never-ending drag on local profits. At a 5 percent profit margin – probably about right for food businesses – every dollar increase in electricity, health care, taxes or other costs that don’t contribute to increased production means another $20 in revenue is required just to break even. At some point, even the strongest fighter gives up.

The future promises little change. Despite an outcry from the business community about high electric rates, the legislature recently passed – and the governor was happy to sign - a new solar bill that will continue our highest-in- the nation subsidies. The justification - to protect solar jobs.  

While it is comforting to know that the Legislature is willing to tax some industries to support favored ones, it is also time to realize that Massachusetts is made up of several economies. The economies in the eastern part of the state have different issues than those in the central, western and southeastern areas, particularly around the bottom-line cost areas such as electricity and health care.  

Sure, companies will always realign their businesses. In some cases that may spell job losses for Massachusetts, in other cases, like GE’s, it may signal gains. But the state should not be complicit in a company’s demise by failing to respond to economic issues.

You’ll still be able to buy Polartec jackets, eat Yoplait yogurt and slather your sandwich with Cain’s mayo at the time next year. But the good jobs at good companies providing good wages we’ve depended on for decades won’t be locally sourced any more.

Topics: Health Care Costs, Economic Development, Energy

Pulling the Plug on Solar Reform

Posted by John Regan on Apr 6, 2016 3:05:08 PM

Massachusetts lawmakers last week imposed an $8 billion tax on electric ratepayers and put the money into the pockets of solar energy developers.

solarpanels.small.jpgThe state Legislature approved a bill that does nothing to reform the commonwealth’s bloated solar-energy subsidy program. The result: businesses and homeowners will continue to foot the bill for twice as much in solar giveaways as residents of other states.

Governor Charlie Baker said Friday that he will sign the measure.

And big solar isn’t done. Even before the ink dries on the current bill, solar energy advocates are rallying to raise the cap again before the end of the legislative session, continuing what appears to be a never-ending demand for government-mandated support.

“AIM supports the development of solar energy and takes pride in the fact that many of its 4,500 member employers have installed solar at their plants and offices,” said Robert Rio, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

“But this bill represents lawmakers turning their backs on ratepayers to perpetuate an ideologically based energy policy.”

The solar bill that emerged from a legislative conference committee on Tuesday would raise the cap on net metering – the process by which solar developers sell excess electricity back to the power grid – by 60 percent for private projects and 75 percent for public projects. The primary reform contained in the measure would lower the net metering credit to 60 percent of the retail rate, but that reduction would not apply to facilities owned by municipalities and government entities.

“Municipalities and other government entities will still receive retail rates for net metering – a sad case of ‘taking care of your own’ while others pay,’ ” AIM said in a letter to the Legislature this morning.

The proposal will add $8 billion to the energy bills of Massachusetts consumers during the next 10 years - 2.0 cents/kilowatt hour for residential customers and 1.6 cents/kWh for Commercial and Industrial customers.   

AIM supports reform of solar subsidies because Massachusetts employers already pay some of the highest rates for electricity in the country. The legislature with the current bill has shown neither the will nor the inclination to say no to unnecessary subsidies, even when other states have reformed their programs in the face of falling costs for solar installations.

Solar subsidy advocates are already planning to seek additional increases in the program.

"With the bill's 3 percent increase to the program cap, we expect to address net metering again next year in order to avoid endangering solar jobs yet again,” said Sean Garren of VoteSolar.

AIM urges the state Senate not to pass the conference report and asked Governor Charlie Baker to veto it.

Topics: Massachusetts House of Representatives, Energy, Solar Subsidies

Electricity Ruling Produces $115 Million Refund

Posted by Robert Rio on Mar 31, 2016 7:30:00 AM

Massachusetts electric ratepayers will receive a $115 million refund as the result of a ruling last week in an administrative court case brought by the attorney general and supported by AIM.

Electriclinessmall.jpgA federal administrative law judge, ruling in a case first brought in 2011, reduced to 9.59 percent the guaranteed return granted to the companies that develop and operate transmission lines that bring electricity long distances. It marked the second time that regulators have lessened the rate of return, bringing New England ratepayers total refunds of $310 million.

“Massachusetts employers and homeowners pay some of the highest electricity rates in the country, and that’s why AIM participates in actions like this one that put money back into the hands of growing companies,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

AIM supported the attorney general in litigation filed in 2011 at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to challenge the return on equity that New England transmission companies (utilities) are guaranteed on transmission-related projects.

Unlike local distribution rates, which are regulated by the state Department of Public Utilities (DPU), the profits on large transmission projects, which form the backbone of the electric grid, are regulated at the federal level by FERC.

The return on equity for electric transmission companies was set in 2006 at 11.14 percent. AIM was the only general trade association in Massachusetts to sign on to the complaint arguing that the costs were too high in light of economic conditions.

In October 2014, based on the attorney general’s complaint, FERC lowered the transmission owners’ allowed profits to 10.57 for rates in effect in 2011 and 2012 - not as low as the attorney general and AIM wanted, but still enough to generate $78 million in refunds. Those refunds were given back to ratepayers in the form of credits throughout 2015.

The administrative law judge on March 22 further reduced the guaranteed return to 9.59 percent for rates in effect from January 2013 to April 2014. If FERC approves the decision, New England ratepayers will receive another $234 million refund, about half of which will be distributed in Massachusetts. A decision is expected by the end of the year.

And the attorney general isn’t done. She is now arguing that the rates after April 2014 should also be lower than the transmission companies are currently receiving.

“AIM thanks attorney General Maura Healey and her Office of Ratepayer Advocacy for allowing us to be part of this ongoing litigation to bring electric costs down,” Regan said.

Topics: Electricity, Energy

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