GCA Wreaks Havoc on Utility Rate Structure

By Cynthia A. Arcate | November 11, 2011

Massachusetts’ Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy held a hearing yesterday on the effectiveness of the Green Communities Act (GCA). I was among those who testified, including Attorney General Coakley, officials from DOER, the Patrick Administration, utilities, business groups and others. From my perspective, there are many things that have worked well in the GCA, although I share the concerns of others about the cost, the impact on competition and the overall effectiveness in reducing greenhouse gases. I’ve shared some of my concerns in this space in earlier posts. My testimony, which was reported on by the Boston Herald...

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Funding Technological Advancements

By Cynthia A. Arcate | November 2, 2011

Technological advancements are changing almost every facet of our lives and have for some time. The energy marketplace is no different, and there are tremendous opportunities for utilizing technology to increase efficiencies, improve delivery and reduce costs. But there are several roadblocks in the way of proper adaptation of technology and, to me, several easy ways utilities, regulators and technology developers could streamline the process to everyone’s benefit. A discussion took place recently among some of Massachusetts’ players in the energy industry at the offices of a Boston law firm. The title of the seminar was a little different than...

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Merger of NU and NSTAR Threat to Competitors

By Cynthia A. Arcate | October 27, 2011

Much has been argued in the proceeding before the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) about the appropriate standard of review for the merger of Northeast Utilities (NU) and NSTAR. Initially, the companies filed their case under the long standing precedent of “no net harm” to ratepayers. Later the Department of Energy Resources advocated for a change in the standard to providing a “substantial net benefit” to ratepayers. The DPU resolved the debate by changing the standard to a requirement of providing a “net benefit” (not substantial) to ratepayers. But whatever happened to good old-fashioned analysis about impact on the competitive...

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Nothing New or Renewable About Northern Pass

By Cynthia A. Arcate | October 20, 2011

Perhaps you’ve seen commercials on New England Cable News about the Northern Pass project. So far, I’ve seen two commercials – one that didn’t even say Northern Pass is an energy project, the other mentioned renewable hydro power but didn’t mention that the core of the project are massive new transmission lines. The pitch has been all jobs and greenness. At that rate, most people probably have no idea what it is, much less whether they are in favor of it. Well, here’s the scoop: The Northern Pass project is a 1,200 MW transmission line from the U.S./Canadian border to...

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NStar/NU Merger Should Cost Shareholders

By Cynthia A. Arcate | October 7, 2011

The proposed merger between NStar and Northeast Utilities will have a significant impact on the region’s energy marketplace. Whether it will be good for consumers – particularly the 500 nonprofit members of PowerOptions which form a backbone of the Massachusetts economy, depends largely on the conditions now being negotiated. For months, interested parties have been gathering information and presenting testimony in hearings before the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) in advance of filings made this week by interveners. The filing deadline for these briefs was delayed by weeks of rumored settlement talks that failed to reach agreement. The rumor mill...

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AG Wise Trying to Lower Transmission Costs

By Cynthia A. Arcate | October 3, 2011

While the cost of electricity has fallen dramatically over the last two years as a result of the drop in natural gas prices, the delivery part of your electric bill (transmission and distribution company charges) has been going up significantly. The distribution charges have been going up for a variety of reasons: New state mandates on energy efficiency and renewable energy as well as long-delayed rate cases with the expiration of rate plans. I’ll write more at another time about the distribution increases. Today, I want to focus on the transmission piece and applaud a recent filing made by Massachusetts...

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A Rational Approach to Renewable Energy

By Cynthia A. Arcate | September 30, 2011

Lots of attention has been paid to the financial subsidies the state and federal government have provided for the development of renewable energy (see last week’s blog). What the general public is much less aware of are the subsidies that come directly from ratepayers through their electric rates. These subsidies are part of a patchwork of regional programs supporting the development of renewable resources. As part of the Electric Restructuring Act of 1997, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to adopt a renewable energy portfolio standard. Under the RPS, electric suppliers are required to meet a certain portion...

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Solar Bankruptcy

By Cynthia A. Arcate | September 22, 2011

Recent high-profile bankruptcy filings by solar panel manufacturers (Evergreen Solar in Massachusetts and California-based Solyndra) have caused some to wrongly question the viability of the solar industry and, indirectly, the pursuit of solar power by customers. The truth is that these events are less about the strength of the industry and more about the faulty wisdom of government financing of nascent technologies. When Evergreen first took Massachusetts jobs overseas then filed for bankruptcy, critics cried foul that Massachusetts had provided a multi-million dollar investment, including direct grants. Solyndra has provided a more sensational storyline on the national stage after the...

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PowerOptions Launches New Blog, Wired In

By Cynthia A. Arcate | September 20, 2011

Welcome to the latest and, we think, one of the most exciting new features of our improved website – the inaugural PowerOptions blog, which we’re calling Wired In. PowerOptions was founded 15 years ago on the promise of becoming the leading energy buying consortium in Massachusetts, helping nonprofit institutions and government entities navigate the complex energy markets and maximize cost savings. As an independent nonprofit ourselves, we have worked to set the bar for other groups and suppliers. One of the roles we take very seriously here at PowerOptions is that of advocacy and education. We enter into energy rate-setting...

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