The day before Governor Charlie Baker was sworn into office as the state’s 72nd chief executive, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection released its proposed Clean Energy Standard (CES) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state.
The CES would come into effect in 2020 and require a minimum percentage of electricity sold to retail customers in Massachusetts to come from “clean generation,” starting with a 45% requirement in 2020 and increasing to 49% by 2024. For each year after, MassDEP would set the clean energy minimum percentage a decade in advance. Types of energy production eligible as “clean generation units” include current RPS Class I generation units (such as solar, wind and tidal) but would also include technologies such as large-scale hydro, nuclear power (although existing plants would not qualify) and fossil fuel plants with carbon capture and sequestration technology.
As currently written, the CES would not only require the state’s investor-owned utilities to comply, but would also extend to municipal light departments and all competitive suppliers.
The CES regulations follow from the state’s Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020, which requires the state to achieve an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (from a 1990 baseline). In turn, the Clean Energy and Climate Plan was issued pursuant to the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act, which remains the state’s guiding legislation on climate change action.
The Baker administration has not indicated whether it will continue to pursue the CES regulations as proposed or otherwise.
The release of the CES also comes a few days after NSTAR and National Grid announced their termination of their power purchase agreements with Cape Wind. Early indications show that the Baker administration will not immediately intervene. In a comment to the State House News Service, the newly appointed Energy and Environment Secretary, Matthew Beaton, said that the Baker administration will “let the courts and the legal system determine the best path forward.”
The new administration has repeatedly expressed an interest in pursuing cost-effective carbon reduction. Its response to the termination of the Cape Wind power purchase agreements and the proposed CES regulations could provide early signs of the type of clean energy policies the new administration intends to pursue. One thing is clear: with each new report on the impacts of global climate change, the need for sustained leadership on this issue becomes even more apparent.