Utilities Face More Emissions Cuts in Massachusetts

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By Adrianne Appel

Massachusetts power generators face tighter greenhouse gas limits and new demands to purchase power from renewable sources as the state implements a law requiring deep emissions cuts.

However, some of the state’s utilities say the emissions limits, part of a package of new rules released Aug. 11, discount the steep reductions they have already achieved and will only drive up costs for ratepayers.

“That simply cannot be what was intended. Particularly when Massachusetts power plants have already cut carbon emissions by 60 percent since 1990, nearly twice the cuts of any other sector of the economy,” Dan Dolan, president of the New England Power Generators Association, Inc., said Aug. 11 in a statement.

The trade group represents Dynegy, PSE&G Power, Dominion Resources, and other companies. It has estimated the rules could raise regional electricity costs by $40 million per year.

The six new rules are designed to curb the state’s contribution to climate change and require power plants and natural gas companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection issued the rules to bring the state into compliance with a 2008 climate change law after a successful lawsuit brought by the Conservation Law Foundation.

Other companies, like Eversource, an electric and gas supplier, backed Massachusetts’ latest efforts.

The company is “supportive of the Commonwealth’s work to address climate change,” Rhiannon D’Angelo, a spokeswoman, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 11, in an email.

Fewer Emissions, More Renewables

Under Massachusetts’ climate change law, the state’s 21 major fossil fuel-fired power plants must collectively reduce their carbon dioxide emissions from an estimated 8.96 million metric tons in 2018, down to 1.8 million metric tons in 2050. The 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act eventually requires the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050.

Starting in 2018, 16 percent of power purchased by electric utilities must be renewable energy, such as solar, wind, and hydro power. The amount increases 2 percent annually until 2050, when 80 percent of an electric company’s power must comes from renewables.

Additionally, gas companies will have to meet annual, declining limits on methane emissions and replace older, leak-prone pipes, among other requirements.

Climate a ‘Top Priority’

“Combating and preparing for the impact of climate change remains a top priority of our administration, and requires collaboration across state government and with stakeholders throughout Massachusetts,” Gov. Charlie Baker (R), said in an Aug. 11 statement.

The legislature is considering bills that would set emissions targets for 2030 and 2040 and environmental advocates want electric cars to be part of that plan.

“The major goal has to be electrification of motor vehicles,” Bradley Campbell, president of the Conservation Law Foundation, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 11.

National Grid, a supplier of electricity and gas in Massachusetts, also called for more electric cars on the road to reduce greenhouse gas emissions further.

“The transportation sector accounted for more than 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in 2003,” Bob Kievra, spokesman for National Grid, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 11 in an email.

To contact the reporter on this story: Adrianne Appel in Boston at aappel@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bna.com

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