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Court says state can order electricity plants to reduce carbon emissions

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that Massachusetts has a right to make in-state electricity generators cut their carbon emissions dramatically over the next 30 years.

It's the second time in two years that the state's highest court has recognized the science of climate change. Referring to the state law that called for cuts in carbon emissions through "cap regulation," the justices wrote:

The act is designed to go well beyond business as usual in terms of reducing emissions: to upend, rather than to uphold, the status quo. The electric sector is no exception.

In its decision two years ago, the court ordered the Baker administration to come up with tougher regulations to cut the state's greenhouse-gas emissions, which it did last year. Under the new regulations, the owners of fossil-fuel plants in Massachusetts would be required to reduce carbon emissions from roughly 9.1 metric tons this year to 1.8 million by 2050.

Plant owners, naturally, sued, because of course they would. They argued that they were exempt from the regulations because a separate set of regulations already regulated them.

The state's highest court, however, told them: Nope. In more legal terms, the court said the carbon-reduction regulations were complementary and that "the electric sector is one of the multiple categories of sources of emissions that may be regulated," under the new state code.

The company's also argued the rules would lead to emissions "leakage" - that generators would buy electricity from more noxious plants outside the state rather than attempting to reduce their own emissions.

The SJC said nice try, but noted that in addition to reducing emissions from Massachusetts plants, the regulations also require generators to increase the amount of their energy that comes from "clean energy sources" each year, along with curbing emissions.

Because of the emissions reductions that will occur as a result of the [rules], the agencies predict that the Cap Regulation's limit on greenhouse gases will be met without any decrease in production by Massachusetts fossil fuel generators. They predict that, as a result, little or no leakage will occur, because it will be unnecessary to shift to out-of-State producers in order to comply with the Cap Regulation. Furthermore, even if the Cap Regulation does result in an increase in electricity imports, the agencies project that an increasing percentage of those imports will be derived from zero-emission sources, in part due to the CES Regulation's mandate that the Commonwealth consume greater percentages of clean energy each year.

Finally, far from causing increased greenhouse gas emissions from out-of-State generators, according to the agencies, the two regulations together will send a market signal that Massachusetts' neighbors should invest in clean energy development in order to satisfy the Commonwealth's increasing demand for renewable energy.

PDF icon Complete SJC ruling178.13 KB



So what will the court order when the power companies shut down their plants and leave the state?

Voting closed 3

Why would a power company leave when this gives them the option to rake in money hand over fist from their consumers? There is nothing in this ruling or the original law that prevents the same, continuous rate hikes we've been getting.

This is also a boon for the construction industry in the state as you will see more projects like the Cape Wind or replacement plants get ordered by the power companies.

Voting closed 3

Solar in New England? Not at night and not when it's cloudy, never mind the technically illiterate that claim otherwise. We're just not the ideal location for solar. Wind? Great. Intermittent, variable.

Natural gas would be a good 'fill in' for renewable, but it requires a way to get here...modern nukes would be better, but...

When Seabrook was being built, the bumper sticker was 'Split wood, not atoms'.

Voting closed 5

The NIMBYs lost, dear.

Don't be ridiculous.

Voting closed 3

Defunct. Dead. Not among the viable. Pushing up daisies. Ted Kennedy's final victory.

It's an ex-parrot.
"Status: Defunct
Owner(s): Cape Wind Associates"
"After 16 Years, Hopes for Cape Cod Wind Farm Float Away"

Their website is alive, if that helps...but zombie status...https://www.capewind.org/when

Try to keep up, dear.

Voting closed 4

Not "ideal" for solar? We are fairly far south of most of European countries using solar.

Voting closed 5

Boston is actually pretty much at the same latitude as Rome.

Compare and contrast: Boston's snow removal abilities vs. the snow removal of Rome, Italy. London? Look it up, compare its climate to Montreal.

I've driven along Rt. 495 and the solar collectors were covered with snow, on more than one occasion.

Sunshine. Nice strong sunshine. That's where you get your solar horsepower. Clouds kill it. Wrong angles greatly reduce efficiency.

Age? Who knows?

Voting closed 4

You don't know what you're talking about. Do you think it doesn't snow in Germany? Sure, you'll get more output in AZ than in MA, but huge amounts of solar energy land here and are easy to collect.

FYI, my electric bill is $0/ year because of the solar panels on my roof. Snow blocks the sunlight, but I bank so much credit on sunny days thanks to net metering that I still have a positive balance when Spring comes. Between the Federal and State rebates, the savings on purchased power, and SRECs, the solar array I bought in 2011 has paid for itself. It's warranted to keep producing at the same level for another 13 years.

Instead of being Mr. Contrarian coal-roller, you should get with the program and go solar.

Voting closed 8

It just moved a bit. See Deepwater Wind, Baystate Wind, and Vineyard Wind.

Voting closed 5

Well, I wish them the best of luck, although when they talk about 'inexpensive' electricity, it's all relative.
Wait and see.
That government thumb on the scale can be a real eye-opener.

Voting closed 3

You mean the $4 Billion dollars that the government gives in subsidies to the oil & gas industry?

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Green people think that everything is tied here. It’s not. We will just have expensive energy and companies will move out of the state like they have from California to Texas.
Even Karl Marx understood that socialism depended on capitalism to produce the surplus.

Voting closed 3

Wind and solar are both already cheaper to build and cheaper to operate than fossils or nuclear. If the polluters shut down, it will invite someone smarter to fill the need with renewables. Capitalism is dictating the end of fossil fuels.

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If wind and solar were cheaper to build and operate than natural gas or emissions controlled coal then you'd see those plants being built across the country to maximize profit over operating natural gas and coal fired plants.

Germany tried this and is now paying through the nose and half freezing to death in the winter for it.

Want clean energy? Build pebble bed reactors or geothermal.

Voting closed 4

Some states now get substantial power from wind. MA has a growing share of solar because people are putting it on their roofs and on top of parking lots and easy things like that.

You can have your pebble bed reactor in your own back yard in your own community when you figure out what to do with the waste.

Voting closed 5

...are being built all over the place. If you choose to put one on your roof, please read the fine print first.
Oh, and align it directly south, if you can.

Also, check into the laws. The sale-back thing might go the way of the dodo.

Voting closed 5

You're pretending that all solar installations are leased installations. They aren't, and as bad a deal as some of those leased systems are, they aren't all bad. I wouldn't lease. If you buy your own system and size it well, you won't pay for electricity any more. Yes, you need a southern exposure. Lots of towns are putting PV arrays on the roofs of town buildings and unused land, and they aren't foolish for doing it.

Voting closed 4

Do you still heat your home with coal?

Why not?

Oh, maybe because, long before environmental regs, coal became too expensive and difficult to deal with?


Well, that's happened again at the industrial scale. If you were good at capitalism, you would know this.

Voting closed 5

Have you ever used coal? It's cheap but filthy and a pain in the ass. Almost no real temperature control, that's why the old systems you see in Boston (and everywhere else) were all coal fired steam. I had a coal burner that was converted to gas in the sixties. Not the most efficient way to heat, but a thermostat on the wall is better than tending and banking a coal fired furnace.
Coal does scale up well. Industrial scale is a whole different ball game.

If you were good at common sense, you'd know that.


Voting closed 3

To properly understand this debate without acrimony and diatribes you need to be good @ Economics, Electrical Engineering and Physics

Full disclosure sometimes the lack of the above STEM knowledge by some results in my violating the above with respect to civility -- I just feel like throwing a proverbial brick through the screen

So this time nothing but the facts as I understand them based on my training in Physics, Electrical Engineering and Economics and my experience as a technical professional.

Let's start with some simple observations about Solar Energy [using approximation and somewhat mixed units for maximum familiarity]:

  1. the Energy is Diffuse -- Approx 1 kW / sq. yard [1363 W/sq m] -- but that's outside the earth's atmosphere
  2. Solar collectors are NOT Efficient in converting photons to electrons approximately 10 to 15% unless you are NASA and willing to pay for 20% to 25%
  3. Solar collector effeciency decreases with the angle of the incident light [measured from from perpendicular to the collector face] -- decreases to 50% of maximum at 60 degrees (its a Cos curve with slight modifications)-- this translates into an elevation angle measured from the horizon of 30%
  4. Where we are [Boston coordinates of 42:21 N, 71:03 W] the maximum solar elevation angle is 71.09 [Measured from the horizon] or 18.91 deg from the perp for use with our effeciency calculation [90 deg - the elevation angle] -- that angle occured on June 21st this year at a time by the clock of 12:46:03 [EDT] -- the corresponding Cos for the effeciency calculation is 0.946
  5. Doing the math -- let's assume that your house has an ideally oriented flat roof with no trees in the way, no clouds in the sky and an area of 186 sq. m [2000 sq ft] -- let's further assume that the roof is a mono pitch roof aimed at the sun ans due south -- then assuming no atmospheric absorption the 1363 W/sq. m will yield 254 kW -- no wonder your attic gets hot!
  6. With the Commercial Off the Shelf [COTS] solar array designed for residential or commercial applications operating at 15% effeciency and the roof tilted toward the sun optimally the array can deliver 38kW -- way more than a house of approximately 2000 sq ft would consume [Approximately 20 kW for 200 A service with everything at max]
  7. Now let's consider the same house in early September 09/10/18 the solar elevation angle at apparent noon [12:41:11 EDT] by the clock is 52:43 and the Cos is 0.79 -- peak "Clean Atmosphere" [i.e. dry air no clouds no smoke, etc.] power output has dropped to 30 kW -- still good to run everything and send power out to the grid
  8. On Thanksgiving Day as the turkey is cooking and the pregame football shows on TV are just starting the same roof and same array at apparent noon [11:30:22 EST] by the clock with solar elevation angle of 27:46 Cos of 0.46 -- the array is delivering 17.4kW probably more than enough if the day is neither hot nor cold
  9. a Cold day in early January after a blizzard - - still [no wind] -- at apparent noon 11:48 EST by the clock the output of the array is 15.5 kW -- this might be a problem if you have Green Electric Heat -- probably OK if you are using Natural Gas with a pump or fan to circulate the heated water or air
  10. So far it sounds OK for solar-- But there is one bit which has been left off -- what happens as the apparent solar position moves away from the noontime alignment of due south -- unless your house is on a turntable -- you will see a compound angle effect -- mid summer at 6 PM when the heat is near its max, muggy and there might not be much wind
  11. August 02 @ 18:04 EDT the Solar elevation angle is 20.24 degrees [lower than noon on Thanksgiving Day] and the Cos is 0.35 -- the array is outputting 13.3 kW -- better use fans until later on
  12. OOPS -- with no wind and the sun setting at 8:01 EDT -- its going to be a long long hot night until about 9:00 EDT when the array will let you air condition
  13. Finally let's look at the early January day when the air is still -- no wind -- > No Wind power -- and we are home from work getting ready to cook with electricity, heat with at least the aid of electricity, drive with our Nisan Leaf , etc.
  14. so let's arrive home at 5PM EST and -- OOPS no sun no electricity -- we are camping in a cold house until about 10:00 AM -- hope that the Leaf is fully charged so at least we can go out a get some Pizza in the North End

Note the above is optimal for all solar matters and realistic for wind. Cloudy mid summer days at noon are just like noon on Thanksgiving with array output less than 50%

Note also that we are ignoring the need to power large tall existing buildings with not much solar array area and potentially a lot of volume as well as the T and eventually all; of the Commuter Rail. factories, hospitals, elder-care facilities, server farms, urban farms, etc.

In order to be able to survive in this climate -- we need reliable electricity -- and sorry Wind and Solar alone -- Can Not "Make the Cut" -- Not without either importing power from somewhere else -- which is itself unreliable -- or having lots of local storage

Until either the storage is available or someone designs a cost effective Fusion Reactor or makes major improvements in Fission Nuclear technology -- we will need fossil fuel based electricity generation if just for backup and fossil fuels for industry, transportation and heat and hot water -- on and on into the onset of the Bright Green Nuclear / Thermonuclear future

No amount of wishing or promises from politicians will change the above

Voting closed 8

We can get our energy from more than one source. (I went to MIT and so I know this - not that one has to go to MIT to know this, because, duh, but since your subject line is provocative in that way ...)

Solar and wind bump up, fossil goes down, highly inefficient/polluting sources get pushed out - particularly "peaking" plants that handle summertime electrical use surges.

Smart people understand the seasonality of electrical grid demand in Massachusetts, and how peak electrical demand comes from cooling needs in the summer, but I digress ...

For example: I have solar panels on my roof, electric heat in the basement, and gas steam system for the rest. Room AC units for cooling. Electric dryer.

In the summer, the solar panels have covered the room ac needs plus laundry plus another 20% so far this year. This significantly reduces our household load on the grid during heatwaves, and contributes to "peaking capacity" of the entire system (when played out over hundreds of households).

In the winter it offsets laundry and heating needs in the finished basement area. We will get shorter duration of input, but still substantial generation in the winter as no leaves will be in the way and we have a very strong southern exposure.

The net result of extensive installation of solar and some wind power in the commonwealth, plus conversion to natural gas, has resulted in substantial decarbonization of the entire power grid. You can follow that here (dashboards are SeXXay!): https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=MA#tabs-4

Solar won't meet all our needs - and nobody with any sense thinks so or will demand that it do so. On the other hand, nobody with any sense will dismiss the potential input of solar at the most critical times - times when COOLING needs can wipe out the grid are times when solar does best. Solar and wind generation can and has bumped off some very damaging generation technologies if more households adopt it over time.(highly polluting peaking plants used almost exclusively in the summer - notice how there isn't a sludge oil plant that was planned on the mystic river? yeah. That.) Solar and wind do not need to provide all power - they just need to profide SOME power to be an efficient addition to the local mix of sources.

Voting closed 7

Peaking Units are Vital!!

Why because the combustion turbines can be turned on at a moment's notice to handle a peak in demand and possibly a dip in supply.

Let's start with the facts:

  1. The peak in solar array output is around apparent noon and it is fairly broad with only a small decrease over plus / minus 4 hours -- say the window from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM to simplify things
  2. The peak in temperature is usually delayed by several hours and is also fairly broad -- say from 2:00 PM to 8:00 PM to again simplify things
  3. The peak in residential demand comes as people arrive home from work and start cooling aggressively-- this peak is also fairly broad say from 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM
  4. Note that the solar array is putting out 0 power while the air conditioning is still cranking away at 8:00 PM
  5. So we assume that wind can fill the gap -- however in our part of the world the wind is highly sporadic and not a dependable source
    1. Since we really don't have any significant hydro nearby -- especially the kind where you have a big lake and you just open the valve when you need juice
    2. We don't really want to be overly dependent on long transmission lines to import massive amounts of power on a continuing basis
    3. and we have yet to develop cost-effective, efficient, reliable, robust aka "grid-class" storage
  6. Thus to keep blackouts from happening the electric utilities invested in Peaking Units -- powered by highly reliable and low cost fossil fuel gas combustion turbines -- basically a jet engine

Unfortunately for the Green Lobby the larger the fraction of base load coming from wind and solar the larger the amount of Peaking that needs to be available

Voting closed 4

Green Lobby - okay
Antifa is planning a civil war - okay

Mixing random numbers (not a single link) with conspiracy theories is not a good look.

You pretend to be smart. You are good at that. Your conspiracy theories mean that you are either a fraudster or an undermployed physicist.

Voting closed 3

Quoting the Court, "Because of the emissions reductions that will occur as a result of the [rules], the agencies predict that the Cap Regulation's limit on greenhouse gases will be met without any decrease in production by Massachusetts fossil fuel generators. They predict that, as a result, little or no leakage will occur, because it will be unnecessary to shift to out-of-State producers in order to comply with the Cap Regulation. Furthermore, even if the Cap Regulation does result in an increase in electricity imports, the agencies project that an increasing percentage of those imports will be derived from zero-emission sources, in part due to the CES Regulation's mandate that the Commonwealth consume greater percentages of clean energy each year."

I think the Legislature will be 'fine-tuning' this law a bit in the future.
Cape wind, a gigawatt level generator is as dead as a doornail. If we have to depend on 'northern' electricity, well, ride just got bumpier.

New Hampshire:https://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2018/02/report_new_hampshire_pla...
WSJ, partially paywalled: https://www.wsj.com/articles/massachusetts-utilities-cut-ties-with-new-h...
No love in Maine, either: https://amp.bangordailynews.com/2018/08/29/opinion/contributors/quebec-h...
""The project’s stated purpose is to bring clean hydropower from Quebec to Massachusetts, which has embarked on an ambitious plan to increase its share of renewable energy. That’s good, but what’s in it for Maine, besides an eyesore? Not much. Probably a few short-term construction jobs, tax revenue in small communities, and $22 million for a Somerset County nonprofit to invest in conservation and nature-based infrastructure. Environmental groups oppose the plan, and they have intervened in the utilities commission’s process to voice their concerns."

These people do not like Massachusetts:http://www.windtaskforce.org/page/mass-vs-maine-co2
"Compares Maine's CO2 emissions to Massachusetts. "2. Massachusetts is requiring its ratepayers to use a large percentage of renewable energy and may be expecting Maine to supply a significant portion of this, much likely via industrial wind projects. This is about to explode onto the scene in 2018."

Apparently, when it comes to decommissioning the old windmills, its a bit pricey, actually very expensive.
" The statute intends that the risks of decommissioning remain with the applicant. The only way to insure this is to require the establishment of a creditor and bankruptcy remote fund at the beginning. The Vermont Public Service Board, in the Deerfield Wind decision, Docket 7250, included conditions for decommissioning which should be a model for Maine:"

You may be in for a rough ride if you think you're getting green power by the bucketful from our northern friends.

Voting closed 7

From my roof.

Voting closed 4

Most multi-family buildings do not have sufficient roof area to generate sufficient power to meet demand. Then one has the storage issue for when it's cloudy or night time. Photovoltaic and battery technology still has a long way to go. Then there's the whole rare earth metals problem with that technology. The mining and waste is toxic and totalitarian countries control most of the mining rights.

Voting closed 4

Peak energy demand in MA comes from cooling demand loads.

Peak solar output is during the same time.

Any offset - even partial offset - can prevent adverse effects on the grid during extreme demand.

This is why solar works in MA, even if it is only a partial solution.

Voting closed 2

Once again the Green Lobby has oversimplified the electricity equation at the peril of all of us

New England has two peaks which vary from year to year in magnitude and in who is the "winner for that year"

No question that this long hot, humid summer will probably set many records [lots of days when the dew point was in excess of 70 degrees] as well as a consequence of that -- air conditioners have to work really hard to cool when the outside temperature and the dew point are both high

Note that solar while not perfectly aligned in time can help int the Summer particularly on a day like today [Thursday 09/06/18] when the heating will peak early as a Cold Front is due to bring relief to the temperature and the dew point this afternoon

The Winter is also a peak demand period -- as the days start to lengthen we typically experience our coldest and snowiest periods -- lights come on early as people return from work in the dark. Almost all heating systems except for fire places and old steam heating depend on a reliable supply of electricity to power pumps, burners and fans

Now solar is not a good fit for the Winter Peak as by the time people are arriving home its dark -- hence -- 0 Output

Winds are more common in the winter though unpredictable and in particular usually absent after the passage of a front or a major snow storm

Once again -- if we had dependable hydro under our own control we could open the valve

However outside of Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage [built in the heady hayday of "Too Cheap to Meter" Nuclear Power] -- we can't

Hence when its Cold and the Baseload can't meet the demand -- we fire up the fossil fuel combustion turbines and voila no one goes without heat

Voting closed 5

Mansplaining isn't facts.

Show some data, not your theories, so we know that you are not under the sway of the Corporate Fool Lobby.

Do not include any crackpot references to Antifa, Soros, or Q-tips

Voting closed 3