New England States Vow to Collaborate on Clean-Energy Procurement

The governors of the six New England states have pledged to work together to procure renewable energy, an initiative expected to spur large-scale investments in clean power, stimulate economic growth and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. The agreement was announced on Monday during a meeting of the New England Governors’ Conference in Burlington, Vermont, where the officials approved a resolution calling for the release of a request for proposal (RFP) in 2013 for a significant amount of renewable energy, according to a statement from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

The resolution is the culmination of several years of analysis performed by The New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE), a nonprofit, which is charged with developing and implementing a work plan that will culminate in the issuance of the RFP, said the statement. In September of 2009, state leaders adopted the New England Governors’ Renewable Energy Blueprint, which included technical analysis conducted by ISO New England (ISO-NE), the nonprofit that oversees the region’s wholesale electricity markets, and identified significant renewable-energy resources in and around the region. It also included policy analysis that identified the potential for New England states to coordinate competitive renewable-power procurement. A wind-energy study conducted by ISO-NE in 2010 found that offshore and onshore wind energy alone could provide more than 12,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to supply 24 percent of the region’s electricity demand, the statement said.

During Monday’s discussion, the governors also passed a resolution with the premiers from Eastern Canadian provinces pledging to work together to increase the flow of clean energy. Eastern Canada has abundant supplies of hydroelectric power and is eager to step up exports to New England, though currently, Vermont is the only state that allows large-scale hydro to qualify as a renewable resource under its clean-energy policies.

Five of the six New England states have enacted Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), which mandate that electricity providers supply an increasing percentage of power from solar, wind and other clean-energy sources over time. In the last year or so, several states in the region have forged policies to accelerate renewable-energy development.

In Vermont, the only state in the region without an RPS, Gov. Peter Shumlin in March approved a measure that will expand a feed-in-tariff for local renewable-energy projects and provide incentives for developers to locate projects in places where they can alleviate the need for new transmission and distribution upgrades. Vermont officials have set a target of deriving 90 percent of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2050, and its energy plan released last December calls for the creation of an “all fuels standard” to replace its heavy reliance on oil and diesel for transportation and heating with cleaner options.

In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel Malloy last year signed an omnibus energy reform law that establishes a range of new incentives for clean energy. The state’s new green bank will offer low-cost financing for clean energy and energy-efficiency projects, and a new credit trading program compels the state’s two investor-owned utilities to enter into long-term contracts to purchase energy from low- and zero-emission sources.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick has set a variety of goals for the development of renewable energy, including 250 MW of installed solar power by 2017 and 2,000 MW of wind energy by 2020. The state’s 2008 Green Communities Act accelerated the renewable-energy requirement for all electricity suppliers, rising from 4 percent of sales to 15 percent by 2020, and set a target of obtaining 20 percent of all electricity from renewables by that time. Another law, the Global Warming Solutions Act, requires the Commonwealth to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 25 percent by 2020, and by 80 percent by 2050 – the most ambitious greenhouse-gas targets for any state in the nation. According to a 2011 report from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, there are now more than 64,000 clean-energy jobs and over 5,000 clean-energy companies in the Commonwealth.

Neighboring states to the south have also been encouraging sustained growth in their renewable sectors. New Jersey is the second-largest state in the country in terms of installed solar capacity, with around 830 MW installed as of June, according to the state’s Office of Clean Energy. In the first quarter of this year, New Jersey surpassed California as the state with the largest quantity of new photovoltaic installations.

Last month, Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill that will accelerate utilities’ requirement for supplying power generated by solar energy by four years. The law is intended to boost the price of solar renewable-energy credits, a key financing tool for solar developers, which had plummeted during the last year due to oversupply. The new law requires utilities to get 2.05 percent of their power from solar projects starting in 2014, 0.5 percent more than was previously required.

And in a bid to ensure that Maryland’s burgeoning industry continues its steady growth, Gov. Martin

O’Malley signed a bill in May that accelerates that state’s solar requirement, or “carve-out,” by two years. The new law calls for electricity providers to derive two percent of their power from solar by 2020, two years ahead of the original schedule. Industry sources say the measure will lead to the creation of 10,000 solar jobs between now and 2018.

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