United States: Ballot Initiative Petitions Include Four Clean Energy Proposals

Last Updated: August 10 2017
Article by Kelly Caiazzo

Initiative petition proponents filed with the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office earlier this week 28 proposed initiative petitions that, if certified by the AG and endorsed by the requisite number of registered voters, could appear on the November 2018 ballot.  (See this post for more details on the ballot initiative process.)  Interested parties have until Friday, August 11 to (1) submit memoranda setting forth why the AG should or should not certify the measure, or (2) submit a proposed summary of the measure.

Among the proposals are four initiative petitions field by the Commonwealth Climate Initiative, "a group of Fossil Free MIT students and alumni," who are seeking to place on the 2018 ballot a climate-related question that ensures "a just energy transition that supports marginalized communities."  Two of their proposals, 17-26 and 17-27, would require DOER to establish a Clean Energy Standard ("CES"), which would require retail electricity suppliers to provide a minimum of 16% of their kWh sales to end-use customers from clean energy sources by December 31, 2019, with an additional 4% increase each year from 2020-2022, an additional 5% increase each year from 2023-2028, and an additional 6% increase every year thereafter.  Such a standard would set significantly more aggressive targets than the current Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard ("RPS"), which requires retail electricity suppliers to provide a minimum of 15% of kWh sales from renewable energy generating sources by 2020 and an additional 1% increase every year thereafter.  The proposal would define clean energy sources similarly to, but more narrowly than, renewable energy generating sources under the RPS, and notably would not include nuclear energy.  Initiative Petition 17-27 would also create a Council on Environmental Justice that would, among other things, seek to mitigate the impact of any increases in electricity costs caused by the CES on environmental justice ("EJ") and low-income communities.

The other two proposals, 17-24 and 17-25, would establish a Commonwealth Solar Program, which would be structured so that retail electricity suppliers would provide a minimum of 17.5% of kWh sales from solar electricity by December 31, 2025, and a minimum of 25% by December 31, 2030.  Accordingly, the petitions would also increase the RPS.  Initiative petition 17-24 would enact an additional 3% increase each year from 2019-2022, an additional 4% increase per year from 2023-2027, and an additional 5% increase every year thereafter, while 17-25 would enact an additional 3% increase starting in 2019 and continuing for every year thereafter.  Both petitions would also remove the aggregate net metering caps for public and private facilities.

Additionally, initiative petitions 17-24 and 17-25 would create an Environmental Justice Working Group to design policies to expand solar access and solar ownership for EJ households and would authorize DOER to establish monetary incentives to meet the goals of the Commonwealth Solar Program.  In support of those efforts, the petitions would also define "community shared solar net metering facilities" and "low income solar net metering facilities," each of which would be eligible to receive the equivalent of Class I net metering credits.  Community shared solar net metering facilities would include facilities with three or more eligible recipients of credits where, among other restrictions, the recipients have an interest in the production of the facility or the entity that owns the facility.  Low income solar net metering facilities would include facilities that allocate all of their output and net metering credits to (1) the providers or residents of publicly-assisted housing or (2) low income and environmental justice households; or (3) entities primarily serving such persons.

We will provide updates on these proposals if they progress through the ballot initiative process.

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