Rep. Lewis Supports Efforts to Lower Cost of Electricity and Improve Utility Storm Response
State Representative Jason Lewis joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives recently in passing a comprehensive package of legislation to update the state’s energy policies.
Specifically, the three pieces of legislation aim to increase the amount of renewable energy generated in Massachusetts, reduce electricity costs, improve the emergency storm response procedures of the state’s utilities, and better manage the public safety risk of natural gas leaks in aging pipelines.
“I'm pleased that we are tackling these important energy issues in the Commonwealth,” said Rep. Lewis. “These bills will increase our energy security, promote renewable energy, help lower electricity costs, and improve public safety.”
Renewable Energy Bill
The first piece of legislation passed by the House expands on the Green Communities Act of 2008 by establishing a new requirement for distribution companies to engage in two procurement periods to jointly solicit proposals for long-term renewable energy contracts through a competitive bidding process. These contracts will last 10-20 years and satisfy an additional 4% of peak energy load.
The bill also raises the net metering cap on public generation facilities from 2% to 3% of a distribution company’s peak load and from 1% to 3% for private generation facilities, and creates more predictable property tax rates for renewable energy systems.
Storm Response Bill
This legislation mandates that utility emergency response plans must identify management staff responsible for company operations, including a public information officer responsible for coordinating with state and municipal officials, and an estimate of service workers available to respond to an emergency within 24 hours. Plans must also include a communication system with customers during an emergency that includes continuous access to staff assistance and twice-daily updates on estimated return of service via telephone, a website and one other media outreach effort.
Any violation of service standards or emergency response plans during a storm will result in a penalty collected by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) that will be credited back to ratepayers.
Gas Leaks Bill
This legislation puts in place an industry standard for how to handle gas leaks by first creating a classification system that measures how threatening each leak may be to public safety. The system works to prioritize leak repairs by helping to create a schedule wherein the most dangerous leaks are repaired immediately.
The bill also puts in place new reporting requirements for gas companies, authorizes DPU to establish a minimum winter patrol standard for cast iron pipelines susceptible to leaks, and addresses aging natural gas pipeline infrastructure by allowing gas companies to file replacement plans with the DPU for review.