DPU Assessing Future of Natural Gas in Massachusetts

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BOSTON — The Department of Public Utilities issued an order opening an investigation into the role of local natural gas distribution companies in the future of the Commonwealth's energy portfolio following the Baker-Polito Administration's determination of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions as Massachusetts' legal emissions limit for 2050. 
As part of the investigation, the DPU will assess the role of gas companies in ensuring a low-carbon future and explore strategies that enable the Commonwealth to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions while safeguarding ratepayer interests and securing safe, reliable, and affordable natural gas service. 
"As the Baker-Polito Administration has committed to an aggressive goal of net zero emissions by 2050, this investigation will analyze the future role of natural gas as part of Massachusetts' energy system," DPU Chairman Matthew Nelson said. "The Commonwealth continues to lead the nation on climate change mitigation, and this order will help assess how to best achieve deep emissions reductions while ensuring a safe, modern and cost-effective heating distribution system for Massachusetts ratepayers."
The Order requires gas companies operating in Massachusetts to hire an independent consultant that will examine the various pathways for the companies to help the Commonwealth get to a net-zero future. The consultant's work will build on the Baker-Polito Administration's 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap and the 2030 Clean Energy and Climate Plan, which will identify consistent and actionable strategies for the energy industry in the Commonwealth's path to reduce emissions. The 2050 Roadmap and the 2030 Clean Energy and Climate Plan are both expected to be released by the end of 2020.
Following the completion of a report by the independent consultant, each company will use the analysis and stakeholder input to develop its proposal and plan for helping the Commonwealth achieve its 2050 climate goal. The consultant report is due March 1, 2022.
In its Order, the DPU provides multiple opportunities for stakeholder input as the companies develop plans to reduce GHG emissions.  The DPU will use the investigation to create a framework that protects customers as the Commonwealth works to achieve its target of net zero emissions by 2050.
On April 22, 2020, the Baker-Polito Administration issued its formal determination letter establishing net-zero GHG emissions as the Commonwealth's legal emissions limit for 2050.  Governor Baker announced the new net-zero target during his State of the Commonwealth address in January. In 2018, the International Panel on Climate Change called for countries to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
To determine how best to achieve this emissions limit, the administration launched its 2050 Roadmap, a nation-leading quantitative and qualitative planning effort that will chart multiple technical and policy pathways by which the Commonwealth can equitably and cost-effectively achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and will conclude with the publication of a long-range 2050 Roadmap report by the end of this year. The state's 2050 Roadmap analysis will directly inform the state's 2030 emissions limit, which will be set at the end of this year together with the publication of a second report, the 2030 Clean Energy and Climate Plan, detailing the Commonwealth's plan to achieve that limit.

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State Announces Final Order on Eversource Gas Rates

BOSTON — The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has issued a final Order in a rate case for NSTAR Gas Company, doing business as Eversource Energy, that will lead to investments in clean energy technologies, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and improvements in infrastructure safety and service reliability, while significantly reducing the total rate increase request of Eversource. 
The action by the DPU follows a year-long investigation that included four public hearings across Eversource Energy's service territory, 12 days of virtual evidentiary hearings, and a review of approximately 1,800 exhibits. The Order applies only to customers who are provided gas service in NSTAR's territory in 51 towns in Eastern and Central Massachusetts and does not impact customers in the former Columbia Gas of Massachusetts gas service territory.
The DPU's Order reduced Eversource's base revenue request by approximately $12.2 million – decreasing Eversource's original requested increase of $34,970,916 by 35 percent. Today's decision marks the first time that Eversource's gas base distribution rates have changed since 2016.
"Today's Order will ensure Massachusetts continues to lead the way by investing and providing affordable, clean, and reliable energy solutions to ratepayers," DPU Chairman Matthew Nelson said. "Building on the Department's investigation into the future of natural gas in the Commonwealth's energy portfolio, the Order will also result in new clean energy options for residents to help Massachusetts achieve its aggressive emissions reduction goals."
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