Massachusetts Attorney General Healey announced that her office will lead a study to identify and evaluate options to address regional electric reliability needs in New England through 2030. As the Massachusetts ratepayer advocate, the AG’s Office has traditionally challenged the efforts of Massachusetts utilities to raise electric and gas rates before the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The announcement that her office will conduct a study that focuses on regional energy needs once again signals her interest to consider the effects of climate change as part of her role as ratepayer advocate and that her office intends to play a significant role in the region’s energy policy debates.
The study will be completed in October 2015, will be conducted by the Analysis Group and is being supported by the Barr Foundation. Raab Associates will be responsible for facilitating an Advisory Group that will advise the AGO and the Analysis Group on the study. While the study will include an evaluation of all potentially available energy resource options to meet reliability needs, a key focus of the study will be the question of whether more natural gas is needed in the region, and if so, how much more capacity is needed.
The announcement of the study comes at the same time that the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has opened an investigation to consider whether electric utilities subsidized by ratepayers should be allowed to purchase natural gas capacity in order to encourage additional natural gas pipelines in the region. The investigation was requested by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources. Through its filings, the AG’s Office has questioned where the DPU has the authority to approve electric utility purchase of natural gas capacity and whether there is a need for additional natural gas pipelines in the region. The AG’s Office requested that the DPU postpone issuance of a decision in the investigation until after the study is completed.