The following summary was prepared by the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy – Senator Benjamin Downing is the Senate Chairman:
The Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE) had a productive 2013-2014 legislative session, notably advancing legislation, ultimately signed into law, which addressed aging natural gas infrastructure, broadband expansion and renewable energy resources in Massachusetts. Please see the attached document for a full list of bills reported favorably from the TUE Committee this session.
- An Act relative to natural gas leaks ( 149 of the Acts of 1014) – The legislation establishes a uniform natural gas leak classification standard for the Commonwealth and requires all Grade 1 leaks, which are the most serious, to be repaired or receive continuous surveillance until the hazard is eliminated. Grade 2 leaks are now required to be repaired within 12 months, while Grade 3 leaks require reevaluation. Gas companies will file an initial plan that includes a timeline for removing all leak-prone infrastructure on an accelerated basis. Every five years, gas companies will provide a summary of its replacement progress to date and a summary of work to be completed during the next five years. The bill further increases public safety by requiring strong communication between municipalities and gas companies regarding projects exposing gas infrastructure. Gas companies are also required to prioritize any repairs detected within school zones.
- An Act relative to the Massachusetts Broadband Institute ( 198 of the Acts of 2014) – The legislation authorizes the MBI to provide grants to public and private entities to build out and extend existing cable infrastructure for high speed Internet in communities who rely solely on cable providers for broadband access. This legislation would assist residents of communities where today some are able to connect to the Internet through cable broadband, while others are unserved. It also creates a working group to provide advice and feedback to MassTech and the MBI on the competitive process of providing grants to providers.
- An Act relative to credit for thermal energy generated with renewable fuels ( 251 of the Acts of 2014) –
- Renewable Thermal- introduces a performance based incentive for renewable thermal energy technologies by making them eligible for qualification under the Massachusetts Alternative Portfolio Standard (APS) which requires a certain percentage of the state’s electricity supply be met by using eligible technologies. Because the current APS requirements have not been met by the existing eligible fuels, adding renewable fuels will reduce compliance costs for ratepayers served by retail electricity suppliers.
- Solar net metering- lifts the net metering cap on public projects from 3 percent to 5 percent of a utility’s total power generation, while the cap for private projects would rise to 4 percent. Creates a task force to study the long-term feasibility of net metering in Massachusetts and Gov. Deval Patrick’s stated goal of installing 1,600 megawatts of solar energy by 2020.
- Hydro- requires DPU to study the feasibility, impacts and benefits of allowing electric distribution company customers to net meter electricity generated by small hydroelectric facilities.
Office of State Senator William N. Brownbsberger