On February 7, the Baker-Polito Administration announced that Massachusetts has installed more than 2,000 megawatts (MW) of solar electricity through 78,646 projects across the state. The achievement represents the culmination of various projects that make Massachusetts a leader in clean energy and energy efficiency and help the Commonwealth meet greenhouse gas reduction requirements set out by the Global Warming Solutions Act.
After releasing a request for proposals in March 2017 seeking long-term contracts for clean energy projects, on January 25 the Baker-Polito administration selected the Northern Pass Hydro (Northern Pass) project to move forward to contract negotiations with Massachusetts’ electric distribution companies in an effort to bring over 1,000 megawatts of electricity to the Commonwealth. Less than a week later, the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee defeated those plans, voting unanimously to deny a certificate to Eversource Energy, the utility responsible for developing the project. Now, the administration is giving Northern Pass a second chance to gain approval from New Hampshire regulators, but they have chosen a “back-up” project should Northern Pass fail once more.
On November 1, the Baker-Polito Administration awarded $3.7 million in grants to increase the adoption of cost-saving clean energy technologies by Massachusetts low-income residents as part of the Commonwealth’s Affordable Clean Residential Energy Program (ACRE).
On October 31, 2017, the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development heard testimony on six bills introduced this session addressing the use of non-compete agreements in Massachusetts. Each of the bills includes provisions that would place restrictions on the use of non-competes, with the aim of introducing more fairness to a dynamic skewed against workers, as Representative Lori Ehrlich argued in her testimony. Business interests claim non-compete agreements hurt innovation, a topic that became a focus of the hearing. The committee also considered arguments to update the state’s trade secret laws as well as to include language in the legislation that provides for strong garden leave and notice provisions in order to induce companies to reduce the use of non-competes. The bills are expected to remain before the committee until after the new year. The Massachusetts House and Senate passed bills to limit the use of non-competes last year, but negotiations between the branches broke down in conference committee. To learn more, please follow the link to our partner page at ML Strategies.
On October 13, former Nevada Senator Harry Reid and current Governor of Nevada Brian Sandoval hosted the ninth annual National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, NV. Each year, the 3-day summit brings together leaders of industry, government, and advocacy organizations in an effort to shape the United States’ energy policy agenda and facilitate the country’s progress towards a clean energy economy.
On September 27, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) released a Request for Proposals seeking applications to the InnovateMass program, which provides up to $250,000 in grant funding for clean energy and water innovation technologies that demonstrate a strong potential for commercialization. In this cycle, MassCEC will also be funding a robotics technology demonstration project under the InnovateMass Robotics Carve-Out. Grants will be awarded to projects that (1) demonstrate innovations in a robot’s energy supply and/or storage system; or (2) deploy robots for clean energy applications.
Building, maintaining, and scaling a sustainable and innovative robotics companies requires accounting for a number of corporate and legal considerations unique to the start-up technology space. For those considering submitting a proposal under the InnovateMass Robotics Carve-Out, Mintz Levin’s Robotics, UAV, and AI practice may offer some valuable insights. When establishing or expanding on a robotics venture, there are a number of vital decisions to be made each step of the way, such as: hiring a key developer, negotiating a critical license or government contract, developing a commercialization strategy, sourcing and negotiating with investors, or seeking exit. Mintz Levin’s team of attorneys and technology specialists has helped groundbreaking robotics companies across the country successfully navigate these questions, and shares key lessons and invaluable resources for similar ventures on its interactive dynamic website, http://www.mintzedge.com/.
As MassCEC’s RFP reflects, the push for scalable innovation in energy, robotics, and artificial intelligence technology is greater than ever before. Along with a skyrocketing demand to commercialize these technologies, we are also seeing major growth in private investment and M&A transactions in the robotics space. 2016 saw over $19 billion paid to acquire 50 robotics companies – a huge leap from $2.27 billion for 32 acquisitions in 2015. 2016 also proved to be the “best year ever for funding robotics startup companies,” with 128 companies seeing a boom in venture capital investments totaling $1.95 billion (a 50% increase from 2015). Companies like Google and Softbank have a vested interest in harnessing and building upon the significant progress initiated by smaller, more targeted tech enterprises, and they’re willing to pay for it – so it makes sense for robotics companies to strategize early for a potential exit transaction down the road. In his article for the National Law Review, Mintz Levin’s Marc Mantell offers a deeper look into the essential elements of the most successful robotics company sales: securing the right legal, accounting, and financial teams; preparing a data room; assessing your intellectual property; carefully approaching deal structure; and protecting your confidential information. Check out Marc’s full recommendations here.
For the seventh consecutive year, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) named Massachusetts the most energy-efficient state in the United States. The council’s 11th annual report, released September 28, 2017 in the wake of recent extreme weather events, highlighted the importance of energy-efficiency as a tool to help communities recover from storms and economic shocks. While many states, such as Idaho, Florida, and Virginia made vast improvements over last year, Massachusetts continued to pave the way for sustainability through continued leadership in energy-efficient transportation policies and utility-sector energy efficiency programs.
The most effective local clean energy projects result from thorough, targeted, and well-supported research that puts the needs of the surrounding community at the forefront. To support such research efforts in Massachusetts, the Baker-Polito Administration awarded $661,000 in Municipal Energy Technical Assistance (META) grants to 56 cities and towns across the Commonwealth earlier this month to research, develop, and implement clean energy projects.
The META grants, a function of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources’ (DOER) Green Communities Division, were allocated to designated “Green Communities” ( municipalities, regional school districts, and water/wastewater districts) to support more informed clean energy decision-making through localized studies and data analysis. This support will include the services of expert consultants and contractors to assist with a diverse array of local energy projects. META grants are funded through proceeds from Alternative Compliance Payments under the Massachusetts Renewable Portfolio Standard.
The Green Communities Division of DOER strives to help all 351 Massachusetts cities, towns, and regional planning authorities find clean energy solutions that reduce long-term energy costs and strengthen local economies. The division provides technical assistance and financial support for municipal initiatives to improve energy efficiency and increase the use of renewable energy in public buildings, facilities and schools. In order to become a designated Green Community, and in turn become eligible for grants that finance local energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, a municipality must meet five key criteria: 1) provide as-of-right siting in designated locations for renewable/alternative energy generation, research & development, or manufacturing facilities; 2) adopt an expedited application and permit process for as-of-right energy facilities; 3) establish an energy use baseline and develop a plan to reduce energy use by twenty percent within five years; 4) purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles; and 5) set requirements to minimize life-cycle energy costs for new construction; one way to meet these requirements is to adopt the new Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) Stretch Code.
The projects and studies funded this year will include solar photovoltaic site evaluation, heating system replacements, ASHRAE Level II audits, technical analysis of energy use at drinking water and wastewater facilities and technical assistance with Green Community reporting and application. These studies promise to incentivize wide-scale energy efficiency and catalyze critical partnerships between Massachusetts communities and clean energy providers that can help these communities meet both short- and long-term energy goals.
On August 23, the Baker-Polito Administration awarded $455,000 in grants to seven early-stage researchers and companies developing clean energy technologies as part of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s (MassCEC) Catalyst program.
On August 23, Massachusetts joined the eight other states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in announcing a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an additional 30 percent by 2030 relative to 2020 levels. The nation’s first market-based regulatory program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the RGGI counts Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Massachusetts as members. Since 2009, the initiative has employed a cap-and-trade program to lower emissions, and the proceeds from the pollution permit auctions are used to support energy efficiency programs in the member states. This most recent plan would lower emissions by more than 65 percent since the initiative’s inception.