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Hinckley Allen Helps Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities Uphold Largest Purchase Power Agreements for Renewable Energy in the History of the Commonwealth

Energy, Litigation

Client: Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the Commonwealth’s Department of Public Utilities (DPU) approving power purchase agreements (PPAs) for hydroelectric energy that the Commonwealth’s three largest utilities had awarded to Hydro-Québec under the Massachusetts Green Communities Act. The energy to be delivered under these PPAs will supply nearly 20 percent of the electricity consumed in Massachusetts. This decision represents one of the final approvals needed to complete the New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line to allow New England to tap into significant additional clean hydroelectric energy from Canada.

NextEra Energy, which unsuccessfully bid for the PPAs, had challenged the legality of the DPU’s approval, arguing that the PPAs did not meet the statutory requirement to provide “firm service” that consisted of only hydroelectric energy without interruption. NextEra also contended that the New England Power Pool Generation Information System (NEPOOL GIS), a tracking system that would account for units of transmitted electricity, is inadequate for compliance with the state’s clean energy statute. Hinckley Allen represented the DPU in the appeal, successfully arguing to the SJC that NextEra’s arguments lacked merit and failed to recognize the practical realities of energy transmission.

The SJC held that clean energy providers cannot be forced to guarantee their service would never be interrupted. The court also maintained the DPU’s assertion that “the PPAs guarantee electricity generated solely from hydroelectric generation and that the NEPOOL GIS tracking system is an adequate means to ensure the required accounting.”

“This is a significant moment for the energy industry and all those who closely watched the case,” said Jerry Petros, who leads Hinckley Allen’s Energy practice. “Through our team’s careful coordination and critical analysis, we were able to demonstrate that the DPU had issued a thorough and correct decision approving these critical contracts to achieve the Commonwealth’s clean energy goals.”

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