Challenging the status quo on electricity, heating
Two top officials with the Conservation Law Foundation say the region’s power grid operator and the state’s utilities are in some ways part of the problem instead of the solution to dealing with climate change.
Greg Cunningham, the vice president and director of CLF’s clean energy and climate change program, and Caitlin Peale Sloan, the vice president for Massachusetts, said on The Codcast that they are concerned the institutions that should be leading the fight against climate change are not doing so.
Cunningham’s focus is on ISO-New England, the region’s power grid operator headed by Gordon van Welie. Van Welie was a guest on The Codcast two weeks ago and his focus was on the vulnerability of the power grid, the potential for rolling blackouts, and the continued need for natural gas as a backup fuel.
“It’s frustrating needless to say for us to sit here in 2022 and hear the litany of problems and concerns repeated over and over again from the entity that was designed to be central around fixing them,” Cunningham said. “Gordon van Welie has a substantial pedestal from which to speak and many people listen when he does. There’s an unfortunate tendency to use fear-mongering and the risk of rolling blackouts and all of the bad things that may happen if we don’t address these issues rather than identifying for us how we’re going to solve these problems.”
Sloan is equally concerned about National Grid’s proposal to decarbonize the way we heat homes and buildings by keeping the existing system of pipes in place and swapping out natural gas for renewable natural gas and green hydrogen. She says pumping a different form of methane through a leaking pipe system doesn’t work for her.
“My reaction to any of our gas utilities who talk about essentially keeping their current business models and swapping in alternative fuels is that that’s just categorically not a decarbonization plan,” she said.
Cunningham said he has the same reaction to ISO-New England’s continued reliance on natural gas. “To identify gas and the need to bring more gas into the region as part of the solution, feels, as Caitlin was saying about the utilities, it’s just a justification for continuing to do business as usual, which is no plan at all,” he said.
Sloan said Massachusetts energy policy has been stalled in place for most of the last eight years with the exception of offshore wind procurements. She said the Baker administration’s push to wean solar companies off of subsidies “is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing.”
Cunningham said the calls by the two Democratic candidates for governor – Healey and Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz – for the power grid to be fueled by clean, renewable energy by 2030 are not unrealistic.
“Is it feasible? Yes, it’s absolutely feasible from a technical and physics perspective,” he said. “I think the question is how much will it cost.”
Battery-electric buses: The MBTA went out to bid on a long-awaited procurement of as many as 460 battery-electric buses, supplemented with a diesel-powered heating system. A contract is expected to be awarded by the end of this year and the first buses should arrive next year. Read more.
Sports betting: The Senate is preparing to take up a sports betting bill this week, but the outline differs from the House approach in several key respects. Read more.
Pathway to college: Aisha Francis, Darlene Marcano, and Nicole Obi partner up to provide a pathway from Boston Public Schools’ Dearborn STEM Academy to Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology. Anyone who graduates from Dearborn will be automatically accepted to Benjamin Franklin. Read more.
Not a good idea: Peter Piazza of the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment says even a partial state takeover would be a bad idea for the Boston Public Schools. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
House Republicans will push for tax breaks to be included in the state budget through the amendment process. (Salem News)
The Pittsfield Board of Health asks the City Council for money to hire lawyers for an upcoming fight with Verizon over a cellphone tower the board says is undermining the health of local residents. (Berkshire Eagle)
Boston area wastewater concentrations of coronaviruses have started to drop, raising hope that the region may be turning the corner on the BA.2 virus variant. (Boston Herald)
Gov. Charlie Baker and Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson traded compliments as Baker headlined Hodgson’s official reelection kickoff last week in Westport. (New Bedford Light)
French President Emmanuel Macron rode to a decisive victory over right-wing challenger Marine Le Pen, winning Sunday’s election by nearly 20 points. (New York Times)
Twitter nears a deal to sell itself to Elon Musk. (New York Times)
Lynn Clark is removed from her duties as Chicopee schools superintendent after she was arrested for lying to the FBI. (MassLive)
UMass Boston launches a $1.5 million marketing campaign. (Boston Globe)
Undocumented immigrants in New Bedford explain why they they they should be allowed to obtain licenses. (Standard-Times)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is proposing new rules regarding decommissioning nuclear power plants, which would impact the decommissioning of Pilgrim Station in Plymouth. (Patriot Ledger)
Several alleged victims detail the allegations against Billy Riley, the director of a Worcester food pantry for the poor, who has been accused of paying for sexual favors from women, including those who visited the food pantry. (MassLive)Critics say a new Boston police oversight panel is off to a slow start. (Boston Globe)
After winning multiple delays, former Fall River mayor Jasiel Correia finally began his six-year federal prison sentence on Friday. (Herald News)