Energy forecast: Good today, future uncertain

The forecast for today calls for mostly sunny skies with the high temperature in the upper 60s and the low around 52 degrees. It’s ideal weather from an energy perspective – not so hot that an air conditioner is needed and not so cold that the heat needs to be turned on. In weather like this, the shutdown of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station five days ago seems fairly insignificant.

At 6 a.m., for example, nuclear power – even with Pilgrim out of commission – supplied the largest chunk of New England’s electricity – 41 percent. Natural gas was second at 38 percent, renewables were third at 12 percent, and hydro was 8 percent.

But those percentages are deceptive because energy usage is so low right now. On a day like today, the steady output of New England’s remaining nuclear plants (3,336 megawatts from the financially shored up Millstone plant in Connecticut and Seabrook in New Hampshire) will account for a large chunk of the region’s energy needs.

However, as we head into the summer, and rising temperatures prompt people to turn on their air conditioners, peak energy usage is forecasted to double from what it is today. Nuclear power’s contribution to the fuel mix will decline in percentage terms, in part because Pilgrim is no longer producing electricity. Last Friday, before the shutdown of Pilgrim, the region’s nuclear power plants were producing 3,561 megawatts of electricity. A year ago at this time, they were producing 4,000 megawatts.

As Pilgrim retires, new power plants are coming online to make up for the loss of energy production. The bulk of this new power is coming from three plants capable of running on either natural gas or oil. (Five large solar facilities, a new wind farm, and the expansion of an existing wind farm will provide a much smaller portion of the new power.)

In the short term, roughly the next three years, the region’s reliance on power from fossil fuels is expected to grow with the closing of Pilgrim Station. The forecast is for an increase in greenhouse gas emissions as well.

What happens after the next three years is still unclear, particularly as the state tries to decarbonize its transportation sector, which would most likely require more, not less, electricity production.

Massachusetts is doubling its procurement of offshore wind and is expected to start importing a large amount of hydro-electricity from Quebec. Connecticut and Rhode Island are also investing in offshore wind.

Solar power is expected to keep growing, but without significant gains in electricity storage technology its effectiveness in displacing gas-fired power plants is likely to be somewhat limited.

Joshua S. Goldstein, the author of a new book on climate and nuclear power, argues that renewables aren’t the answer to reducing dependence on fossil fuels. “When the sun sets, when the wind dies, methane power plants quickly jump in to keep the grid up. Decarbonization it’s not,” he says in a Boston Globe op-ed.

Goldstein calls for building four South Korean-made nuclear reactors on the closed Pilgrim site in Plymouth. He acknowledges the idea of building more nuclear power plants scares people, but he insists the plants are safe, reliable, economical, and a way to end the region’s reliance on natural gas.

Judging from today’s Boston Globe letters to the editor section, his proposal has a zero chance of becoming reality.

Which leaves Gordon van Welie, who runs the region’s power grid operator, worried about the future. “This era that we’re entering into I think is going to be one of the most challenging eras of our history,” he tells WBUR.



New England Patriots players Devin McCourty, Jason McCourty, Matthew Slater, and Duron Harmon coauthor an op-ed urging action on revamping the state’s education funding formula, urging the House not to waver in doubling the increase tied to educating low-income students. (Boston Globe) Worcester isn’t taking any chances. Michael Angelini, the chairman of the Bowditch & Dewey law firm, is preparing to go to court to force an increase in funding (Telegram & Gazette)

The House is preparing to take up a labor-friendly bill tomorrow, in response to a ruling last year by the US Supreme Court, that would allow public-sector unions to continue to charge nonmembers certain “reasonable” fees. (State House News)

In the wake of two confirmed cases of measles in Massachusetts, both with connections to the South Shore, Haverhill State Rep. Andres Vargas is pushing to end a religious exemption that allows parents to opt out of vaccinating schoolchildren. (Patriot Ledger)


City officials unveil the final design for a $60 million makeover of Boston City Hall Plaza. (Boston Globe)

Maggie Duprey, a school administrator in New Hampshire, will take over as Methuen’s chief administrative financial officer to help the city with its budget issues. (Eagle-Tribune)


At a pretrial hearing in Nantucket on Monday, the attorney for Kevin Spacey accused the mother of Spacey’s alleged sexual assault victim of deleting text evidence. (Cape Cod Times)

Japanese women push for a law barring employers from requiring them to wear heels at work (New York Times)


Singer-songwriter Carole King will perform at a fundraiser for the reelection of Sen. Edward Markey. (State House News)

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley is launching a leadership PAC called the Power of Us, which will help Democratic candidates, train campaign workers and assist efforts to ensure an accurate census count. (WBUR)

David Bernstein finds a striking message discipline among Joe Biden’s campaign staffers online in contrast to the “cacophonous social media activity of other campaigns.” (WGBH)


A new study fills in details of what we largely already knew: suburban communities around Boston throw up all sorts of zoning and regulatory roadblocks to new housing. (Boston Globe)


At least six Massachusetts colleges and universities are using the College Board’s new “adversity index” in weighing applications for admission. (Boston Globe)

A small number of children who had been assigned to the second Alma del Mar campus as a neighborhood school may still be able to attend the second district-wide school if they’re on the school’s wait list. Their parents are upset at the demise of a neighborhood charter school in the state legislature. (Standard Times)

Lynn plans to offer free breakfast to all elementary school children next year. (Daily Item)


Patients in Massachusetts and other states hard hit by the opioid crisis can face hurdles finding someone to prescribe them Suboxone, which treats opioid addiction. (WBUR)

CVS is preparing to launch a major health care expansion, with plans to open 1,500 HealthHub stores by 2021. (MassLive)


Art students from Massachusetts College of Art and Design are creating toys for elephants at the Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford. (Herald News)


Boston would like to be a city that never sleeps, but a recent MBTA pilot project suggests otherwise. There just enough riders between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. to justify even limited bus service, so the T is becoming a 22-7 (instead of a 24-7) transit authority. (CommonWealth)

T notes: Ridership up in first quarter….T hiring a new employee to solicit and help craft pilot service proposals….Officials now say the new Orange Line cars and an anti-collision system for commuter rail are on track. (CommonWealth)


Katherine Maddox, the wife of Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox, pleaded no contest to one count of domestic battery against her husband. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)


New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and state Sen. Michael Brady of Brockton are following the same legal and public relations playbook in dealing with past transgressions. Call it the not-guilty apology. (CommonWealth)

Richard Piquard of Whitinsville is sentenced to 90 days in jail followed by more than two years of probation for burying his dog alive (Telegram & Gazette)

Christian Francisco Delacruz, a 24-year-old Lawrence man with a lengthy criminal record, was held without bail on charges of beating his girlfriend’s toddler, and kidnapping. (Eagle-Tribune)