International events have exploded the myth that fossil fuels are cheaper and more reliable than wind, solar, and battery energy. The U.S. is exporting large quantities of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to Europe and other nations affected by the boycott of Russian products since the invasion of Ukraine. Industry experts believe that the sharp increases in the price of oil and natural gas will remain with us for years in the future.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities’ (DPU) past decisions favoring ga$ are now coming home to roost with 44% and even 50% increases in electric bills and heating costs this winter. After the Paris Agreements in 2016, the DPU should have pushed Eversource and National Grid to diversify our heating and electric systems by mandating that:
- Mass Save installs electric heat pumps in homes and not gas heating units,
- The utilities buy heat pumps at wholesale prices and re-sell them to homeowners and landlords who want to install them,
- The utilities use incentives to encourage installation of solar panels on homes and businesses, and
- The DPU rapidly processes town and city applications to create Municipal Electricity Aggregation plans; plans that allow municipalities to negotiate bulk electricity contracts with suppliers other than local utilities; contracts that include more renewable energy and provide stable prices.
By now the continuing low prices for solar and wind power would be modifying the soaring impact of natural ga$ this winter.
The Impact of Early Incentives
Every home using a heat pump would not be paying 50% more for gas heat this winter. Every home or business using solar power from its roof would be paying only a small percentage of its electric bill for electricity from natural gas power plants.
Moreover, years of increasing money going into renewables would have created a large heat pump and solar panel industry in Massachusetts along with greater consumer demand for those products. When prices began rising this spring, it would have set off a determined effort to install more heat pumps and solar panels before winter. Instead, there is a sense of resignation as consumers are bearing the full brunt of price increases for both home heating and electric energy, with no ability to respond to the sudden cost hikes.
The Climate Courage Working Group of 350 Mass is calling for a rally and march against the actions of the DPU. The day is SATURDAY, December 10, 2023.
The march is from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m. in Dewey Square across from South Station in Boston.
Register for the Event: actionnetwork.org/events/dpu-march-and-rally
Why now? The D.P.U. is managed by a three-person body that oversees the regulated utilities in Massachusetts. DPU approves or rejects their rates requests, investment strategies, proposed mergers and acquisitions, and other aspects of their operation. DPU oversees privately owned electric and gas companies, telecommunication and cable providers, and safety at the MBTA (oh boy). Commissioners are appointed by the governor for multi-year terms. When Governor Baker steps down in January, Maura Healey will appoint two of the three commissioners.
What Has the DPU Done the Last Four Years?
The three Baker-appointed DPU Commissioners have acted as if protecting the ga$ industry and slow walking the transition to renewable energy is their most important job.
Four recent actions and non-actions tell the story. First, Eversource and National Grid are actively blocking efforts by homeowners to connect net metering at their homes after installing solar panels on their roofs. The DPU has made no effort to force Eversource and National Grid to use this method to add solar energy to the grid, blocking attempts to move away from ga$ powered plants that generate electricity. Second, the DPU has also made no efforts to establish a low-cost heat pump purchase program to jump start installing these energy saving units. Until this fall, Mass Save helped low-income consumers install new gas-fired heating units in apartments and homes!
Third, until this October, the DPU denied all municipal requests to establish local Aggregate Purchasing Programs for more than two years. Aggregate Purchasing allows cities and towns to negotiate master contracts with electric power suppliers on behalf of their residents – resulting in lower rates and the ability to demand a high percentage of renewable energy.
This should be a routine approval process. But, the DPU has stonewalled 44 pending municipal requests, most of them for over two years! It gave grudging approval to 16 this fall only after intense media coverage. The delay means that those towns will now be bargaining for multi-year contracts at this year’s inflated prices. DPU’s inaction means they could not lock in the low rates available as recently as a year ago and must now pay 44% to 50% more.
Fourth, when Attorney General Healey asked the DPU to study how to transition the ga$ industry from piping fracked ga$ (aka “natural” ga$) into people’s homes, the DPU turned the task over to the ga$ companies. They created a plan called “The Future of Gas.” The plan recommends using pipeline ga$ far into the future by injecting hydrogen (much more explosive than methane) into the ga$ pipeline system and buying expensive synthetic methane to make ga$ less carbon emitting.
We Need to Send a Message
Governor Healey, we welcome your as our next governor! Please choose strong, knowledgeable Climate Change activists to reform our state’s ga$ oriented policies.
The DPU = Polluting our Climate and Burning our Money $
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