Energy Central Professional


Our state’s looming, pressing challenge: the green electric grid

The Boston Globe  


    We’re surrounded by opportunities to boost solar power

    As detailed in Sabrina Shankman’s article “As the electric grid goes green, big gaps emerge" (Page A1, May 14), we will have to attack the increasing need for renewable energy from many different angles. The rise in the use of solar power is exciting, with the efficiency rating of some consumer-level panels now exceeding 20 percent (meaning one-fifth of the sunshine hitting the panel can be converted to electricity). Many homeowners are able to meet most of their house and electric vehicle-charging needs, including power for heating with heat pumps.

    We are surrounded by one valuable resource that remains largely unexploited: parking lots. The municipal utility in Hingham is meeting almost 1 percent of its energy needs through solar canopies at two commuter rail parking lots. Imagine if we started building solar canopies over the lots at supermarkets, schools, and other sites. Not only would it be a huge source of often-unshaded solar power but it would also help keep the hot sun and freezing rain and snow off of people and their cars when they park or load their groceries.

    John Leonard


    Nature is a key ally in the fight against climate change

    We appreciate the Globe’s coverage of the need to decarbonize and expand our power grid, and we want to highlight the need to make nature our partner in this transition. By changing how we manage our land and water, we can increase nature’s ability to store carbon and offset emissions. According to the Nature4Climate mapper, an online tool developed with support from The Nature Conservancy, natural systems across Massachusetts have the potential to remove an additional 1.25 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year.

    We should avoid siting of industrial-scale solar and new transmission lines in ways that will destroy the very resources needed to reduce climate change impacts. Forests, farms, wetlands, and waterways don’t just store carbon; they also naturally protect our communities from flood, drought, and storms. Nature cleans drinking water supplies, supports wildlife habitat, enables outdoor recreation, and supports sustainable jobs on working lands, including local farms that produce healthy food for Massachusetts residents.

    The state should develop energy infrastructure on already-developed and degraded lands, as recommended in President Biden’s Nature Based Solutions Roadmap. Thoughtful siting today would increase carbon storage in our land and waters and conserve nature’s benefits for future generations.

    Nicie Panetta

    Interim president and CEO

    The Trustees of Reservations


    We must be up to the task of meeting growing demand

    Thank you to Sabrina Shankman for her deep and informative article that provided an excellent overview of the difficult challenges our state faces in achieving its clean energy goals for our electric system (“As the electric grid goes green, big gaps emerge," Page A1, May 14). Making the actual shift from fossil fuel to the clean electric grid to run our transportation system and power heat pumps to heat our homes and businesses presents an additional and ongoing challenge. To achieve that, we will need to provide vehicle charging stations across the state and make a strenuous effort to install heat pumps in many existing homes. These efforts pose significant challenges both to consumers and to our energy system.

    A study done by Synapse Energy Economics for E4TheFuture three years ago documented that we need to address improvements to our regional grid and how we manage the demand for this added power in order to ensure that a greater demand for electrification does not block the effective functioning of our power system. All of these challenges are real, and working to address them is critical and needs strong support on the ground and day by day in order for us to reach our climate goals.

    Stephen Cowell

    Executive director

    Northeast Energy Efficiency and Electrification Council


    The council is an association of energy efficiency companies: manufacturers, installers, engineers, distributors, designers, and retailers. The writer is former president of E4TheFuture.

    Frustrating outages reflect poorly on utilities’ reliability

    There is no doubt that having more clean electricity is vital. But so is the reliability of the power grid that delivers electricity.

    The investor-owned electric utilities, National Grid, Unitil, and Eversource, continue to fall short in the delivery of truly reliable electricity and they have done little to improve the resilience of the grid. How little? Here in National Grid country, we suffered two outages of two days each this winter, and the lights often flicker. This is no better than when we moved to the area more than 35 years ago.

    The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities has provided ineffective oversight of investor-owned utilities for years. Draft bills currently under consideration by the Legislature do not adequately address the need to improve a rickety electrical power grid, which is likely to be incapable of delivering the increased demand from electric vehicles and heat pumps. The Senate measure, if passed, would mandate a review of utility company plans every five years, which is not frequent enough given the dire situation of the grid.

    In the meantime, we in Massachusetts bear the considerable costs of outages in terms of interruptions to the workings of town government and schools, business shutdowns, dislocation of people’s lives, and increased risk for elders.

    Municipal light plants have a far better track record than the investor-owned utilities, with fewer outages of shorter duration and substantially lower costs per kilowatt/hour.

    National Grid, Unitil, and Eversource do not want their profits affected. But Massachusetts needs more reliable delivery of electricity and a modern physical plant. What can the Legislature and the governor do to make this happen?

    Ben Myers


    We can’t meet our goals without nuclear power

    In Sabrina Shankman’s article “As the electric grid goes green, big gaps emerge," she described what Massachusetts would need to do to meet the goal of 92 percent clean energy by 2030, as required by state law. However, this goal is too shortsighted to address the clean energy problem.

    A reasonable goal for the entire country would be a clean energy requirement for the expected lifetime of children born now. That would extend to 2100, at which time the population of the United States will have grown by almost 25 percent.

    We can assume that power requirements will be far greater because everything will be electrified, such as vehicles and home heating systems.

    It is also reasonable to assume that the land for solar power farms and seacoast areas for wind farms will have grown more scarce.

    Our local power company in Stow, Hudson Light and Power, recently received a clean energy award. However, to get this, much of the energy comes from the Seabrook nuclear plant in New Hampshire.

    The only countrywide solution to the problem of meeting our energy goals is more nuclear power plants. They produce clean energy, but the permitting process can drag on.

    We must pursue a vigorous program to build more nuclear plants. Of course, there are many issues, such as disposal of the waste, but these can be handled. If we do not start such a program now, our children will still be burning fossil fuel at the end of the century.

    William W. Shrader



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