ISO-New England is the electricity grid operator in the region and a recognized expert in New England’s energy needs. An independent non-profit, ISO-NE operates our region’s power system, runs the wholesale electricity marketplace, and plans so our region can meet its energy needs in the decade ahead. Their website is here and includes a number of reports on the region’s energy challenges.
Natural gas has been the single biggest contributor to the long-term decline in regional emissions, according to a 2015 ISO-New England Electric Generator Air Emissions Report. As a measure of how impactful our transition from coal and oil to natural gas has been environmentally, consider that Massachusetts’ carbon emissions from electric generating stations has plummeted by 63 percent since 1990 even as consumption of electricity grew by 21 percent.
In short, we are not prepared. As The Boston Globe recently wrote, 40% of our state’s emissions come from our vehicles and the technology to reduce them is already here. Expanding access to natural gas will allow policymakers to dramatically increase the number of electric vehicles on the road in less than a decade.
The first solicitation for renewable energy — known as “83D” — will be announced in January, 2018. Full implementation won’t occur until 2027, though energy will begin to come online before then. By contrast, 5,000 MW of natural gas can be online within five years’ time. Renewables will begin to play a larger role in our energy mix, but this transition will take time, and as the President and CEO of ISO-New England recently noted, “the region is decades away from installing enough renewable resources and grid-scale energy storage to allow for complete independence from fossil fuels.” Natural gas is the best resource to help us maintain reliability and sustain economic growth as we move towards our lower carbon future.
Our region is extremely vulnerable to price spikes, particularly during winter months when demand is greatest, weather is unpredictable and energy costs fluctuate. These spikes add an estimated $1 billion to our energy costs every year.
While Massachusetts has largely transitioned away from dirty sources of energy, in the cold winter months when the days are shorter and energy use increases, solar is less effective and natural gas is in short supply. As a result, we are still dependent on coal and oil to fill the gap — for sometimes as much as 1/2 to 3/4 of our fuel.