Use of coal and oil during a two-week period this winter had emissions equivalent to adding 6.4 million cars on New England roads, report finds

Bill Ryan: 617-699-3057,
CJ Chapman: 413-519-7212,

The Massachusetts Coalition for Sustainable Energy (MCSE) today released The Need for a Balanced Portfolio Approach to Address New England’s Fuel Security Problem — a new report that details the significant environmental and negative economic impact that the current lack of access to reliable energy is having on Massachusetts and throughout New England. Concentric Energy Advisors, Inc. authored the report.

A shortage of clean-burning reliable access to natural gas is forcing New England to rely upon higher emitting fuel sources to generate electricity during our coldest months, including oil and coal. According to the report, relying on coal and oil during this winter’s two-week cold snap had the emissions equivalent to putting an additional 6.4 million cars on the road, more than the number of registered vehicles in Massachusetts alone. Further, the study found that additional CO2 emissions from coal and oil generation during just that 15-day period effectively offset the emission benefits that approximately 1500 MW of solar power provide annually.

“We cannot continue using coal, oil, and Russian-imported LNG to satisfy our energy needs,” said Rick Sullivan, CEO of the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts and former secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs under Governor Deval Patrick. “During the 14-day period, we burned nearly twenty times the amount of coal and oil per day than we had burned immediately before the onset of the cold weather. It’s as if we replaced our solar power capacity with six-and-a-half million cars. For a state that has been at the forefront of clean energy policy, that is unacceptable.”

“The shortage of cost-effective and reliable energy is causing employers to rethink their investments in Massachusetts,” said Robert Rio, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at Associated Industries of Massachusetts. “Other states have noticed our inaction on energy and are using it to persuade Massachusetts companies to relocate.

“Failure to act imperils our economic future and risks wasting the billions of dollars that electric customers have already paid to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Our progress has stopped and we are going backwards. This should not be allowed to happen when a balanced option is available.”

“To reach the Commonwealth’s emissions reduction goal and to provide the region with competitively priced and reliable energy, MACP continues to support and advocate for a balanced approach,” said Dan O’Connell, the President & CEO of the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership. “This includes continuing to diversify our energy portfolio with competitively solicited renewables, expanding the use of innovative energy storage technologies, and increasing the region’s access to natural gas. This report, published by the Mass Coalition for Sustainable Energy, highlights how a balanced approach can help the region accomplish these goals moving forward.”

The study cites a dramatic spike in cost incurred by ratepayers during the winter’s coldest months. During the “Polar Vortex” winter of 2013/2014, costs to New England consumers were $4.8 billion higher than the winter of 2016/2017. This winter, electric costs again exceeded those of the previous winter by $1.7 billion.

“What we’ve clearly seen throughout this winter is a rise in energy costs because of a shortage of clean, reliable alternatives,” said Joseph Bonfiglio, Business Manager, Massachusetts and Northern New England Laborers’ District Council. “Renewables are the future. But if we don’t upgrade our existing natural gas infrastructure in the meantime, the hardest hit will be working families, seniors and the economically vulnerable. High energy costs will continue to unfairly cripple business, large and small. This is a recipe for an economic disaster and it’s shameful.”

According to the study and a 2017 report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st Century Energy, rising energy prices could have a catastrophic effect on the region’s economy, hindering economic growth and leading to an elimination of jobs. That report estimates that continuing the status quo of constrained energy infrastructure in New England could result in the loss of almost 25,000 jobs and $2 billion in state GDP.