We believe that clean air is a right. No one should have to live in a community where their health is at risk simply from the air that they breathe. Therefore, we are demanding that peaking power plants convert to only renewable and clean alternatives.
• WHY PEAKERS ARE A PROBLEM
Peaker plants are the electric generation plants that come online when all the baseline plants on the grid are maxed out. This most often happens during stretches of the hottest days of the year.
These Peaker plants are some of the oldest, least efficient, most emitting and most costly power plants Massachusetts. They emit greenhouse gasses like CO2, contributing significantly to the region’s greenhouse gas emissions, and local pollutants nitrogen oxides, a hazardous gas that poses several significant health risks, including asthma, cardiovascular disease and increased mortality rates from COVID. Pittsfield Generating, for example, accounted for over 15% of the city of Pittsfield’s total stationary emissions in 2018, despite only running for a few days out of the year.
More than 90 percent of the Peaker plants are over 30 years old, with many over 50. And even now, a brand new one is being constructed in Peabody, MA. See Breathe Clean North Shore’s website. While the Putting Peakers in the Past Coalition Berkshires campaign has convinced Cogentrix, the owner of three Peakers, to convert them to renewables and storage by the end of 2023.
Just about all peakers are very close to or in Environmental Justice neighborhoods. Their most common time to run is during long bouts of hot, humid weather, when air quality in these heavily impacted neighborhoods is already dangerous.
• ALTERNATIVES TO PEAKER PLANTS
There are cleaner, cheaper alternatives to these plants that don’t pollute our air or cost nearly as much. The first alternative is happening already: demand response, or peak shaving. During times of peak demand, customers, especially those that use a lot of electricity, can save a substantial amount of money by reducing their electricity demand for a few hours. This is because avoiding energy use during peak demand lowers their supply rate across the board.
» Learn more about Demand Response and Peak Shaving from BEAT’s webinar
GRID STORAGE (Clean Peak Standard)
Solar plus storage can be used to produce and store clean electricity for use by the grid (in front of the meter) during these peak times. Right next to the Doreen and Woodland Road plants, there is acreage where solar plus storage could be built.
And the Clean Peak Standard, the regulatory program for grid-scale storage in Massachusetts, allow for storage only, storage paired with off-site renewables, or storage paired with third party off-site renewables as options for feeding energy to the grid at peak. This allows sites with limited acreage like Pittsfield Generating to store energy while renewables in other locations are generating. This could be paired with solar on large scale rooftops, over brownfields, parking areas, transit corridors like alongside or over road or railways, etc.
» Learn more about the Clean Peak Standard from Clean Energy Group’s webinar
There is also Mass Save’s “Connected Solutions” program that allows electric customers (behind the meter) to use battery storage in multiple ways:
– Demand Response – switching to stored energy instead of drawing from the grid at peak
– “Virtual Power Plant” – supplying stored energy to the grid at peak demand
– “Islanding” – supplying power to the building or other infrastructure to which it’s tied during outages (a bonus benefit of local resiliency for municipalities)
– Energy supply during off-generation hours, supplying power to the customer when their own solar or wind isn’t operational
All of these functions can be engaged whenever the customer desires and incentives for each kind of use can be combined for increased revenue and decreased pay-back period.
All these alternatives replace dirty, air-polluting power plants with clean energy that would cost electric ratepayers less to operate. When solar is appropriately placed on rooftops, over parking lots, brownfields and other already disturbed areas instead of clear cut forest land, it brings clean generation closer to the location of demand as well.
» Learn more about Connected Solutions from Clean Energy Group webinar
Putting Peakers in the Past Coalition
Our opposition coalition, including organizations, neighborhood groups and businesses who are opposed to the continued use of fossil fuel for peak demand.
Our Coalition is reaching out to plant owners to urge them to convert to clean energy storage options as soon as possible, rather than continue polluting until they become stranded assets as fossil fuel use is phased out by state law.
AIR QUALITY PERMIT PROCESS
We believe that once people in affected communities understand the impacts of these power plants, we can take action together to shut them down! That may take the form of pressing for alternatives like switching them to grid storage and solar or pressuring to shut them down altogether if their low run times prove that they’re not needed.
Sign on to the Coalition Statement!
– Join our list-serv — tinyurl.com/MAPeakerList
– Sign up for Shave the Peak app — greenenergyconsumers.org/shavethepeak