The Environmental Protection Agency just announced the largest investment for community air monitoring in its history. Funded by President Biden’s Climate and Economic Plans, it includes $2.1 million to five Massachusetts organizations. Thanks to much hard work by Rose and Jane, BEAT won one of these coveted grants! We’ll use our $300K to monitor air quality in Pittsfield, focusing on environmental justice communities located near point sources of pollution – like the peaker plant on Merrill Road. At the same time, we’ll conduct surveys of residents’ health conditions and look for correlations with the presence of fine particulates and other pollutants.
Ironically (but not in a funny way), a gas and diesel-fired peaking power plant currently under construction in Peabody will blanket another “overexposed” environmental justice community in health-harming pollution, according to new research commissioned by our allies at Massachusetts Climate Action Network. We humbly suggest that it’s better not to pollute in the first place – especially near EJ communities – as required by current Massachusetts law. Initial waves of the Covid-19 pandemic exposed how the practice of locating polluting infrastructure in the poorest communities had made them especially unhealthy and vulnerable once infected. That exposure eliminated the possibility of the sort of casual apathy and denial that had allowed the practice to go on so long. Efforts to redress the situation began with pandemic relief, and have worked their way into climate legislation.
That said, we appreciate that our protests and actions against fossil fuel infrastructure, in the service of a just energy transition and community health, are largely protected in the United States. As activists, we are watching with concern as our counterparts attempt to apply pressure around the COP27 climate negotiations in Egypt, and who are being jailed in advance for “crimes” that boil down to nothing more than inconveniencing powerful people. This round of COP, in particular, needs to hear from these activists, because now is the moment to confront the inconvenient fact that G20 nations continue to support fossil fuel development with taxpayer money while failing miserably to acknowledge the scale of climate-related support needed to help poorer countries add resiliency and move directly to clean energy.
Closer to home, we’re starting to see real results as sustained, climate-focused money starts flowing to projects aimed at greening the economy. In Salem, a vacant waterfront site formerly used to store coal will be transformed into an offshore wind marshalling yard, supporting over 800 full time jobs.
Federal grants will also help nearly 400 school districts across the US purchase electric school buses. The program aims to reduce children’s exposure to harmful exhaust from diesel buses. Several Indigenous tribal lands, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa are included among the recipients.
As these transformative projects get underway, they all contend with lingering supply chain and inflation challenges. These have a pile-on effect atop the historical difficulties associated with developing clean energy projects in already overburdened communities – a problem that the Inflation Reduction Act is attempting to address.
Speaking of inflation, we’ve devoted our entire Energy Efficiency section this week to “news you can use” in the face of the high cost of heating this winter. If you live in Massachusetts, check out our lead article on obtaining assistance on energy bills. Wherever you are, you’ll stay warmer with interior window inserts (link to DIY video provided!). And finally, save money by switching to a heat pump.
Since the way to energy efficiency involves electrifying just about everything while also integrating tons of clean energy and storage, a lot of people have different ideas about how best to modernize the grid. In New England, our grid operator opened a board meeting to public participation for the first time, and the result was… interesting. This is all taking place as the region faces another winter with constrained energy supplies due to an over reliance on natural gas in the power sector and the complicating factor of Russia’s war in Ukraine. This has the grid operator and electric utilities looking for ways to guarantee supplies of liquefied natural gas as a backstop in case prolonged bitter cold causes winter peak demand to spike.
Of course, the fossil fuel industry is using current supply and price issues to argue that the world needs even more oil and gas. But plans to develop African gas reserves ran up against a series of recent reports just released by the African Climate Foundation, debunking rosy industry claims of prosperity and development – and showing the best path is to jump directly to clean energy.
Rapid transformation of any sort on a global scale is unsettling, even when it promises the type of broadly distributed economic, environmental, and health benefits that come with the clean energy transition. So lots of countries, municipalities, and companies have hedged their bets – investing deeply in carbon offsets and reforestation as a way to slow-walk the transition. While it’s great to plant trees – and we should be doing a lot more of it – carbon offset programs have already over booked the available land. Bottom line: just do the transition already! Also, keep planting trees.
For even more environmental news, info, and events, check out the latest newsletter from our colleagues at Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT)!
— The NFGiM Team
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
Biden-Harris Administration Announces More than $2.1 Million for Community Air Pollution Monitoring Projects in Massachusetts Communities
Largest investment for community air monitoring in EPA history funded by President Biden’s Climate and Economic Plans
By US Environmental Protection Agency
November 3, 2022
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has selected five Massachusetts organizations to receive $2,157,520 in grants to conduct community air quality monitoring in multiple communities in the Commonwealth. The grants are among 132 air monitoring projects in 37 states which will receive $53.4 million from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act and American Rescue Plan to enhance air quality monitoring in communities across the United States. The projects are focused on communities that are underserved, historically marginalized, and overburdened by pollution, supporting President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative.
“I’ve traveled across the country and visited communities who’ve suffered from unhealthy, polluted air for far too long. I pledged to change that by prioritizing underserved communities and ensuring they have the resources they need to confront longstanding pollution challenges,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “The air monitoring projects we are announcing today, which include the first EPA grants funded by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, will ensure dozens of overburdened communities have the tools they need to better understand air quality challenges in their neighborhoods and will help protect people from the dangers posed by air pollution.”
“Berkshire Environmental Action Team, Inc. will receive $300,131. Using ten stationary continuous air monitors and five mobile monitors, BEAT will monitor for fine particle pollution (both PM2.5 and PM10), and nitrogen oxides throughout key locations in Pittsfield, Mass. including environmental justice neighborhoods, near point sources of pollution and in “control” locations away from these centers. Our air quality monitoring will be supplemented by a survey of community health conditions, conducted during the monitoring period, to look for correlating increases or decreases in severity.”
» Read press release
» Read about the Justice40 Initiative
» More about EPA
PEAKING POWER PLANTS
Peabody Peaker plant would harm already ‘overburdened’ communities, advocates say
By Dharna Noor, Boston Globe
November 4, 2022
A gas and diesel-fired power plant being built in Peabody would expose an already “overburdened” community to yet more health-harming pollution, according to an analysis by an environmental advocacy group that opposes the plant.
The plant, a controversial 55-megawatt facility meant to run only during times of peak electricity demand, is expected to begin operations next year. It has drawn strong opposition from local climate activists and residents, not only because it will burn fossil fuel, but because burning gas and diesel releases pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and fine particulate matter, which have been linked to health concerns.
The new research, commissioned by the Massachusetts Climate Action Network and posted on the group’s website on Friday, found that those living within two kilometers (about 1.2 miles) of the project already experience significantly elevated rates of cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke when compared to the rest of Massachusetts.
The analysis is based on data from the state, the US Census, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It doesn’t explain what’s behind the health disparities. But Kathryn Rodgers, a Boston University School of Public Health doctoral student who led the research, said they could be linked to legacy pollution left by Peabody’s now-defunct leather factories. There’s also a chance they are linked to exposure to other nearby polluting infrastructure, she said. The report identified 19 miles of major roadway and two existing gas and oil-fired peaker plants nearby, as well as 11 other businesses in the focus area that could be contributing to air pollution.
Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company, which would own and operate the plant, was not immediately available for comment.
For more than a year, the Peabody Board of Health, the Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility, and others have urged the state to conduct a full environmental impact report and comprehensive health impact assessment of the project, to no avail. The new report underscores the need for such an analysis, said Logan Malik, interim executive director of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network.
Rodgers also found that the neighborhood immediately surrounding the plant’s site and seven nearby census blocks all meet the state’s definition of an “environmental justice community,” a classification based on race, income, and level of English language proficiency.
A major climate law the state passed last year requires new potentially polluting projects in or near such communities to undergo special assessments of their environmental impact in the context of other air pollution in the neighborhood. The peaker plant was approved before the law’s passage and therefore exempted, but Malik said it should nonetheless “be held to that newer standard.”
Critics have long voiced concerns that younger and older people will be exposed to the plant’s pollution. The new report notes that two hospitals, four schools, and four long-term care facilities are inside the focus area.
» Read article
» Read the health analysis
» More about peakers
PROTESTS AND ACTIONS
‘You Cannot Have Climate Justice Without Human Rights’: Advocates Condemn Arrests Ahead of COP27
By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
November 3, 2022
Nearly 70 people have been arrested in Egypt ahead of the COP27 UN climate conference, and Indian climate activist Ajit Rajagopal was briefly detained on his planned foot journey to the summit.
COP27 is being held in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh from November 6 to 18. However, several human rights and environmental groups have expressed concerns about Egypt’s record on human rights and how that conflicts with civil society’s ability to participate in the summit at a crucial moment for the global fight against the climate crisis.
“Why did the Egyptian government request to host the Climate Summit, as long as the security restrictions will obstruct the simplest movements and manifestations of protest against the environmental crises?” the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) said in a statement condemning Rajagopal’s arrest.
ECRF director Mohamed Lotfy said that, in recent days, at least 67 people had been arrested in Cairo and other Egyptian cities as of Monday over calls on social media for protests on November 11 in conjunction with the climate conference, Reuters reported. Public protest has essentially become illegal in Egypt since 2013, when then-army chief and current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Mursi and took power. Another crackdown followed a burst of demonstrations in 2019 in which thousands were arrested.
The Egyptian government has said protests connected to COP27 will only be allowed in a designated area separated from the conference center, according to The Guardian. More than 1,000 environmental and human rights groups and advocates including Greta Thunberg have signed a petition calling on Egypt to allow more room for civil society and release everyone arbitrarily detained ahead of the conference.
» Read article
» More about protests and actions
G20 Nations, Banks Spent Nearly Twice as Much Financing Fossil Fuels as Renewables
“It is well past time that public finance dollars are spent to remedy fossil fuel colonialism by funding real solutions,” asserted one of the lead authors of a new report.
By Brett Wilkins. Common Dreams
November 1, 2022
Group of 20 nations and major multilateral development banks spent nearly twice as much financing international fossil fuel projects as they did on clean energy alternatives during a recent two-year period, a report published Tuesday by a pair of green groups revealed.
Oil Change International and Friends of the Earth U.S., along with dozens of collaborating climate and environmental justice groups, found that from 2019 to 2021, members of the G20 and multilateral development banks (MDBs) including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) “provided at least $55 billion per year in international public finance for oil, gas, and coal,” an amount “almost two times more than their support for clean energy, which averaged only $29 billion per year.”
“This support directly counters G20 countries’ commitment to align financial flows to 1.5°C under the Paris agreement, as well as their 2009 commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies,” the publication continues. “This international public finance has an outsized impact on global energy systems, because it can offer government-backed credit ratings, is often provided at below-market rates, comes with large research and technical capacity, and signals broader government priorities.”
“Right now,” the report notes, “G20 countries and MDBs are overwhelmingly using their international public finance to prop up fossil fuel companies and prolong the fossil fuel era.”
» Read article
» Read the report
» More about divestment
GREENING THE ECONOMY
Feds grant Salem $33.8 million award for offshore wind port
By Dharna Noor, Boston Globe
October 28, 2022
Salem, a city once known for a massive coal-fired power plant, is receiving $33.8 million from the federal government for the renewable energy transition, federal officials said on Friday.
The funding will help the city carry out efforts to transform a vacant waterfront site, once used to store coal, into an offshore wind turbine marshalling yard.
The project will include installing a 700-foot-long wharf and bulkhead to assemble, stage, and store the turbines, which are difficult to accommodate at most ports because they can be as long as a football field.
The city has been planning the $180 million conversion for months. Last year, officials announced a public-private partnership with offshore wind developers Crowley Wind Services and Vineyard Wind to carry out the project. And earlier this month, Crowley Wind Services purchased the 42 acre plot from the city, saying it plans to begin constructing the terminal next summer and complete it 2025.
Once it’s open, Vineyard Wind intends to assemble components of its turbines at the new site for towers that will go up in waters south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
The terminal, which Crowley says will create more than 800 full-time positions, could be a gamechanger for Salem’s economy. According to Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, it could help replace jobs lost when the city’s old coal-fired power plant shut down in 2014. Non-governmental partners on the project have also committed to negotiating a Project Labor Agreement with local building trades unions, establishing strong labor protections, federal officials said in an e-mail.
The project will also bolster the Biden administration’s goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, and help Massachusetts achieve its ambitious climate goals. The state has pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, and expects meeting that target will require about 15 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2050.
The facility will make Salem Massachusetts’ second port designed for the nascent offshore wind industry. New Bedford is also developing a new offshore wind terminal and berthing facility, set to open in March 2023.
» Read article
» More about greening the economy
Nations Must Increase Funding to Cope With Climate Shocks, U.N. Warns
Failing to help developing nations brace for disruption will lead to increased conflict and widespread suffering, the United Nations wrote in a new report.
By Christopher Flavelle, New York Times
November 3, 2022
Wealthy nations need to give as much as ten times current levels of funding to help developing countries adapt to climate change or face widespread suffering and displacement as well as increased conflict, the United Nations said in a report issued Thursday.
If those developing nations can’t adjust to climate change, rich countries will also feel the consequences, said Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, which prepared the report.
“The idea that you can have a wall around your state and somehow protect yourself, so that you can adapt while everybody else will sink, or burn, or die in droughts, is simply unrealistic,” Ms. Andersen said in an interview.
“People are not moving because they want to when they are climate refugees,” she added. “They are moving because they have to.”
The report, titled “Too Little, Too Slow,” comes as world leaders prepare to gather in Egypt next week for the annual United Nations climate summit. Organizers want to use the meeting to draw attention to the growing gap between current levels of aid for adaptation and what they say is required as climate shocks get worse.
Climate adaptation refers to steps to better protect people against the consequences of climate change — for example, planting crops that are resistant to heat or drought, raising buildings to reduce damage from flooding, or moving communities away from coastlines and other vulnerable areas.
Much of the climate focus from world leaders has been on curbing global warming by encouraging countries to burn less coal, oil and gas to reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Average global temperatures have already increased about 1.1 degrees Celsius since preindustrial times, with the world set to warm 2 to 3 degrees by the end of the century.
But as the effects of climate change get worse, and efforts to reduce emissions move slowly, leaders and climate experts are turning some of their attention toward coping with those effects.
At last year’s United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, countries pledged to double the amount of funding available for adaptation to developing countries by 2025, compared with 2019 levels.
That goal may be a stretch. In 2020, worldwide adaptation funding reached $29 billion, 4 percent more than in 2019. (To put that figure in context, Florida lawmakers have sought $33 billion from Congress to rebuild after a single storm, Hurricane Ian.)
Even if nations succeed in doubling money for adaptation, it would still fall short of the need, according to the report.
» Read article
Boston’s 2030 climate goal is out of reach, a new report finds
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
November 3, 2022
Boston is so far behind on climate progress that cutting greenhouse emissions in half by the critical milepost of 2030 is already out of reach, a new assessment has found, and reaching the goal of net zero emissions by 2050 will require a decades-long, all-in effort.
The report blamed a decade or more of stalled action at the city, state, and federal levels, and said that dramatic changes must now begin.
In a year that saw the hottest three week period in 151 years of Boston records, and just ahead of what is expected to be a record-hot weekend, the report, dubbed the Inaugural Boston Climate Progress Report, was seen as a jolt of reality.
“It is a call to action,” said report author Joan Fitzgerald, a professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. “But this city government can’t do this alone … Everyone has to be moving in lockstep to realize these goals.”
[…] The report notes that the city is now at what may be a pivot point when progress could begin to move more quickly—with recent state and federal legislation on climate change and clean energy, a Boston mayor with a dedicated Green New Deal mission, and an impending change at the State House.
“We have a mayor who gets it—who feels the urgency and is taking steps—a very likely incoming governor who gets it; we have significant legislation,” said Amy Longsworth, executive director of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission. “Things are lined up in a way that they never have been before.”
To get back on track toward becoming a carbon-neutral city by 2050, the report’s authors found four key challenges that have to be overcome: electrifying the 70,000 single and small multifamily homes in the city; modernizing and expanding local electrical planning and the local electrical grid, while making it more resilient to extreme weather; making the coastline more resilient to rising seas and extreme weather; and prioritizing social justice and reparative planning alongside climate planning.
The report noted climate efforts underway in Boston, including the city’s BERDO 2.0 rule, which sets requirements for large buildings to reduce emissions, and its Community Choice Electricity Program, which allows residents to opt for 100 percent clean electricity. But what must happen now is a shift from incremental change to systemic change, the report said. “We just haven’t been acting in the way that we needed to to reach these ambitious climate targets,” said Michael Walsh, an author of the report and director of policy research at Groundwork Data, a think tank focused on helping cities use data to accelerate the clean energy transition.
» Read article
» Read the report
» More about climate
Clean energy supply bottlenecks hit overburdened communities the hardest, utilities and advocates say
The Inflation Reduction Act and equity focus should help reverse the trend, however.
By Elizabeth McCarthy, Utility Dive
October 27, 2022
Disadvantaged communities in many parts of the U.S. are bearing the brunt of clean energy supply chain blockages that range from materials to labor, according to environmental justice advocates and utility officials.
In marginalized communities, it is “substituting one kind of delay for another,” said Shelley Robbins, project director for the Clean Energy Group, based in Vermont. “If you can’t get something, the price goes up.”
Historically, renewable energy and electrification projects in underserved communities have been “way too expensive,” she said in a recent phone interview.
The rise in prices caused by serious crimps in the supply chain for key materials is delaying virtually all solar, storage and other fossil-free energy projects, but the stakes and impacts are higher for overburdened communities because of longstanding inequities. Clean energy replacements of inefficient fossil fuel power plants are slowing, along with weatherization and electrification of home water and space heaters, stoves and other major appliances, according to advocates and utilities.
Supply chain delays — from containers stuck in ports to disruptions from the war in Ukraine — may not only “exacerbate the [lack of] affordability of distributed energy resources for underserved communities” but also “lengthen the timeline for deployment of cleaner technologies,” Carolyn Slaughter, the American Public Power Association’s director of environmental policy, wrote in an email.
In addition, the havoc wreaked by hurricanes may cause underserved communities to experience “undue delays with power restoration due to the limited supply of transformers, which could impact access to clean water and other essential services,” Slaughter said.
Many believe that the Inflation Reduction Act will help alleviate supply chain constraints by allocating billions of dollars over the next decade for clean energy projects. That funding includes $15 billion in rebates, grants and loans for greenhouse gas reductions and zero-emission energy in struggling communities, according to David Roberts, a former Grist and Vox staff writer who now produces the Volts podcast.
Project funding “will be a lot easier” because up to 50% of the cost basis of projects can now be covered under the new law, according to Robbins.
» Read article
» More about clean energy
Energy prices are skyrocketing. Here’s how you can get financial help this winter
By Miriam Wasser and Yasmin Amer, WBUR
November 3, 2022
Whether you heat your home with gas, oil or electricity, your energy bills are going to be shocking this winter. Compared to this time last year, the price of fuel oil is up 72%, and for some utility customers the cost of electricity and natural gas are up 129% and 28.6%, respectively.
Global energy markets are complex, but the reason for your higher bill is fairly straightforward: fossil fuels are really expensive right now. And here in New England, natural gas and oil are the primary ways we heat our homes and run our electrical grid.
The good news is that if you’re worried about being able to pay your utility bills this winter, Massachusetts is a particularly generous state when it comes to heating assistance. Here’s what you need to know:
Most fuel assistance in Massachusetts comes from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, better known as LIHEAP (pronounced lie-heep). The name of the program is a bit of a misnomer, though, since you don’t actually have to be “low income” to get help.
LIHEAP money comes from the federal government but is distributed through designated community action groups and local nonprofits.
- To qualify you need to make no more than 60% the state’s median income level, which in dollar terms, is $81,561 for a family of four and $42,411 for an individual.
The amount of assistance you get depends on your income and fuel source, said Charlie Harak, a Massachusetts-based attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. “But in no category is it trivial money. So it’s worth everybody looking at.”
Aside from LIHEAP, major utilities like National Grid and Eversource offer discounted fuel and electricity rates and have several payment programs for people struggling with their bills. Some fuel oil companies will also allow you to spread the cost of filling your tank over a 12-month period instead of paying your bill in lump sum.
A third and important option for assistance is the Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund. Administered by the Salvation Army, this program offers financial help to people who are temporarily struggling to pay their utility bills but don’t qualify for LIHEAP. According to the group, it helped over 1,000 families in the state pay an energy bill last year.
» Blog editor’s note: click on “Read article” below. The authors include links to determine eligibility, and help you apply for assistance.
» Read article
Volunteer-made window inserts are keeping New England homes snug
WindowDressers started in 2010 with a Maine church that wanted to insulate heat-leaking windows in its sanctuary. Now it runs “community builds” in four states that produce thousands of the easy-to-install inserts each year.
By Lisa Prevost, Energy News Network
October 31, 2022
The dozen or so volunteers gathered in a small gymnasium in Brattleboro, Vermont, last Sunday were much more focused on the cold winter ahead than on the sunny fall afternoon. Fortified by homemade soup and hot coffee, the group was busily constructing pine-framed window inserts that will help keep local residents snug once the chill hits.
Nancy Detra, a retiree who lives in nearby Guilford, organized the effort as a local coordinator for WindowDressers, a nonprofit grassroots organization based in Maine. Last year, Detra corralled enough volunteers to build 180 of the insulating inserts; this year, she’s hoping they can complete 260 over six days.
“Demand is rising,” Detra said, as she walked between workstations where people were quietly going about their assigned tasks. “People who get these inserts find that they really do help make their homes warmer and help save fuel. And those of us who are interested in the environment like to think we are reducing the use of fossil fuels.”
WindowDressers got its start in 2010, when members of a church in Rockland, Maine, designed inserts to insulate the heat-leaking windows in their sanctuary. They proved so effective that the parishioners began asking for the inserts for their homes, and the endeavor gradually took off. WindowDressers now has the whole process down to a science, and has expanded into Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
In order to keep their prices low — and make some inserts available for free for those unable to pay — the organization depends almost completely on volunteers, who gather in the fall for what they call “community builds.”
“We have 44 community builds scheduled this fall, the most ever,” including almost two dozen in Vermont, said Jessica Williams, the executive director. “And hopefully, this will be the highest number of inserts produced ever — 8,700 would be ideal. All through volunteers. It’s pretty impressive — and humbling, I should say.”
Each insert is made of a pine frame that is custom cut to meet each individual window measurement. The frame is wrapped in clear polyolefin film, one layer on each side in order to leave an insulating air space in between.
Foam is wrapped around the edge of the frame in order to create a friction-based seal after the insert is installed. The inserts are designed to be easily popped in and out, and should last five to 10 years.
» Read article
» How to make a window insert
Heating will be costly this winter, but much less so with a heat pump
Federal forecasts have warned about high heating bills, yet they don’t account for the much greater efficiency of electric pumps, says pro-electrification group Rewiring America.
By Jeff St. John, Canary Media
October 31, 2022
Rising energy costs will make it much more expensive to heat U.S. homes this winter. But homes with modern heat pumps will save a lot more money than the latest federal forecasts might lead you to believe.
That’s the message that pro-electrification nonprofit Rewiring America is trying to get out in the wake of a dire winter fuels outlook released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration this month.
News reports on the EIA’s new data emphasized rising costs for both fossil-fueled and electric heating — “No matter how you heat your home, the cost of that heat is likely to soar,” reported CNN Business.
But those costs will actually be quite a bit lower for homes that use more efficient electric heat pumps, which will soon be eligible for thousands of dollars in tax credits and federal incentives under the Inflation Reduction Act, said Rewiring America CEO Ari Matusiak.
Getting that point across is “even more important today than it was in the past because we’re having this conversation at this moment, where efficient electric machines are increasingly going to be a choice for consumers in the market,” he said in an interview. “It’s important for us to be able to see what those benefits are in real time as the market unfolds.”
» Read article
» More about energy efficiency
MODERNIZING THE GRID
New England’s electric grid operator opened its doors to public participation — and got a dressing down
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
November 1, 2022
New England’s electric grid operator has been famously closed to the public, with most decisions happening behind closed doors, with little or no public input.
On Tuesday, yielding to years of pressure, the board of ISO New England opened its doors for the first of what it says will be an annual open meeting. What followed was an hour-long dressing down, as speaker after speaker took the grid operator to task for failing to adequately respond to the climate crisis.
“The board has followed a consistent policy of favoring electric power produced by fossil fuel burning plants, especially natural gas, in the name of reliability,” said Monte Pearson, a member of the activist group 350 Mass.
The excoriating tone was not entirely unexpected, said board chair Cheryl LaFleur.
“If they were happy with the ISO, they might not have come to the meeting,” she said. But what did surprise her was that, in a year when New England residents are facing record-high natural gas prices due to market impacts from the war in Ukraine, the commenters were laser-focused on climate.
“We certainly share that passion, because adapting the system, both the markets and the transmission grid, to climate change is at the center of the projects the ISO is working on,” she said.
But while that effort may be underway, many who spoke on Tuesday said it’s not happening fast enough.
Several pointed to the fact that ISO-NE continues to operate a coal plant in New Hampshire and that it failed to make a change in its market rules that, climate advocates say, would have made it easier for large-scale solar and wind generators to join the grid.
Like other regional power suppliers, New England’s grid operator had been asked by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates grid operators, to make that change in its so-called minimum offer price rule, which effectively governs who can bid to supply electricity.
But after months of saying it would, ISO-NE reversed course in January and aligned with a proposal from the natural gas industry that put off the change for at least two years. The move ignited protests and pleas from Massachusetts’ congressional delegation for intervention from the energy commission. No such intervention came.
“Over a year ago, we were told that ISO-NE would be submitting a proposal to FERC to take care of the minimum offer price rule,” said Salem activist Jim Mulloy. “And yet what happened earlier this year? What are we to think? What are we citizens to think, looking at what goes on with some decisions like this?”
» Read article https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/11/01/science/new-englands-electric-grid-operator-opened-its-doors-public-participation-got-dressing-down/?event=event25
National Grid, DOE panelists call for ‘grid-enhancing technologies’ to quickly boost transmission capacity
WIRES conference participants also see need for “rightsizing” transmission projects to meet future needs.
By Ethan Howland, Utility Dive
October 28, 2022
Transmission planners and regulators should use “grid enhancing technologies,” or GETs, to quickly increase transmission capacity during the clean energy transition, panelists said Thursday at a WIRES conference in Washington, D.C.
Building out the grid to meet clean energy goals and handle the shift to electric vehicles and homes will require U.S. transmission spending to roughly triple from its current level of around $30 billion a year, according to Terron Hill, National Grid clean energy director.
With transmission projects taking three to 10 years to build, utilities need to optimize their existing assets using GETs, Hill said.
“We have to invest in things like [dynamic line ratings], power flow technologies, digital substations — all of this is needed in order to create that more dynamic grid,” Hill said.
National Grid last week announced it is installing equipment in western New York state so it can use DLR to change the ratings on its power lines in real time, Hill said. Using equipment from LineVision, National Grid expects DLR will allow about 350 MW of wind generation to flow freely across the grid, which will help lower power prices.
Other options for taking full advantage of existing grid infrastructure include advanced conductors, which provide more capacity than traditional power lines; advanced power flow controllers; energy storage and “topology optimization and control,” according to Jay Caspary, a senior consultant in the Department of Energy’s Grid Deployment Office.
“If we’re going to get to deep decarbonization quickly on this grid, we’ve got to use these technologies quickly and find ways to do it,” Caspary said. “There’s some huge economic opportunities to use grid-enhancing technologies.”
» Read article
» More about modernizing the grid
US unveils $1 billion effort to electrify school buses
Electric buses are coming to nearly 400 school districts.
By Brett Marsh, Grist
October 31, 2022
Less than 1 percent of the nation’s roughly 500,000 school buses are electric or run on low-emission fuels. That’s about to change.
Nearly 400 school districts across the United States, including in several Indigenous tribal lands, as well as in Puerto Rico and American Samoa, will receive around $1 billion to purchase new, mostly electric school buses as part of a Biden Administration grant program.
The program aims to reduce children’s exposure to harmful exhaust from diesel buses that serve their schools and communities. It is also part of a broader effort by the Biden Administration to address climate change and environmental justice by making it easier for vulnerable communities to have access to zero-emission vehicles.
The grant program’s funds come from $5 billion that the EPA received as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. With the grant money, recipient school districts will be able to purchase nearly 2,300 electric buses, quadrupling the nation’s current number. While these lower-polluting buses would make up a small portion of school bus fleets, environmental and public health advocates argue that the positive impacts on children’s health would be profound.
In a press release, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, a Harlem-based organization, praised Wednesday’s announcement and the program’s reach, saying that it would improve air quality and “reduce children’s exposure to asthma-causing pollutants while also protecting the health of drivers and the communities these buses drive through.”
The Biden Administration expects many of the new electric buses to be available to the winning school districts by the start of the next school year, with the remainder available by the end of 2023.
Air pollution remains a major contributor to poor respiratory and cardiovascular health, with vehicles a main culprit.
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CARBON OFFSETS AND REFORESTATION
Countries Want to Plant Trees to Offset Their Carbon Emissions, but There Isn’t Enough Land on Earth to Grow Them
Researchers behind the Land Gap Report say we can’t plant our way out of global warming—and it’s disingenuous to pretend that we can.
By Katie Surma, Inside Climate News
November 1, 2022
Countries’ climate pledges rely on “unrealistic” and “extensive” amounts of land for carbon removal projects like tree planting schemes, a new report from the University of Melbourne said.
A landmass larger than the entire United States, about 1.2 billion hectares, would be needed for countries to deliver on those plans, which largely ignore who lives on and manages the lands at issue, including the rights of Indigenous peoples and other land-based communities living in rural areas that rely on land for survival and culture.
“Countries are loading up on land pledges to avoid the hard work of steeply reducing emissions from fossil fuels, decarbonizing food systems and stopping the destruction of forests and other ecosystems,” said Kate Dooley, the lead author of the so-called Land Gap Report and a researcher at the University of Melbourne.
Dooley and her co-authors, more than 20 researchers from around the world, reviewed governmental climate plans and other official statements from 166 countries and the European Union as well as public land use data to determine the total land area needed for planned carbon removal and ecosystem restoration projects.
About 65 percent of the 1.2 billion hectares of land identified in the report would come from land currently being used for other purposes, such as agriculture, while the remainder would consist of degraded land identified for ecosystem restoration projects, such as the African “Great Green Wall” project aimed at planting trees, grasslands and plants across the continent’s Sahel region.
Countries’ climate plans rely on a mix of emission reductions from sources like power plants and automobiles, as well as carbon-removal schemes and ecosystem restoration projects that reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by sequestering it in biomass like trees or by using new technologies to capture carbon and inject it into geological reservoirs.
Many governmental and industry “net-zero” climate plans assume that tree planting schemes can balance out an equivalent of new emissions from fossil fuels, industrial agriculture and deforestation. But Dooley said that accounting is flawed because the amount of carbon stored in dense primary and old-growth forests is greater than the amount of carbon stored in monoculture tree plantations, and the young seedlings and saplings that are planted hold fractions of the amount of carbon in mature trees.
That difference is why one of the report’s recommendations is for governments and businesses to prioritize protecting existing primary forests, in part, by recognizing and enforcing the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities that consistently outperform governments in preserving those types of forests. Old-growth forests also far surpass monoculture tree plantations in biodiversity, which provides multiple ecosystem benefits like water filtration and cycling, improved soil nutrients and resilience to the effects of climate change.
“We argue that the most effective and just way forward for using land based carbon removal is to ensure that Indigenous peoples and local communities have legitimate and effective ownership and control of their land,” said Anne Larson, one of the report’s co-authors and a researcher at the Center for International Forestry Research in Washington, D.C.
But, the pledges analyzed in the Land Gap Report indicate that governments are on a pathway to an opposite outcome, requiring that the traditional lands of Indigenous peoples and local communities be transformed into tree plantations for carbon offset schemes.
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» Read The Land Gap Report
» More about carbon offsets and reforestation
Eversource CEO urges Biden to expand natural gas supply and avert risk of winter blackouts
The chief of the region’s largest utility warns gas supply could grow short if a severe cold snap hits.
By Jon Chesto, Boston Globe
October 29, 2022
The chief executive of New England’s largest utility is imploring President Biden to use his emergency powers to help protect the region from rolling blackouts this winter in an unprecedented move that underscores the growing concerns about grid reliability during times of extreme cold.
Eversource CEO Joe Nolan sent a letter to the White House on Thursday, asking for Biden to urgently address concerns about electricity reliability in New England. Nolan cites acknowledgments from grid overseer ISO New England and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that New England will not have enough natural gas to meet electricity supply needs if there’s a severe cold snap this winter. A spokeswoman confirmed this is the first time Eversource has made such a request.
The energy industry has been concerned about reliability issues in New England for years. That’s primarily because at least half of the region’s electricity comes from natural gas-fired power plants. In the winter, businesses and residents who heat with gas get priority — often prompting the power plant operators to turn to oil-fired backups, buy expensive gas on the spot market, or not run at all.
This winter, a new dynamic is at play because of the war in Ukraine. As European countries look for other sources of natural gas instead of Russia, that has driven up global demand for liquefied natural gas, meaning many LNG shipments that might otherwise make their way to New England pipes instead go to other countries. New England gets natural gas from domestic sources through two major pipeline networks, but they are often constrained in the wintertime.
[…] These concerns will not come as a surprise to the Biden administration. Aside from the discussions at ISO New England and FERC, New England’s six governors sent a letter in July to US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, expressing similar worries about the upcoming winter. Among other steps, the six governors called on Biden to suspend a federal law known as the Jones Act, which limits the kinds of ships that can move cargo between US ports and essentially prevents any LNG from being moved by ship from the Gulf Coast to New England.
Nolan also asked Biden to waive the Jones Act, as well as undertaking other emergency orders, all with the goal of bringing more LNG to New England.
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» More about electric utilities
FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY
Is natural gas the solution to Africa’s energy needs? New research says no.
By Ashoka Mukpo, Mongabay
November 3, 2022
Should African countries use natural gas to power their economies until they can build more climate-friendly renewable electrical grids? The question has been at the heart of an acrid debate this year, pitting would-be fossil fuel powerhouses like Senegal and Mozambique against climate activists on the continent, who say a new round of resource extraction would just bring more corruption and pollution. And while only a year ago Europe vowed to pull funding from gas projects in Africa, now it’s touring the region with a new face on as it looks to make up for energy shortfalls caused by sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
A new series of reports released by the African Climate Foundation last week should strengthen the resolve of anti-gas voices. According to the group, making new investments into liquefied natural gas (LNG) would be bad for African economies, particularly under scenarios where the world starts making deeper cuts to its carbon emissions. And as the price of renewables drops, attempts to use natural gas to bring much-needed electricity to households and industries on the continent will likely be a costly drain on public finances, the reports said, requiring governments to spend heavily on fossil fuel subsidies.
“Obviously the story looks different in different countries, but while it might meet a short-term need of export revenues, in the longer-term countries not only have stranded asset risk, they’ll also be subject to things like the carbon border adjustment mechanisms that will ultimately penalize fossil fuel-dependent economies,” said Ellen Davies, a senior research adviser with the ACF.
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» More about fossil fuels
LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS
Canada Pitches European Gas Exports, But Europe Won’t Be Buying
By Mitchell Beer, The Energy Mix
November 2, 2022
Canadians are being sold on a future of natural gas exports to Europe just as European countries speed up their exit from all fossil fuels, says a leading energy transition researcher who’s just finished a series [of] two-week fact-finding visits to Ireland, Denmark, and France.
“There’s a disjoin between what the industry and governments and the mainstream debate in Canada are saying about the European energy crisis and what Europeans think about the energy crisis,” said Angela Carter, associate professor of political science at the University of Waterloo and energy transitions specialist with the International Institute for Sustainable Development.
“In Canada, we have got this dominant understanding that the world needs Canadian oil and gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG), Canada has product, and we need to help Europe by getting it out of the ground and shipping it as fast as we can, whether or not it’s viable,” she told The Energy Mix in an interview.
“When you’re in Europe, what you hear from politicians, from environmental groups, but also from regular people is that we’re in an energy crunch right now. There are questions about where we’re going to get their gas supply for this winter and maybe next winter. But they are getting off fossil fuels, and they are remotivated. It’s another big nudge to get away from fossil fuels.”
Carter talked about her preliminary research findings against a backdrop of skyrocketing oil and gas profits, a surge in new oil and gas pipelines and gas export terminals, and massive fossil subsidies from the world’s richest countries, all responding to an energy price surge triggered mainly by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Yet the International Energy Agency declared last week that global demand for all fossil fuels has either peaked or plateaued and urged a shift from fossil to renewable energy investment, not long after a major European investment consortium announced plans to do exactly that.
Carter said Denmark, with decades of experience in wind power development and a ban on new oil and gas leasing, is already reaping the economic benefits of the global energy transition, with former offshore oil workers fully onboard.
“I was expecting to hear that the ban was all about climate,” she said. “But a lot of it is about the economy, because what’s happening in Denmark now is that their offshore wind energy industry is flourishing. In fact, they can’t keep up with the growth.”
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