The Future is Renewable

 
 

To the Editor:

I was surprised to read that the Boston Globe’s editorial board believes Massachusetts’ only energy choices are either: 1) send money to Russian oligarchs who are despoiling the arctic for LNG; or 2) build pipelines across New England to tap fracked gas, while poisoning water supplies at ratepayer expense. That is a false choice, and telling Massachusetts citizens anything else is irresponsible. 

Pipelines take years to build and decades to expire.  They are not, as the Globe suggested, an interim solution to anything but the utilities’ collapsing business model.  We should be following the example of many others countries in building an economy built on renewable energy that creates tens of thousands of new jobs across the state, provides permanent clean energy for Massachusetts, and allows us to become a net energy exporter which would bring in billions in new taxes.

What’s the real reason that our utilities are trying to scare us about gas shortages and demanding that we build new pipelines?  The answer is simple: they make two-thirds of their profits from such huge capital projects.  They have chosen this path because they no longer function as true public utilities serving our public interest.  They are owned and run for the benefit of the institutional investors and hedge funds – and they are being backed up by Governor Baker.

Because we are making progress in energy efficiency, demand for electricity is actually going down in Massachusetts.  The demand for natural gas is expected to drop 27% by 2023.  That explains why the utilities want consumers to pay for the pipeline. They don’t want to invest their own money in a pipeline that will soon become a stranded asset. 

We already spend $20 billion a year importing fossil fuels out-of-state, which is a burden on every family, small business, and town.   We could and should be rapidly weaning ourselves off this form of theft.  Why then does the governor want us to spend $6 billion more on pipelines when we could be switching to clean, cheap, distributed power?

The false alarm being spread about natural gas shortages is also part of the governor’s campaign to slow progress on wind and to block solar power.  His Department of Public Utilities is controlled by fossil fuel loyalists who have added absurd restrictions and penalties which could drive the cost for residential solar customers from $4,000 to $12,500 over 20 years.  As a result, while the rest of the world is rocketing forward into the future, we lost over 3,000 jobs last year -- 21% of all solar jobs in Massachusetts. 

It is time to take fossil fuels off life support and end the burden of building unnecessary pipelines on Massachusetts’ ratepayers. We can reduce the air pollution harming our citizens’ health, particularly in low-income communities. We can get back to producing tens of thousands of clean energy jobs that can’t be exported, while keeping $20 billion a year of fossil fuel costs in our own pockets. 

With the cost of solar, wind, and energy storage batteries plummeting, we could be saving everyone in the Commonwealth money by making that transition now.  As Senator Kennedy used to say, “taking on great challenges is what we do as Americans.”  That’s the real choice the Globe should be writing about -- and it is one we must embrace.