Back Bay Pipeline Delayed

On November 2, 2017, Boston’s Public Improvement Commission (PIC) held a public hearing on a pipeline proposed by National Grid. Transporting fracked natural gas, the pipeline would go through the Back Bay and South End.  Approximately 60 Boston residents attended the hearing in protest.  Organized by the Boston Clean Energy Coalition (BCEC), the hearing’s protestors included members of the Boston Climate Action Network (BCAN), Mothers Out Front, 350.org, and the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay.

According to Jom Michel, a Steering Team Member of BCEC, “In the Back Bay, a few activists are trying to wake up their fellow citizens,” most of whom oppose the pipeline. He said that National Grid has not been open at all.  “The planning process was behind closed doors.  Before that, you could call it a rumor.”

To reduce Boston’s carbon emissions, BCEC advocates energy efficiency and clean energy for the City’s buildings, with the goal of making them net zero in terms of their carbon footprint. Jom stated that it doesn’t make sense to construct buildings powered by natural gas.  He said, “The pipeline is going to feed luxury condos so they can have their gas fireplaces and their gas stoves . . .  It’s not passive housing; it’s not what it needs to be.”

For the time being, the City Council has placed a moratorium on the decision-making process to allow National Grid to proceed with its pipeline. This is thanks to BCEC asking Councilor Josh Zakim to introduce a resolution calling for the moratorium.  PIC will hold another hearing regarding the pipeline on November 16, 2017.  The Mayor’s office has also asked National Grid to hold a public hearing, so residents will have a chance to voice their concerns.  Thus far, no date has been set for this hearing.

 

Big Showing at City Council Today

Thanks to everyone who came out to the Boston City Council hearing this afternoon. We packed the hall, filling every seat, lining up against the back wall, with people standing outside the door. Together, we made our voice heard — our city councilors heard that Bostonians want green energy, and that we want them to vote yes on Community Choice Energy.  The councilors present reacted positively and there was a good vibe going in the room.

The next step is getting Mayor Walsh to agree.

You can help right now by calling Mayor Walsh at 311. Tell his staff members that you want him to implement CCE. To verify that you’re a resident, be sure to give your name and address.

It’s that simple, and that important.

A Good Choice for Boston

It’s not too late to prevent climate change from getting worse.  If we stop burning fossil fuels, we’ll lower our carbon footprint, and the climate will eventually get back to normal.

Community Choice Energy (CCE) is a good way of reducing our carbon footprint here in Boston.  It would authorize the City to negotiate an increase in renewable power of about 5% for Boston residents and businesses.

For most Bostonians, installing solar panels is simply too expensive.  CCE would give everyone the chance to fight climate change directly.  It would also guarantee fair pricing, as well as protect people from scams.

On Tuesday, October 3rd, the Boston City Council will hold a hearing on Community Choice Energy.  Come and tell our city councilors that you support CCE.  Let’s show them that Bostonians want to fight climate change!

CCE City Council Hearing Announced!

Join us to attend the hearing!

Climate change is already affecting the world, including the City of Boston. Record-high temperatures and rising sea levels are serious issues that will only get worse unless we do something now.  Fortunately, the Boston City Council is taking steps in this direction.

On August 2nd, City Councilors Michelle Wu and Matt O’Malley introduced an order to initiate Community Choice Energy (CCE) in Boston.  CCE will add at least 5% more renewable energy to the Eversource default available to Boston consumers.

The Boston City Council will hold a public hearing on CCE to listen to constituents’ input. Please come and tell our councilors that Bostonians are eager to fight climate change, and that we support CCE as a means of achieving this goal.

Boston City Council Hearing
Tuesday, October 3, 2017 at 2:00pm

Boston City Hall
Ianella Chamber, 5th Floor
1 City Hall Square
Boston

Closest subway stop: Government Center
Closest parking garage: Government Center Garage, 50 New Sudbury Street

The fight against climate change starts with us here in Boston. Let’s fill the Ianella Chamber to capacity!

Join us to attend the hearing!

Addressing Concerns About CCE Costs

Mayor Walsh has said he’s committed to making Boston “carbon free” by 2050.  Community Choice Energy (CCE) could be one step towards reaching this goal.  The City of Boston would negotiate with a green power company to increase the percentage of renewable energy available to residents and small businesses by five percent. However, there are concerns that consumers would have to pay higher electric bills, and that the City might face additional expenses in staff time, due to research and negotiation for a CCE contract.

Based on the experiences of other cities and towns in the Commonwealth, CCE rates can be negotiated to be comparable to the Eversource default. Of the seven Massachusetts municipalities that have bid on renewable energy this summer, five of them (Arlington, Cambridge, Lexington, Somerville, and Sudbury) have obtained CCE prices lower than the Eversource default. In the Town of Arlington, residents who choose CCE pay  $0.10756 per kilowatt hour, while those who choose the Eversource default pay $0.10759 per kilowatt hour.

In Arlington, thanks to lots of preliminary work done by Mothers Out Front (MOF) and Sustainable Arlington, preparing the Warrant Article for the Town Meeting to vote on CCE took about 25 hours of municipal staff time. According to Anne Wright of MOF, the Town Manager, Adam Chapdelaine, spent about four hours finding a broker and selecting a renewable energy supplier.  Once the contract was signed, Communications Director Joan Roman spent about 40 hours creating print and digital outreach materials to explain CCE to the public.  This adds up to a total of 69 hours of municipal staff time spent on implementing CCE in Arlington.

If renewable energy costs rise after one year of a municipality being on CCE, it can always decline to renew the contract. However, with a template for CCE already in place, negotiating a future contract, should renewable energy costs come down, will not cost much in terms of municipal staff time.

The City of Boston can learn a lot from other municipalities that have already implemented CCE, and avoid reinventing the wheel. The benefits would be tremendous.  In one year alone, CCE could result in the investment of approximately 17 one-megawatt wind turbines, creating many new local jobs.  It would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, eliminating the need for new pipelines to transport fracked gas, keeping our air and water clean.  From a global perspective, CCE would reduce Boston’s carbon footprint, helping us meet Mayor Walsh’s goal of a “carbon free” city, while bringing us closer to fulfilling the Paris Accords.

More Choice — Not Less — Through Community Choice Energy

Some Boston residents may fear that Community Choice Energy (CCE) would take away their options, that the City would force them to purchase renewable energy at higher costs. The truth is that CCE actually gives residents more choices, including the right to opt out completely.  Before the implementation of any municipal electricity aggregation program, city officials give ample opportunity for residents to express their concerns.  Mayor Walsh and all the city councilors welcome comments at any time.

The Town of Arlington will officially begin its CCE program (which they call Arlington Community Choice Aggregation) on August 1, 2017. According to Anne Wright, Coordinator of the Arlington, MA, Mothers Out Front (MOF) Community Team, the intention was to “keep the prices the same as or lower than the Eversource default, but to increase the amount of renewables.”  The MOF Arlington Team worked with Sustainable Arlington  to educate people about Arlington’s CCE plan.  They found outreach leaders for each of the Town’s 21 precincts, and contacted Town Meeting members.  In May of 2016, the Town Meeting voted in favor of the CCE plan.  This gave the Town Manager and Board of Selectmen the go-ahead to find a supplier of renewable energy.  However, there was a stipulation that if they couldn’t match Eversource’s default prices, the CCE plan would not be implemented.

During the campaign, some Arlington residents opposed CCE because they were afraid of increased energy costs. “We had to explain that City officials would not sign a contract if the cost exceeded Eversource’s, and that when they found a lower price, it would then  be locked in, that it would not rise,” said Wright.  MOF members passed out flyers and presented slide shows.  “In every precinct, we had some kind of gathering to explain it”, said Wright.  “We had some little question-and-answer sessions in neighborhoods, where Town Meeting members could speak directly with precinct members.”  Wright even held a session in her own home.  “We made sure the pricing was clear, and that anybody could opt out if they really wanted.”

For the time being, the Town of Arlington has been able to negotiate a CCE rate that is lower than the Eversource default rate. The CCE default rate for renewable electricity costs $0.10756, while the current Eversource rate costs $0.10759.  While Eversource rates can fluctuate, the CCE rate for Arlington will remain the same for the next 20 months. Since Eversource’s rates traditionally are higher in winter than in summer, Arlington is assuming that its CCE will be lower than Eversource’s for the first 12 months of its contract term. The environmental impact of that year’s worth of additional 5% renewable electricity is about 1.5 megawatts of power that didn’t need to come from fossil fuels.

Boston can join other Massachusetts communities that are leading the way to move our electricity away from fossil fuels.  Come over to our CCE website, and sign the petition if you agree.

 

How to Avoid Getting Burned by Energy Scams

In Massachusetts, several companies sell renewable energy directly to consumers.  While some of these companies are legitimate, unfortunately, some are deceptive or even scams.  As a consumer, you can protect yourself from scammers by being aware of how they operate.

Scammers may try to reach you online, over the phone, or at your front door.  A representative may claim to be working with Eversource, but in truth, Eversource does not send out salespeople or make sales calls.  If the representative is at your doorstep, don’t invite them into your home.  Ask to see a company-issued photo ID.  All Eversource employees are required to carry them, as well as to show them upon request.

Legitimate companies expect their representatives to be polite at all times. Be suspicious if a representative is rude, pushy, or angry.  A scammer may also ask for your billing or personal information, which can lead to the scammer signing you up for an energy contract without your knowledge, or even identity theft.  Eversource and other legitimate companies keep customers’ information on file; they don’t need to ask you for it.

The most obvious sign of fraud is when a representative demands that you pay them immediately.  They may say that it’s urgent for you to get a discount, or even to prevent your electricity from being shut off.  Scammers often say you must use a prepaid debit card or wire them the money you owe.

First, Massachusetts laws require companies to notify customers in writing of a potential power shut-off.  They must also give several weeks’ notice.  Second, legitimate companies give you several payment options, and never tell you to use a prepaid debit card.

If you’re targeted by scammers, you have every right to report them.  You can check the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) for a list of licensed energy companies, or call the department at 617-305-3500. You can also reach out to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office  or 617-727-2200.  If scammers threaten or harass you, call the police.

Ultimately, the best way for consumers to purchase renewable energy is through Community Choice Energy (CCE). This means that the City of Boston, instead of Eversource, would choose the source of electricity for every household and business in the city that is currently on Eversource’s Basic Service.  With CCE, the City could negotiate a fair deal that would stabilize costs for Boston residents, avoiding the twice-yearly price fluctuations we currently have with  Eversource. Also by tapping into the power of bulk buying, Boston could follow the example of many other towns in eastern Mass and increase the percentage of renewable energy in our electricity mix, at costs comparable to the less-green Basic Service.  Consumers would still get their electricity bill from Eversource, with the supply portion of the bill determined by the City. Knowing that they’re already getting more renewable power thanks to the work of city officials, city residents and businesses would have the information and confidence they need to say “no thanks” to green energy scammers.