Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh announced a new plan on Thursday, June 7, to potentially join forces with other large cities around the country to buy into large-scale renewable energy projects together. The initiative will start with an information-gathering phase, to be conducted by Boston and six other cities. Mayor Walsh claimed that the plan will “help power our cities and create more clean energy jobs.”
BostonCAN is excited to see the administration taking this active new step toward carbon reduction. We’re interested in the details of how this large-scale purchasing plan is going to be set up, and what effects it will have, both on our own city and on the country as a whole. Below are some questions that we hope the city will answer as more information becomes available.
Would this project meet the environmental principle of additionality?
The term “additionality” means the extent to which an investment creates more greenhouse gas reduction than would have occurred without it. In particular, we want to know if Boston’s investment would create additional reduction that would not have occurred anyway.
An example of a project that would not meet the additionality criterion would be a wind farm sited in the Midwest. Wind power is already commercially competitive in states with strong natural wind resources and large rural areas with low real estate costs. In these states, market forces are already yielding many wind power projects, which are profitable without government or environmentalists needing to invest in them. Another decision that would limit the additionality of a project would be to put it in a state with a weak regulatory mandate for renewable energy.
Would the city’s investment yield other public benefits to Boston residents besides low-cost renewable energy?
Would our air be cleaner, or our public health improved? Would local innovative energy businesses be stimulated? Would Boston residents gain employment opportunities? In particular, Boston should not try to cut costs by locating clean energy projects in “Right to Work” states with poor worker protections.
How soon could such a plan be implemented?
Climate change is already damaging our cities, and the more slowly we reduce greenhouse gases, the more problems we will have. The potential effectiveness of a project is a combination of how much it will reduce annual emissions and how soon it will start.
A final note: We hope that this new project will not distract from the effort to implement Community Choice Energy (CCE). Multiple industry experts have said that CCE is relatively straightforward. BostonCAN recommends that EEOS follow through with the directive from City Council to set up an advisory group and issue a Request for Proposals to get the ball really rolling on CCE. By implementing it as soon as possible, the city will score a win on carbon reduction even as it explores other promising proposals.
The City of Boston’s Department of Environment, Energy, and Open Space (EEOS) has initiated a formal process of information gathering to help it understand the implications of providing a Community Choice Energy program. EEOS Chief Austin Blackmon has released a document called “Request for Information Relating to Community Choice Aggregation Program” (the RFI), which invites electricity consultants, suppliers, and brokers, as well as non-profits, residents, and business owners, to respond to a series of detailed questions by March 20, 2018. The questions cover issues such as potential costs to customers and to city administration, methods of communicating effectively with approximately 673,000 residents, the optimal timing and length of contracts with suppliers, and the experiences of electricity aggregation programs in other municipalities, including opt-out rates and cases where programs have been terminated.
The order passed last October by the Boston City Council did not specifically mandate an RFI, but more generally authorized Mayor Walsh to “direct appropriate departments to research, develop, and participate in a contract or contracts” regarding CCE. The text of the RFI specifies that it is for information only. The decision whether or not to respond will not affect a company’s chances of getting a CCE contract in the future, and the RFI does not obligate the city to issue an RFP.
You can see the announcement of the RFI on page 13 of the City Record newsletter, including instructions on how to get a copy of the RFI itself.
Boston City Councilors Michelle Wu and Matt O’Malley recently filed a new order to monitor the progress of the implementation of CCE for the City of Boston. The direct result of the order will be a new hearing:
THEREFORE BE IT ORDERED:
That the appropriate committee of the Boston City Council hold a hearing to discuss the implementation of Community Choice Energy in Boston, and representatives from the Office of Environment, Energy and Open Space and other interested parties and members of the public be invited to testify.
We don’t know when the hearing will take place, but BostonCAN and its allies will need to show up in full force again to let our officials know that we expect them to take quick and resolute action to implement this energy policy as part of their climate mitigation plans.
We’ll keep you posted on when the hearing happens, so check back here in the coming days.
Should anyone invest in a company that profits twice from a disaster it helped cause? Social justice activists say NO!
Community Labor United (CLU), with its partners Hedge Clippers, Harvard Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM), and Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, will demonstrate on the Harvard campus this Wednesday, January 24, to demand that the university divest from the financial firm Baupost Group. Baupost holds over $900 million in the debt of Puerto Rico, the island recently devastated by Hurricane Maria, one of 2017’s dramatic manifestations of climate change. Baupost is demanding that Puerto Rico, financially strapped and in desperate need of infrastructure repairs, adopt austerity measures to be able to pay its debt. At the same time, Baupost also owns $1.8 billion in oil and natural gas stock, and its CEO, Seth Klarman, is on the board of American Enterprise Institute, a think tank that denies climate change.
Local citizens are urged to join the event, which is titled “Harvard, Stand with Puerto Rico! Divest from Hate!” Meet at 1:00 PM in Harvard Yard. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/2078067229147222/ , or call Khalida Smalls, CLU’s Organizing Director, at (857) 891-9466.
2017 marked a major milestone in the campaign for Community Choice Energy in Boston — an order passed unanimously by the City Council and signed by Mayor Walsh.
Come celebrate! Boston Climate Action Network invites you to join us this Thursday:
Community Choice Energy Celebration
January 18, from 6-8 PM
The Nate Smith House
155 Lamartine Street, Jamaica Plain
The Nate Smith House is near the Stony Brook T stop. With campaign partners Boston Node 350MA, Sierra Club, Green Justice Coalition, and Mothers Out Front, we will update you on the progress toward implementation and discuss the next steps to keep CCE moving forward. There will be refreshments, music, and time to network and socialize.
Hope to see you there! For more information, email us at email@example.com.
The City of Boston is looking for Climate Ready Boston Leaders
to raise awareness about climate change – and the City’s initiatives to fight it – at the neighborhood level. Last summer, approximately 70 participants were trained in this new outreach program. They then held events and gave talks in their neighborhoods.
Climate Ready Boston (CRB) Leaders discuss the immediate effects of climate change on Boston residents, such as coastal flooding, heat waves, and record snowfalls. Then they explain the City’s efforts to mitigate these effects. For instance, the City is restoring salt marshes, which will protect coastal areas from flooding. The City is also encouraging the planting of trees in heat islands, to provide shade for local residents. Last but not least, the City is trying to cut carbon emissions through energy efficiency, and by increasing the use of renewables.
Help your fellow Bostonians join in the fight against climate change. Please consider registering for one of the these training sessions:
1 – Tuesday, January 23rd, 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Piemonte Room, City Hall
2 – Saturday, January 27th, 11:00am – 1:00pm
Bolling Building 6th floor
3 – Tuesday, January 30th, 11:00am – 1:00pm
Fort Point Room, BSA Space
For more information, contact Program Coordinator, Muge Undemir at Muge.Undemir@Boston.gov