Why Monica Supports CCE

Bostonians want Community Choice Energy – a sensible energy policy approach toward aggressively combating climate change.

There is a City Council Hearing on October 3rd at 2pm at City Hall to discuss Community Choice Energy. We need to pack the hall to let councilors know this is an important issue.

Video of City Council Introducing CCE

On August 2nd, City Council President Michelle Wu and Councilor Matt O’Malley introduced Community Choice Energy for consideration by the council.

What the video:

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.

Meet Boston’s Candidates for Mayor

This month JP Progressives will be holding Progressive Community Conversations with two of Boston’s mayoral candidates: Mayor Marty Walsh and Councilor Tito Jackson.

These Community Conversations provide an opportunity to meet the candidates, and discuss their positions on climate change. BCAN will ask Mayor Walsh and Councilor Jackson how they plan to meet the goals of the Paris Accord. We will tell them that Bostonians want Community Choice Energy (CCE) as soon as possible. We want the City of Boston to negotiate a fair deal with green power companies, so everyone can afford renewable energy.

Several cities and towns in Massachusetts already have CCE. We don’t want Boston to lag behind the rest of the Commonwealth. Come join us at these Community Conversations, and help us get CCE in Boston.

Progressive Community Conversation with Councilor Tito Jackson
Tuesday, July 18th, 7:00pm
First Baptist Church
633 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain

Progressive Community Conversation with Mayor Marty Walsh
Thursday, July 20th, 7:30pm
First Baptist Church
633 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain

Let’s show our gratitude to JP Progressives for hosting these conversations! Please register by clicking on the appropriate hyperlink(s) above.

Dispatches from the leading edge of climate adaptation

Two new areas of research hold out hope that we can slow carbon accumulation in the atmosphere and lessen its worst effects.

Soil carbon restoration says that we can’t just stop burning fossil fuels if we want to avoid climate catastrophe. We have to take carbon out of the atmosphere, and there is one practical way – to put it back in the soil. Soil Carbon Restoration: Can Biology do the job explores the science and practice of carbon sequestration. The author, Jack Kittredge, is the policy director for the Northeast Organic Farmers Association/Massachusetts Chapter.

Water for the Recovery of the Climate – A New Water Paradigm says we are drying and heating the planet by draining precipitation directly to streams, thus disrupting nature’s small, local water cycles. If we retain rainwater locally, it will permeate soil, water plants, replenish groundwater,  and rise into the atmosphere to regulate temperature and rainfall. Hydrologist Michal Kravcik is speaking to members of Biodiversity for a Living Climate for a potluck/discussion meetup in Cambridge Sunday, March 26 at 6 pm potluck, 7-9 pm discussion ($10 donation). RSVP .

Does the BPDA know how to do anything but push excessive development?

Let’s find out!

From Jamaica Plain and Roxbury to Winthrop Square, the BRA – now the “Boston Planning and Development Agency” – has been pushing through developments that neighbors say are too expensive, too big, and too damaging to the local environment.

Now the BPDA is looking at 1000 Boylston Street – 324 units of luxury residential housing. One of the two proposed glass towers would be huge – 620 feet tall. The Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay says this would block sun as far as the Commonwealth Ave Mall, the Esplanade, and the Fens(!). With two other towers planned near the same corner, it would create an “urban canyon” filled with wind and traffic. And the developer is only giving lip service to energy efficiency.

NABB is asking people across the city to tell the BPDA: Boston deserves better design. Please contact Phil Cohen Phil.Cohen@boston.gov by this FridayMarch 17 and copy elected officials. Questions? Email dtcnabb@nabbonline.com.

More details and talking points:

NABB’s Top 10 Concerns about the Proposed Design

GUIDELINES

  • Neighborhood guidelines ignored. The Developer largely disregarded the “Civic Vision for Turnpike Development” guidelines, designed to protect Back Bay and Fenway neighborhood’s historic character and livability. These were established (by consensus) after public meetings with BRA staff and urban planners. “Only one taller building above 15 stories should be allowed on either Parcel 12 or 15. No other buildings on these parcels should exceed 14 stories.” Further, the guidelines call for no visible parking, 24-foot-wide sidewalks, and some form of public benefit, such as assisted living, childcare, cultural facilities, affordable housing, etc. This proposal includes none of these.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS

  • Increased shadows. This project will create unacceptable shadow on our parks and will darken many homes. We can expect significant new shadows throughout the year. These are indicated on the minimal shadow studies included in the PNF. See Link for the PNF. During some seasons, shadows will extend across the Comm. Ave. Mall to the Esplanade and Charles River. At times these shadows will adversely affect significant areas of parks, homes, and public buildings for several hours daily. Request additional, specific studies in comments.
  • More wind. Wind studies have not been completed, but these towers will intensify winds in our already gusty neighborhood. Request additional, specific studies in comments.
  • More traffic. Adding 342 residential units (or possibly 700 people) plus 300 cars on this block will have significant impact. Keep in mind that our Fire Station is across the street. Impact studies have not been completed. Request additional, specific studies in comments.
  • Should be greener. This project meets the third-tier quality benchmark (Silver) for LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Massachusetts ranks as a top state for sustainable, energy-efficient building. Projects here should be built to Gold or Platinum LEED standards.
  • No green space for pedestrians. Even street trees may not be possible with the current design. However, a small garden belonging to St. Cecilia Parish will disappear. Comments could include requesting an alternative design to construct a park on the portion of the air rights owned by the Prudential to offset this loss.

URBAN DESIGN

  • No justification for increased height. No building of this size has ever been supported by the neighborhoods for Boylston Street (in the Back Bay). The developer has not shown that a project of this scale is financially necessary to offset the costs of building over the Turnpike, although cost arguments alone would not necessarily garner support for the project.
  • Only one design is under consideration. This is not an “all-or-nothing” situation. NABB would welcome a smaller development that conforms to the Civic Vision and avoids this proposal’s lasting harmful consequences to our neighborhood. We propose that an alternative, smaller-scale design must be evaluated before any decisions are made. Even the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs requested additional studies in their review: 1) No-Build Alternative, 2) Reduced-Build Alternative originally proposed by the Proponent in 2013, and 3) Preferred Alternative
  • “Urban Canyon” effect. The larger buildings on Boylston Street (500 and 888 Boylston) were set far back from the sidewalk edge to reduce the canyonization of the street and the shadow impact on Newbury Street and the residential neighborhood. In contrast, this project has no significant setback for either tower.
  • More towers coming. Berklee College is approved to add another tower on Mass. Ave. near Boylston Street as part of its Master Plan. Yet another tower is planned on air rights at Mass. Ave. across from the Hynes T stop. Four towers would add tremendous density and shadow to the neighborhood.

Composite Shadow Diagram – One page from the PNF document – Composite shadow study from the PNF only includes hours from 8am to 3pm. Morning and afternoon shadows will be longer. No composite is included for the longest shadows in the late fall and winter. Request additional days/times studies, such as dawn to dusk, more winter days, in comments.

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

Please email your comments to the BPDA. Send your message to Phil Cohen at the BPDA (with copies to our elected officials) before the Friday, March 17 deadline (or by Sunday night at least). Also copy dtcnabb@nabbonline.com to receive project updates or ask questions.

Sample Message

To: Phil Cohen <Phil.Cohen@boston.gov>

Re: 1000 Boylston Street Project Notification Form (PNF)

Introduce yourself (include where you live)

Give your reasons why BPDA should send the developer back to the drawing board (see stripped-down sample letter  at 1000 Boylston Basic letter)

CC: Cut and paste this to:

Mayor@boston.gov, Michelle.Wu@boston.gov, Bill.Linehan@boston.gov, Josh.Zakim@boston.gov, Ayanna.Pressley@boston.gov, A.E.George@boston.gov, Tito.Jackson@boston.gov, Salvatore.Lamattina@boston.gov, Michael.F.Flaherty@boston.gov, Andrea.pbell@boston.gov, Frank.Baker@boston.gov, Timothy.McCarthy@boston.gov, Matthew.OMalley@boston.gov, Mark.Ciommo@boston.gov, Byron.Rushing@mahouse.gov, Jay.Livingstone@mahouse.gov, William.Brownsberger@masenate.gov, dtcnabb@nabbonline.com, info@nabbonline.com

(Mailing address is: Phil Cohen, Project Manager, Boston Planning & Development Agency, One City Hall Square, Boston, MA 02201)