Here’s why Community Choice Energy works

Boston’s City Council just took its first look at a plan that’ll shrink Boston’s carbon footprint and bring more renewable energy to every resident in the city. The April 25 session was remarkably successful: it drew most of the city’s councilors, over 80 supporters, and it took a deep dive into the sometimes puzzling details of Community Choice Energy.

The only opposition came from Boston’s chief of energy and environment, Austin Blackmon. Here are Mr. Blackmon’s main arguments against CCE and the reasons those arguments don’t stand up. (We paraphrase his statements for clarity. You can see a recording of the working session at

Blackmon Claim #1: Energy efficiency is the cheapest and cleanest way to cut GHG emissions. Investing any resources into CCE will be at the expense of energy efficiency.

We agree: the cheapest and cleanest way to cut emissions is energy efficiency. Actually, BostonCAN worked on energy efficiency (aka weatherization) before the city created its efficiency program Renew Boston.

But there’s no need to choose between efficiency and renewables. Efficiency alone won’t solve our climate crisis. We need new renewable capacity too.

We don’t know of any government committed to reducing GHGs that denies renewable energy purchases are an essential part. That part can be a very big. In one year, Community Choice Energy would cut Boston’s carbon emissions more than the five most productive years of Renew Boston. (The figures in this chart are the City’s.)

Blackmon Claim #2: Getting 5% more renewables, as other cities have done, would cost Boston ratepayers about $2.26 million above Eversource’s rate for Basic Service, whereas Renew Boston would save $400,000.

Not so. The goal of CCE is to buy as much additional renewable energy as we can get without raising the price customers are paying for electricity. That’s a goal, not a guarantee, because we can’t predict whether Eversource’s rates will go up or down every 6 months.

If the City thinks Eversource’s rates are going to drop, it can simply delay CCE implementation till the price picture looks better.

If the City wants to expand Renew Boston, its representative on the state Energy Efficiency Advisory Council could support more money for weatherization instead of voting for the current three-year plan.

Blackmon Claim #3: The proposal to buy Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) would not actually bring new renewable power online or cut fossil fuel generation.

Experts disagree.  And the state has successfully used the purchasing of RECs to stimulate the conversion of fossil fuel generation to renewable power generation since 2003.

Massachusetts law says utilities have to buy a set percent of all their electricity from new renewable generators located in New England (known as “Class I RECs”).  In 2017, we’re at 12 percent. When you buy RECs, you are competing against the utilities for ownership of those certificates. Every REC that a city buys is not available to the utilities to meet their state-required purchases. The utilities have to sign contracts with other REC producers. Developers and financiers build more windmills and solar farms to meet the demand.

The city of Melrose and the town of Dedham launched community choice energy a couple of years ago. Other Massachusetts cities have jumped on the CCE bandwagon (i.e. Brookline, Arlington, Somerville, Sudbury, and Winchester) and we expect their REC purchases to support about 17 more wind turbines than required by state law. That’s a very significant expansion of our local renewable capacity. Boston can take it a big step further.

Blackmon Claim #4: Buying RECs only lines the pockets of renewable developers

Buying any energy that’s privately developed profits those developers. Buying fossil fuel power raises profits for the large corporations that own New England’s fossil fuel plants. Buying RECs means we shift dollars from fossil fuel plants to renewable energy projects.

Blackmon Claim #5: More renewables would raise prices and MA electric prices are among the highest in the nation.

CCE didn’t raise prices in Melrose and Dedham. Those two pioneering communities hired an energy broker who found cheaper power, then used those savings to buy Renewable Energy Certificates.  Residents ended up getting 5% more renewable energy than their utility was providing, without paying more on their electric bills. Our goal is to do the same in Boston.

As for the state’s high electric rates, one of primary reasons for this is that we have to import all of the fossil fuels we use to generate electricity. Because we have plenty of sun and wind locally, building more renewable capacity will eventually bring our rates down. It takes time and new investments to build the fossil fuel-free grid that we need, but someday, we won’t be paying fossil fuel corporations to frack gas and build new pipelines to get it here. We’ll be using free sunshine and wind.

Blackmon Claim #6: About 28% of Boston’s  customers have chosen competitive suppliers, and that weakens our ability to cut greenhouse gases via CCE.

Yes, we’re not going to switch 100% of Boston’s energy consumption to renewable power this year. But if we switch the 125,000 Boston households and small businesses currently using Basic Service, we’ll immediately and significantly shrink Boston’s greenhouse gas profile, at a rate that far exceeds what energy efficiency through Renew Boston was able to achieve in its five most productive years.

Blackmon Claim #7: Natural gas prices are probably coming down.

So are prices for renewables. Natural gas produces greenhouse gases and other pollutants. Wind and solar do not.  Buying more of them can help us achieve our greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Blackmon Claim #8: Boston would need three to five full-time employees to administer a CCE program.

Most Massachusetts cities and towns don’t do it that way. They hire energy brokers to go out in the market, find suppliers, and come back with a power purchasing plan. The city reviews the plan. Then the broker buys the energy, carries out a community education program to prepare for the transition, and handles any questions or complaints residents may have. The broker is paid a tiny percentage of the energy purchase. That costs the city nothing. All the city needs is a part-time staffer or consultant who selects the broker, evaluates the broker’s proposal, and keeps tabs on the project as it rolls out.

Clean Energy at the City Council

The Boston City Council will hold a working session on April 25th at 3pm to discuss adopting Community Choice Energy for the city.  The Boston Climate Action strongly supports this measure and we plan to show up to let the city council know.

Come out and join us – let’s get clean energy for everyone in Boston.

If you want to learn more about our Community Choice Energy campaign, visit the campaign site:

Let’s bring clean power to EVERYONE in Boston!

BostonCAN and the Green Justice Coalition are urging the City of Boston to adopt Community Choice Energy. This simple plan will bring clean energy to everyone in Boston, stabilize our electric bills, create good jobs, and bring down Boston’s greenhouse gases. Our goal is to deliver half again as much green power as Eversource does without raising our electric bills. And that green power would come from local sources, which means more jobs, fewer climate-changing gases, and more money staying in Massachusetts.

There’s much more info on our new website. Please call your city councilors today. Come to the council’s first session at 3 pm Tuesday April 25. We are forming neighborhood climate action teams, and we meet alternate Thursdays at 6 pm, First Baptist Church, Jamaica Plain. Contact us and get involved!

Community Choice Energy will help Boston reach its goal of cutting carbon emissions one-quarter by 2020, just three years from now.

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 by this FridayMarch 17 and copy elected officials. Questions? Email

More details and talking points:

NABB’s Top 10 Concerns about the Proposed Design


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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 to receive project updates or ask questions.

Sample Message

To: Phil Cohen <>

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:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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



City Council President Calls for Community Choice Energy

On January 24, City Council President Michelle Wu and Councilor Matt O’Malley introduced an order for a hearing on Community Choice Energy, which would make renewable electricity available to all Bostonians. Here is Wu’s statement.

At today’s 12PM Boston City Council meeting, we’ll be taking up a hearing order that I’m filing in partnership with Councilor Matt O’Malley on Community Choice Energy. Also called “community choice aggregation” or “municipal aggregation,” this refers to a state law that gives MA cities and towns the ability to determine our own energy future. The law lays out a process for the City of Boston to choose to power our city as a whole with renewable energy resources such as solar and wind. Community choice energy is the fastest way that Boston can get on the path to being a 100% renewable energy city. Read more about the process here:

Just last week, we saw the swearing in of a new President who denies climate change and plans to install climate change deniers to lead our federal environmental agencies. Yesterday, he issued executive orders attempting to move forward with the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, which threaten water supplies, indigenous communities, and our environment. 2017 also could very well turn out to be the FOURTH consecutive year with record high average global temperatures (…/earth-highest-temperature-record.…). It will take swift and bold action on the local level, trying our hardest to prevent global temperatures from reaching a catastrophic tipping point. Cities across the Commonwealth, nation, and globe have been leading by getting on the path to 100% renewable energy. It is time for Boston to get on board. Please follow our progress and JOIN US as the Council works on this legislation. Attend our future hearings to testify, or watch online and email in testimony. Give feedback directly to your City Councilors. Attend future working group meetings. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, changing the energy market won’t happen with a top-down approach; it will only happen with your support and action.

Fighting climate change and protecting our environment is about equity and social justice, standing together to prevent disastrous impacts that will fall disproportionately on vulnerable communities. There are many other opportunities in Boston and Massachusetts to get involved! Just a few that I’ve encountered (feel free to suggest others in the comments section and I’ll update):
–Join your local chapter of 350 Mass. Here is the link: Their advocacy training for this Saturday is full, but sign up and express your interest for a future training.
–Follow these pages on Facebook & show up to their meetings: West Roxbury Saves Energy Mothers Out Front – Mobilizing for a Livable Climate, Roslindale Affinity Group, Boston Climate Action Network, Stop the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline, Mass Sierra Club, Clean Water Action Massachusetts, Boston Node of 350 Mass, Mass Power Forward, Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM), Mass Energy Consumers Alliance.
–Buy 100% New England Wind to power your home. Learn how this works: My family switched over to this in 2016.
–Support Boston’s proposed plastic bag reduction ordinance (…) by reaching out to your Councilors and asking them to vote yes. Until then, use fewer bags. Even one fewer bag in landfills or littering the streets of Boston makes a difference.
–Tell your local elected officials that you support more investment in lower emissions transportation infrastructure, such as bicycles, buses, and trains. Come to our City Council transportation briefings, Feb 2nd on Transit Signal Priority and March 2nd on Parking Management.
–If you are purchasing a new car, consider your Drive Green options. Some helpful research:
–There are lots of rivers in greater Boston – the Charles, the Neponset, the Mystic. Join your local riverwatershed non-profit mailing lists and join annual river cleanups, fundraising events, etc. Charles River Watershed Association The Charles River Conservancy Mystic River Watershed Association Neponset River Watershed Association
–Look for ways to support efforts against the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline. Groups will be organizing drives for supplies to be sent to protestors who will camp
–Stand with local college student groups demanding that colleges divest their endowments away from fossil fuels.