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Why Peak Electricity Usage Matters (& The Importance of Natural Gas)

29 July 2020

With hot and humid conditions enveloping New England, demand for electricity across the region hit its highest level so far this year at about 6:30 p.m. Monday.

This year’s peak experience in many ways highlights how the regional power grid is changing and how far it has to go to fully decarbonize.

ISO New England, the organization that oversees the regional power grid, had forecast this summer’s peak usage would hit 25,500 megawatts between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Actual usage came in at 24,736 megawatts, more than 300 megawatts higher than last year’s peak but nearly 1,600 megawatts lower than 2018.

The all-time peak usage in the region was 28,130 megawatts on August 2, 2006. Peak usage has been stagnant or dropping in recent years, primarily due to energy efficiency efforts that have helped curb overall electricity demand by 3,300 megawatts and small-scale solar and wind installations that reduce demand for power from the grid. 

COVID-19 is also playing a role this year. Energy usage appears to be higher in residential homes as more people stay at home but lower in commercial and industrial facilities. Overall, ISO New England estimates, COVID-19 has cut energy demand by 3 to 5 percent. 

Peaks have out-sized importance because the region needs enough power plants to meet demand when demand is at its highest point. Lowering the peak is beneficial since it means the region can get by with fewer power plants.

Peaks used to occur in the afternoon, when temperatures hit their highest levels and air conditioners are going full tilt. But the deployment of solar panels on roofs across the region has pushed the peak into the early evening. During the afternoon, the behind-the-meter solar installations produce the most power. As the sun begins to set, however, solar power production falls off and the region becomes more and more dependent on large-scale power generators.

There is lots of talk on Beacon Hill about going 100 percent renewable, but Monday’s peak experience illustrates how far the region has to go. The regional power grid handled Monday’s surge in electricity demand easily, but in doing so it relied primarily on power generated by natural gas (70 percent), nuclear (16 percent), hydro (8 percent), renewables (5 percent), and even a bit of oil and coal. The oil and coal plants tend to come online only when demand is at its highest.

Most energy analysts want to decarbonize the economy using electricity. Cars and trucks, for example, would shift from gasoline to electricity. Electricity would also be used for heat and hot water in homes and commercial buildings. Brookline took a step in this direction recently by approving a bylaw banning pipes carrying natural gas and oil in all new construction. Attorney General Maura Healey, while sympathetic to the bylaw’s intent, rejected the measure because it conflicted with three state laws. 

If the region’s power grid doesn’t go green, the shift to electricity won’t pay many environmental dividends. That’s why the state is pursuing the purchase of offshore wind and hydro-electricity from Canada, to help reduce reliance on natural gas and other fossil fuels.

As of Tuesday morning, however, the power grid was relying most on natural gas. According to ISO New England’s real-time information, the grid’s power was coming primarily from natural gas (74 percent), with the balance from nuclear (19 percent), renewables (5 percent), and hydroelectricity (2 percent). 

Commonwealth Daily Download, By Bruce Mohl 


Say "NO" to a Massachusetts Net Zero Building Code!

28 May 2020

Once again the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) is holding a vote that could pass a State-Wide Net Zero stretch code (now called "EZ" stretch code for "Energy Zero"). Please sign and submit this letter to the chair of the BBRS and help stop this new building code from passing and having a dramatic effect across Massachusetts!

There is a lot of support for this from environmental advocates and this type of policy has already passed at the city level in Brookline, MA. This means it's even more important for our industry to stand up and make our opposition heard. 

Click the link and fill out the form to send an email opposing this effort. 


Latest Net Zero/Natural Gas Bans Update for New England and New York

23 January 2020

Here is an update on Net Zero/Gas Ban Events around New England and New York. Is Northeast HPBA missing anything? Is there anything we don't know about that is happening in your area that we need to know? Contact us!

Massachusetts:

There are 240 towns out of 311 towns in MA considering this stretch code. 

The Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS): 

  • Held a public hearing in October, prior to their vote to pass a state-wide Net Zero Stretch Code. 
  • NEHBA got the heads up about this public hearing through a building official in Sutton who is on the BBRS board.
  • NEHPBA Executive Director and President represented with talking points at that public hearing. 
  • There were over 100 people there in support of a Net-Zero Stretch code, including selectman from cities and towns across MA, along with organized protestors.
  • There were 11 board members in-total and 9 were in favor of the NZ stretch code. 
  • NEHPBA succeeded in converting 5 members of the BBRS to our side. 
  • They did NOT vote, and they have PUT OFF the vote indefinitely as a result of our talking points at the public hearing and the letter writing campaign NEHPBA implemented (over 300 letters sent to the board chair). 

Brookline, MA:

  • Selectmen held a Special Town Meeting in November to make the Net Zero code a law in Brookline. (The problem with a special town meeting is that they are not on the regular schedule and no one knows about them, can’t plan for them, which is how these agendas get passed).
  • There were 231 votes in favor and 11 opposed, only 242 people showed up to vote in the ENTIRE CITY OF BROOKLINE. Population 59,000 (one of largest Cities in MA.)
  • Brookline Net-Zero “law” is still at MA Attorney General’s office being reviewed for constitutionality.

Cambridge, MA:

  • Passed a Net-Zero Stretch Code. 
  • That hearing was much more bipartisan in its audience, 50/50 pro vs con regarding the stretch code. 
  • The council had their minds made up before the comments session even started. NEHPBA ED and President were present with talking points at this hearing.
  • Mayor of Cambridge was outgoing, he wanted a legacy. The stretch code passed in Cambridge 5 to 1.
  • Cambridge is expected to formally vote at their next City Council meeting on 1/27.

Somerville, MA:

  • NEHPBA found out on 12/12/19 that the vote was happening on 12/12/19 and that the public comments session was on 12/11. 
  • Somerville held their meeting in the evening on a weeknight and passed a natural gas ban. 

Governor Baker, State of the Commonwealth Address:

  • 1/21/20 State of the Commonwealth Address: Gov Baker committed to net-zero emissions goal by 2050 for Massachusetts.
  • Transportation and Climate Initiative is a cap-and-trade program that could increase gas prices (tax) up to $0.17/gallon to pay for NetZero.  

Senator Ed Markey Green New Deal Town Hall In Acton, MA:

  • Markey (Author of Green New Deal with AOC which was introduced LESS THAN 1 YEAR AGO in US Senate) wants MA to be a solely “Solar Economy.”
  • Over 800 people were present for this event, all in favor. NEHPBA ED, President and 1 dealer member were present.
  • MA Senate will be taking up a “Bold Climate Change Bill” Markey wants it to be “the boldest in the Country.” Wants the rest of the country to model and follow MA.
  • Markey is Pro Net-Zero building codes.
  • “We will bury the fossil fuel industry in the next 10 years” got a huge round of applause.
  • Markey wants “wind, solar and storage so we can say goodbye to Natural Gas.”

Other MA Towns/Communities:

  • NEHPBA is aware of discussions in the following MA towns/cities: Arlington, Ashland, Concord, Lexington, Newton and Wellesley. 
  • The mayors of Worcester, Somerville, New Bedford, and Easthampton have organized a coalition calling on state policymakers to transition MA to meet its heating, transportation, and electricity needs entirely through renewable energy, the group plans to extend invitations into other cities.

Rhode Island:

  • Governor Raimondo signed executive order Executive Order 19-06 in July 2019 to reduce carbon emissions from Heating Sector by April 2020.
  • 1/20/20 Raimondo set 2030 as goal for Rhode Island to be 100% renewable energy.
  • National Grid (electric utility in RI) believes it may be possible that she is pushing renewable generation (solar, wind, storage) and not addressing gas heating and other uses at this time with this order. (She did refer to that Executive Order on 1/20/20).

Vermont:

  • Mayor Miro Weinberger wants Burlington to become a Net Zero Energy city by 2030.
  • Wants to reduce and eventually eliminate fossil fuel use in the “heating and ground transportation sectors, the two largest greenhouse gas emissions contributors in Burlington and in the state of Vermont.”
  • VT is actually passing legislation to allow their state to be sued if they don’t meet their mandates. 

Connecticut:

  • Gov. Ned Lamont’s signed executive order to reduce carbon emissions and sets the goal for a 100% carbon-free energy market in the state by 2040.

New York:

  • July, the state of New York (state Senate) passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, Carbon-free electricity by 2040 and a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.
  • Last month, NEHPBA member lost a 350 unit apartment community deal in upstate New York. Each home was to have a gas fireplace. The builder cancelled for fear that they would not be able to pipe in Natural Gas by the time construction began. 

Maine:

  • June 2019, Governor Mills Signs Major Renewable Energy and Climate Change Bills Into Law. Signed legislation to achieve goals of 80% renewable energy by 2030 and emissions reductions of 80% by 2050.

New Hampshire:

  • March 2019, Town of Derry, NH. Mission: To explore and achieve cost effective solutions for reduced energy use and sustainable energy development on town-controlled property, municipal buildings, vehicles, schools, while developing a comprehensive plan to achieve the goal of "Net Zero" compliance by all key Stakeholders by 2025. Additionally, to promote energy conservation, energy efficiency, and explore other ways to reduce carbon emissions among the Town's residents and businesses.  Lastly, to reduce water usage where feasible. 

What is NEHPBA doing?

    Right now NEHPBA is Networking with: Plumbers Union, VP of Government Affairs and VP of Communications with National Grid, Community Relations Specialist at Eversource, Director at Eversource, President of the Union for Eversource, New England Gas Workers Alliance, PROGANE (Propane Gas of New England), Regional AGA affiliate, Massachusetts Chimney Sweeps, BBRS, numerous building inspectors in MA, NAIOP, National Grid in RI. 

    If there are any introductions you can make in your area, no matter how big or small, please introduce me via email or phone. Contact NEHPBA with any questions. Like our Facebook page to stay up-to-date!

    Image: Sen Markey Green New Deal Town Hall 


    Gas is in the Past After Brookline, MA Special Town Meeting

    21 November 2019

    Fossil fuels are out following the second night of Brookline’s special Town Meeting.

    Town Meeting members  passed Article 21, which will prohibit the use of fossil fuel infrastructure in new construction and significant renovations in town.

    “This warrant article is not the whole answer, but it represents a start” in reaching Brookline’s stated 2050 carbon neutral goal, said Town Meeting member Cornelia van der Ziel.

    “When you’re in a hole, the first thing is to stop digging,” State Rep. Tommy Vitolo said; this warrant article takes away the shovel, he added.

    The bylaw passed overwhelmingly, with 210 votes in favor.

    “This is a historic day for the community of Brookline and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” TMM, architect and article co-sponsor Lisa Cunningham said in a Mothers Out Front press release following the vote.

    She added, “I hope this demonstrates to parents and citizens across the country that they also have the power to move their communities to a clean energy future.”

    The bylaw does include some exemptions, allowing fossil fuel infrastructure needed for backup generators, restaurant kitchens and medical offices, among other uses.

    The action was urgently needed, co-petitioner and architect Kathleen Scanlon said in the same Mothers Out Front press release.

    “We cannot install new gas infrastructure that will last 30 years, past the time that we have committed to achieving zero emissions,” Scanlon said. “This decision will move us away from new oil and gas infrastructure when it’s convenient and possible to do so. It’s a step in the right direction for Brookline and for our climate.”

    Town Meeting picks up again on Thursday, Nov. 21. 


    University Scientists Highlight Carbon Benefits of Renewable Wood Energy

    6 November 2019

    This is a very interesting article regarding wood burning in the US. At NEHPBA, we think this article is worth the read, especially in light of the Net Zero conversation sweep the Northeast and the Pacific Northwest. See the article below:

    The US Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA) today lauded a recent letter signed by more than 100 scientists from more than 50 colleges and universities citing the benefits of wood energy. The letter, published by the National Association of University Forest Resource Programs (NAUFRP), calls on policymakers to consider key fundamentals related to forest biomass.

    Emphasizing that research on the use of forest biomass dates back to the 1980s, the scientists noted that the "carbon benefits of sustainable forest biomass are well established." The letter also cites a report from United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which notes:

    "In the long term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fibre or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit."

    The scientists also emphasized research showing that "demand for wood helps keep land in forest and incentivizes investments in new and more productive forests, all of which have significant carbon benefits."

    Reacting to the report, Seth Ginther, USIPA Executive Director, commented:

    "This is a resounding statement of academic consensus on the benefits of renewable wood energy. The value of biomass energy production in lowering carbon emissions and supporting healthy forests is well-documented through decades of peer-reviewed research. This letter underscores exactly what we are hearing from the UN IPCC: that sustainably-sourced wood biomass is an essential technology to fight climate change and limit global temperature rise to 1.5C."

    Reviewing more than 30 years of scientific research on forest biomass utilization, scientists from a diverse range of universities across the country – from Yale, Harvard, and Georgia to Washington, Idaho, and Berkeley -- identified four fundamentals for science-based decision-making on biomass energy production:

    The carbon benefits of sustainable forest biomass energy are well established.Measuring the carbon benefits of forest biomass energy must consider cumulative carbon emissions over the long term. An accurate comparison of forest biomass energy carbon impacts with those of other energy sources requires the use of consistent time frames in the comparison.Economic factors influence the carbon impacts of forest biomass energy.

    "We would encourage all policy-makers to heed the recommendations of these university scientists when considering the role of wood energy in reducing carbon and lowering emissions," said Ginther. "The scientific consensus is clear and continues to strengthen: forest biomass is a critical part of an all-in renewables solution for climate change."


    About NAUFRP The NAUFRP was formed in 1981 to provide university-based natural resource education, research, science, extension and international programs promoting American forest health. Today, NAUFRP represents 80 universities and their respective scientists, educators and extension specialists.

    About USIPA USIPA is a not-for-profit trade association promoting sustainability and safety practices within the US wood energy industry. We advocate for the wood energy sector as a smart solution to climate change, and we support renewable energy policy development around the globe. Our members represent all aspects of the wood pellet export industry, including pellet producers, traders, equipment manufacturers, bulk shippers, and service providers.

    View original content here


    SOURCE US Industrial Pellet Association

    wdrb.com


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