The Energy Consumer's Bulletin- a New England energy news blog

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Energy efficiency (5)

Save Energy: Update Your Heating Equipment

If your heating system leaves your home too cold or burns too much fuel, it might be time to look into an upgrade.  Consumers in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island should pay close attention to incentives being offered by utilities.  Gas and oil prices have been low the last couple of years, which makes now a good time to invest some of your fuel savings into making your home more efficient.  The payoff will be big when fuel prices rebound (not if, when). Read on to learn more about the incentives and rebates in your state.

Loie Hayes and Anna Vanderspek

Having Our Cake and Eating It Too: How to use your heating oil savings wisely

Updated: August 10, 2017.
Compared to many years ago, the last few heating seasons have shown moderate prices and very little fluctuations. According to the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA), the inventory of distillate oil (which covers heating oil and diesel fuel) is high. As a result, the likelihood of a price spike is quite low. However, the EIA does project a modest price increase of about 20 cents per gallon on average in the US between now and mid-winter.

Picture of Larry Chretien Larry Chretien

What's a Heat Pump and How Can it Reduce My Oil or Gas Usage?

What is a heat pump?

Heat pumps are a heating technology that can be installed in a room (or several rooms) in your home and move heat into or out of a space. A heat pump can both HEAT and COOL the air in your home. A heat pump can also be used to heat water.

Chances are you already have a heat pump in your home! Refrigerators and air conditioners use heat pumps to cool. It sounds strange to use a “heat” pump to cool, but your refrigerator or air conditioner is actually pulling the heat out of the space you want to keep cool and putting it somewhere else. When you use a heat pump for heat, it’s like running your refrigerator or air conditioner in reverse!

Are there different types of heat pumps?

Yes! All heat pumps move heat, but that heat can come from different sources. Heat pumps can use the temperatures of either the outdoor air or the ground to heat or cool homes or buildings. Heat pumps that utilize outside air are known as "air-source heat pumps." Heat pumps that use the nearly constant temperature underground are known as "ground-source heat pumps." Ground-source heat pumps require a trench or well to operate. Air sour

Maura O'Gara

Why I voted against the Massachusetts Energy Efficiency Three Year Plan

In Massachusetts, three-year plans for energy efficiency are developed by the utilities with input and oversight from the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council (EEAC). Right now, the next plan’s final draft is filed with the MA Department of Public Utilities for approval, accompanied by a recommendation from the Council. As a member of the EEAC, representing the Mass. Nonprofit Network, I was the sole vote on October 26 against the plan for 2016-2018. This post will explain why.

Picture of Larry Chretien Larry Chretien

Massachusetts’ Three Year Energy Efficiency Plan Update: Where will the country’s most efficient state take EE next?

The Massachusetts Green Communities Act (GCA) requires investor-owned gas and electric utilities to capture all efficiency and demand reduction resources that are less expensive than supply. Proposed savings through efficiency are detailed in what is referred to as Three Year Efficiency Plans (3YP). The plan for 2016-2018 has been in development for the last ten months. The utilities released their most current draft plan on September 23rd and the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council (EEAC), a group of appointees tasked with overseeing plan development, has yet to approve what has been proposed or to make its recommendation to the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) regarding plan approval.

Picture of Eugenia T. Gibbons Eugenia T. Gibbons

Natural Gas Pipeline Leaks: Building a Bigger System Doesn’t Fix the Problem

Beneath our feet is a vast network of natural gas distribution infrastructure. The aging pipes in Rhode Island and Massachusetts are among some of the oldest in the region and the nation, which means they are also some of the most leak-prone. We’ve known for some time that the methane (CH4) emitted through natural gas pipeline leaks contributes significantly to global warming. This is because methane is about 35 times more potent than carbon dioxide (C02), trapping a lot more heat in the atmosphere. However, a recent study reveals that natural gas distribution systems are leaking far more methane than previously estimated.

This revelation comes at a time when utility executives and several public officials continue to push for new pipelines, paid for by New England electricity ratepayers, to bring more natural gas into the region to burn in power plants[1]. So, when public officials call for more natural gas, are they going to take commensurate counter measures to ensure that we can get on track to reducing emissions as called for in the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) and the Resilient Rhode Island Act (RRA): 80% by 2050?

A map showing natural gas emissions across Boston. Source:
Larry Chretien and Eugenia Gibbons