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

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Home heating

The Future of Gas in Massachusetts & Rhode Island

Utility-supplied natural gas (methane) is the primary heating fuel in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island, supplying 52% and 54% of homes, respectively. Given their mandates to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, both states are exploring strategies to transition away from their prevalent gas distribution systems. However, reducing and ultimately eliminating emissions from the heating sector, and doing so in a manner that minimizes costs to utility consumers and the state, is a formidable policy challenge. It will be an interesting journey, but one that must be taken.

Amanda Barker & Carrie Katan

Introducing the Massachusetts Clean Heat Platform

Green Energy Consumers Alliance and our allied organizations are certain that more legislation is needed if Massachusetts is to meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction mandates. This is especially true when it comes to the state's second-largest source of emissions, the residential and commercial building sector. No one bill or policy proposed in this session is sufficient by itself to meet these objectives. However, several complementary policies have been proposed together that would move us away from fossil fuels and towards electrification.

Picture of Larry Chretien Larry Chretien

Renewable Propane: A Reality Check

The propane industry has been advocating for the use of renewable propane to reduce emissions for their customer base. According to 2022 American Community Survey estimates, 153,000, or about 5 percent, of homes across Massachusetts and Rhode Island use propane as their primary heating fuel. That is a large enough number to take a close look at what renewable propane is all about. This blog provides a brief introduction to the fuel, if it will ever be affordable, and its climate impacts.  

Picture of Carrie Katan Carrie Katan

Biodiesel & the Clean Heat Standard

In previous blogs, we expressed strong support for a Clean Heat Standard (CHS) as a policy to decarbonize the building sector. We have also expressed vehement opposition to the notion put forth by gas utilities of allowing renewable natural gas and hydrogen to be considered clean heat. This blog covers the question of whether biodiesel ought to be given credit as clean heat when blended with regular heating oil. Biodiesel is a renewable, biodegradable fuel manufactured from vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled restaurant grease.

Picture of Larry Chretien Larry Chretien

Oil Prices on the Rise Again

If you’ve been following the economic news, you know that inflation has generally subsided and employment has been strong. But in recent weeks, we have seen a rise in oil prices. Nationally, gasoline prices have risen almost a penny per day for the last month. In New England, wholesale heating oil prices have risen almost two pennies per day. What’s going on?

Picture of Larry Chretien Larry Chretien

A good Clean Heat Standard would apply to gas, oil, and propane. Not electricity.

In Massachusetts, both the legislative and executive branches are considering a Clean Heat Standard (CHS) to reduce emissions in the building sector. We’ve been writing a lot about the CHS lately – how it wouldhelp get climate funding for public housing, should encourage electrification, and would allow consumersmore flexibility in home electrification. As the state starts getting into specifics, one thing is clear: a good CHS would apply to gas, oil, and propane, not electricity.

Picture of Larry Chretien Larry Chretien

Public Housing Needs Climate Funding: A Clean Heat Standard Will Help

Through the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), Massachusetts is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the entire economy, including the transportation, electricity, and building sectors (45% by 2030 and net zero by 2050). The building sector includes about 73,000 public housing units for the most vulnerable people in society. Rents are pegged to 30% of the residents' incomes. Public housing has been chronically underfunded for decades, leading to a multi-billion dollar capital backlog that reduces building efficiency and dramatically impacts tenants’ quality of life. So naturally, if we want to reduce the energy consumption of public housing and improve conditions for its residents, we need to be serious about where the funding will come from.

A Clean Heat Standard Would Bring Flexibility to Home Electrification

Most of us still burn fossil fuels to heat our buildings, make hot water, cook, and dry our laundry. But recently, there’s been a welcome surge of interest among consumers in ways to switch to cleaner, more efficient heat pumps, induction stoves, and electric clothes dryers. To reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, we have to keep it up until we zero out our use of methane, oil, and propane. Towards that end, we have been giving many presentations on how federal and state incentives can make home electrification more affordable and how a Clean Heat Standard (CHS) would set us on a steady path toward zeroing out those emissions. In this blog, we want to highlight one particular benefit of a CHS: the flexibility it gives consumers in when and how they get off fossil fuels.

Picture of Larry Chretien Larry Chretien

Seriously, hydrogen is not for heating homes & businesses

A few weeks ago, we wrote a blog explaining why renewable natural gas (RNG) and hydrogen should not be mixed in with natural gas (methane) and sent through pipes to heat buildings. That blog focused on RNG – how there’s not enough to go around, that we don’t really know how much it will cost, and that getting to net-zero carbon emissions means phasing out combustion in all its forms. This blog will focus on the other fuel some stakeholders are pushing: hydrogen.

Larry Chretien & Anna Vanderspek

Another Data Point in Favor of Municipal Aggregation: Eversource Rate Hike

Late on Friday afternoon, November 18, Eversource filed its Basic Service power supply rate (excluding delivery rates) for its eastern Massachusetts territory for the period of January 1 through June 30, 2023, with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU). That supply rate came in at 26 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), up from 15.8 cents/kWh for the same period in 2022 and 11.8 cents/kWh in 2021.

Picture of Larry Chretien Larry Chretien