Recently I was asked by the Boston Globe to write 350 words on why the Mass Save energy efficiency program should phase out rebates for new oil-fired systems for heat and hot water. Another writer took the opposite view and readers were invited to vote for their preferred argument. The Globe’s request was reasonable and so I wrote my piece, but in this expanded blog, I can better address some important points in the discussion.
Our hearts go out to Texans. The cold, snow, ice, power outages, and water shutoffs have gone way past inconvenient for people there. It’s caused death and misery. Although we’re not experts on the Texas grid system as much as we are in New England, we’ve noticed a lot of confusion and deliberate misinformation surrounding the blackouts.
The confusion about the power system is understandable; it's complicated and largely operates behind-the-scenes. It’s only until there’s a major crisis that we take a look behind the curtain. Unfortunately, the grid’s complexity makes it a ripe opportunity for the financially and politically motivated to spread “alternative facts.”
Over the past week, many of us here in New England might have turned on our heat as temperatures dipped to near freezing for the first time this fall. For the slight majority of us in Rhode Island and Massachusetts who heat our homes with natural gas, we’re relying on a centrally distributed fossil fuel to keep our homes and businesses warm in winter. On the one hand, natural gas is cheap, and a growing economy calls for more customers to hook up to the pipeline. On the other, we are way over our budget for greenhouse gases. Natural gas releases carbon when burned and causes an even bigger problem when leaked in the form of methane. We have a conundrum on our hands: how do we urgently reduce emissions from our buildings when most of us rely on the natural gas system to supply needed warmth during the winter?
Our organization works to provide consumers with good options for their homes and we are also at the table with policymakers to encourage policies that make good economic and environmental sense. With this blog, we want to share our experience with heat pumps, particularly ductless mini-splits, and perhaps float a couple of trial balloons.
Now that spring is here, we have plenty of time to prepare for next heating season. Heating system upgrades are a great way to help you save energy and money. Though upgrading may seem like an intimidating project, you can break it down into manageable steps.
For decades, the federal Clean Air Act has caused sulfur levels in electricity-generating gasoline and oil to fall dramatically. The results have been enormous. According to one study, the benefits of EPA regulations on sulfur (and nitrogen) have exceeded costs by 30 to 1. Most of these benefits have to do with public health.
After last winter’s relative warmth and Mass Energy/PP&L prices mostly under $2 per gallon, this year we’re experiencing colder weather and somewhat higher prices. Both the colder weather and today’s prices are still lower than ‘normal’ by historical standards. Here’s our take on what we see happening in the oil markets.
We’ve come a long way in understanding the best practices for using biodiesel in our home heating system. Unlike biodiesel used in cars, home biodiesel does not require any do-it-yourself retrofitting for safe use. By reading this blog we hope you can get a better understanding of the benefits of biodiesel and the steps you can take to begin using bio-heat in your home heating oil system!
As non-profit consumer advocacy organizations that have been running a Discount Heating Oil Service for 34 years, Mass Energy and People’s Power & Light want our members to save money. Savings that could be put towards making your home more energy efficient and reducing its carbon footprint. Here are some steps you can take to maintain your heating system’s efficiency, reduce your home’s energy consumption, and spread out your oil bills into predictable monthly payments.
Preface from Larry Chretien, Executive Director:
Readers of this blog should be aware that we are enthusiastic supporters of electric vehicles and air-source heat pumps. Costs of these products have come down in recent years while quality has gone up. We see them as economically sensible ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to the point that we see them as essential parts of any climate action plan. That would mean for a plan for Massachusetts, Rhode Island, any other state, your city or town, and your family. In our work, we are lucky to come in contact with experts who have figured all this out and who are kind enough to explain their findings to the rest of us. So please enjoy this blog from our guest, Patrick Knight of Synapse Energy Economics.