To save the planet for all life and our grandchildren, we need to organize, protest, and be at the table to plan our local clean energy solutions. Starting with our protests against a new gas and oil-powered electrical generator, we are now engaged with changing laws & regulations and demanding to empower citizens in long-term planning. Our progress is won with organization, diligent research, technical knowledge, and creating new partnerships.
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one
In a detailed analysis, MUNICIPAL LIGHT PLANT ENERGY MIX REPORT, published on April 27, 2022, by Mass Climate Action Network (MCAN), lead author Logan Malik evaluates the progress of municipal light plants towards the goal of reducing reliance on carbon- and methane-emitting fuel for the production of electricity. MCAN sees power supply policy as essential to guide planning and implementation in all municipal power plants. Progress has been uneven, and the leading example of three light plants shows the way.
Malik reports on the situation in 2020, the latest year with available data, detailing progress to meet the goals of drastically reducing emissions and transitioning to clean energy.
A few of the 40 plants are making major progress. In 2020, three MLPs had already exceeded the 2040 Greenhouse Gas Emission Standard (GGES) requirement of being 75% non-emitting by 2040. Holyoke, Hudson, and South Hadley had approximately 78%, 79%, and 87% non-emitting energy respectively. “Emitting energy” is made by burning fuels that result in greenhouse gas, mainly carbon dioxide and methane.
The salient difference between the three most advanced municipal plants and 37 other plants was that the leading communities had adopted and implemented a power supply policy, an important tool for planning and establishing energy mix goals that “provide a clear process for public input on revising and updating emissions reduction targets.” Belmont, Concord, and Shrewsbury have also adopted their power supply policies.
Municipalities that have been early adopters of power supply policies responded to the leadership of advocates bringing technical expertise backed by community organizations.
Currently, municipal light plants lag behind investor-owned utilities in adopting renewable energy. Advocates for clean energy believe that new state requirements and incentives may be needed to hasten action by municipal light plants to adopt a power supply policy.
Community energy plans
Going beyond the important findings of the MCAN report, a long-term plan for every community should include a power supply policy as a key component of a community-wide energy supply and use program.
All residents should be engaged in doing their part, and that needs to start with transparency and a shared planning process. Such a plan would include a broad range of energy-saving and time-of-use systems, the local capture and storage of energy with solar plus battery storage; thermal storage; and ground source heat pumps; the switch from oil and gas to electrical appliances, and heating/cooling functions. The municipal light plants would play a key role in coordinating the new methods for generating and distributing energy.
Planning in Peabody
What has already been done in Peabody towards a planning process?
The failure of transparency and community engagement in the development of Project 2015A has been the trigger for community organization, protests, and demand for planning.
Breathe Clean North Shore (BCNS), a group of area citizens has been at the center of statewide protests against Project 2015A, the Peabody peaker plant. That plant went forward without transparency and community engagement. There was no comprehensive review of the health and environmental impacts, and no consideration of the additional health burdens for the surrounding environmental justice areas. State legislators, including Senator Joan Lovely and Representatives Sally Kerans and Tami Gouveia, participated in demonstrations organized by Breathe Clean North Shore (BCNS) with support from several environmental advocacy groups.
Susan and Ron Smoller, leading members of BCNS, are working with PMLP to improve transparency and enhance engagement with citizens. Recently they and other citizens met with light department executives to begin exploring areas of common interest, in the first of a planned series of quarterly events. The Smollers, in cooperation with the Peabody-tv, the local cable channel, will be taping the monthly meetings of the PMLP board. BCNS has also worked with PMLP to publish minutes of their meetings online.
It appears that PMLP has not established a power supply policy, and instead depends on Mass Municipal Wholesale Electric Company (MMWEC) to provide piecemeal solutions. MMWEC is guided by laws defining future greenhouse gas emission standards (GGES).
In the Peabody Municipal Light Commission meeting on April 28, 2022, recorded for Peabody-tv, Matthew Ide, MMWEC Treasurer and Executive Director of Energy & Financial Markets, reviewed the requirements for increasing their non-carbon-emitting energy that PMLP must meet going forward. He noted that wind power is projected to be the major new source of clean power. With very little discussion and no due diligence report, the PMLP board agreed to participate in Project 2022A, a 100-MW battery. PMLP would invest $6.2 million and see a $1.2 million profit.
A master plan
Tracy Valetti, in her campaign for a seat on the Board of PMLP, found that residents were angered by the lack of transparency in creating a project without considering their interests. Valetti is continuing to urge Peabody to finally become a Green Community by working with the City Council and has a vision for a master plan that will guide Peabody for the future.
Planning to address vulnerabilities
Peabody participated in a state-sponsored program to evaluate municipal vulnerabilities in 2018.
Peabody plans for net-zero
On December 2, 2021, Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt announced a program to develop a plan for net-zero energy in Peabody that would involve the Community Development Department, the Peabody Municipal Light Plant (PMLP), and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), as well as the community. This process seems like a cookie-cutter, top-down effort to begin a plan. The materials describing the plan are not legible and the starting point, which is to establish the current baseline Green House Gas (GHG) amount, fails to include the emissions from current and planned electric generators. So far, we have not seen significant efforts to educate and include the community.
How can Peabody move forward?
Based on what we have learned in our efforts to prevent the construction of Project 2015A, the Peabody peaker plant, let’s consider how Peabody can move forward. For the process to be effective, several issues must be addressed at the start.
We need clarity on the goal;
we need to act quickly; methods for engaging a few leaders won’t work anymore, we need to return to democratic, grassroots engagement;
we must involve citizens in an informed and meaningful way;
we must provide a list of known, effective solutions so that citizens can be effective;
we need a realistic accounting sheet so we can measure our goals and our progress, including all sources of greenhouse gas and all the ways we can save energy, manage when to use energy, and create sustainable energy;
we must consider the “externalities”—the costs that aren’t counted in dollars, and balance them against the dollar cost of electricity; externalities destroy nature and harm people;
we must consider all pollution that affects health and despoils our natural surroundings;
we need the Peabody Municipal Light Plant (PMLP) to contribute technical skills, and demonstrate the flexibility to adopt new methods;
everyone will need to change and adapt, so everyone must be included.
Peabody should develop a power supply policy with the PMLP, and that needs to be part of a comprehensive community energy policy within a long-term master plan. In a broader perspective, those of us who have fought against the peaker plant have seen that state laws and administration have an impact on local choices. Regional agencies like the Independent System Operator for New England (ISO-NE), which establishes rules that can hinder or help renewable energy sources, and national agencies like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which oversees energy policy, create frameworks that we cannot ignore.
Peabody needs a process that brings together citizens, producers of power, experts in community development, and community organizers.
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one.— John Lennon, Imagine