We need to have a process that can bring together citizens, producers of power, experts in community development, and community organizers.
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; old methods for engaging a few leaders won’t work any more, we need to return to democratic, grass roots engagement;
- we must involve citizens in an informed and meaningful way;
- we must provide the 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 on electricity; externalities destroy nature and harm poor people;
- we must consider all pollution that affects health and despoils our natural surroundings;
- we need PMLP to contribute technical skill, and demonstrate the flexibility to adopt new methods;
- everyone will need to change and adapt, so everyone must be included.
Net zero and the planning process
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.
What is net zero? A seductive idea, not based on existing technology, because it reduces the pressure to act now. We must aim for zero.
We can’t afford to ignore reality.
At the first MAPC session on December 14, 2021 to introduce the net zero energy process, we learned that 2017 greenhouse gas emissions in Peabody were 437,000 metric tons.
The MAPC presenters of the net zero session tried to limit discussion of the proposed Peabody peaker, a gas and oil fueled generator of power during peak demand which would increase greenhouse gas emissions by 11%, and they ignored PMLP emissions of 2,790 tons in 2020 from two existing peaker plants.
Natural gas is largely methane. In Peabody, methane leaks from National Grid lines were 60 tons in 2020. Since methane is a greenhouse gas that is 28 times worse than carbon, that would be comparable to 1,680 carbon tons. Will that be counted?
Participation by all is essential
The peaker plant is a major issue in the city regarding the harm it will do to health, the environment, and the climate. MAPC needs to listen to and start from the issues that people care about, including the peaker plant.
We citizens need to review the options that exist as off-the-shelf solutions so that we can evaluate the options, costs, and benefits of potential actions to transition to sustainable energy.
Bryan Howcroft, PMLP Assistant Manager, did attend; as did Ray Melvin, an incoming PMLP board member. But none of the current board members attended. How will we know their ideas about what PMLP can do to move the ball towards a common goal? Are they on board or will they veto any new ideas?
Breathe Clean North Shore and CleanPowerCoalition.org
Over the last several months, concerned citizens organized as Breathe Clean North Shore and CleanPowerCoalition.org to oppose the peaker plant and propose alternatives.
Our efforts have focused on the lack of transparency, the lack of a comprehensive health and environmental reviews, and the failure of the Commonwealth to enforce the new climate roadmap law. We have been supported by citizens across the Commonwealth, including in municipalities that are part of the peaker project. They consider it immoral to enjoy electricity that comes at the cost to health of the environmental justice groups in Peabody. On Saturday, November 12, 2021, advocates for clean energy from many towns joined Peabody residents in the "Peabody Peaker Push" to protest against the peaker plant and to walk through neighborhoods near the plant location to inform people about the project. Senator Joan B. Lovely and Representative Sally Kerans participated to express their concern for transparency and to urge a comprehensive review of health impacts from the peaker.
Don’t ignore Breathe Clean North Shore and CleanPowerCoalition.org . We should be at the table with voting rights.
The Mayoral committee, Friends of Green Peabody should be at the table. The environmental justice communities in and around Peabody should be at the table.
Potential in Peabody
We can reconcile the urgent demand of citizens to have carbon-free energy and the obligation of our municipal light plants to provide affordable, reliable power when the city, citizens, and light plants join together and confront the real problems with real solutions.
Ben Hillman's video on the Peabody peaker. A 5-minute, incisive analysis and story.
After passing bold new climate laws in Massachusetts, the first thing the Baker administration is doing is to allow the construction of a brand new dirty power plant in Peabody, MA.