Changes in technology could boost efforts to manage demand
Sabrina Shankman’s story on potential grid instability in New England this winter and the feasibility of demand response programs should serve as a call to action for regional energy leaders (“Energy officials warn that winter could bring blackouts here,” Page A1, Sept. 28).
As Shankman notes, demand response programs were successful in California this summer to reduce or prevent blackouts during heat waves. However, they would be almost entirely new to utility customers in our region, and the technology needed to allow utilities to deliver insights that result in significant energy reduction has not existed until now.
Currently, utility meters are able to provide consumers with only day- or month-old data, which does not offer much practical information. However, the industry is on the cusp of a new generation of meters that provide real-time data and insights to both utilities and consumers.
According to a recent report by Guidehouse that we commissioned, it’s estimated that by 2035, nearly one-quarter of meters in use now will need to be upgraded. When New England utilities decide which new meters to invest in, they must choose technology that engages and empowers consumers to make informed decisions about their energy use and environmental impact.
Grid operator has been far too reliant on natural gas
Our overreliance on natural gas for generating electric power, which will cause painful increases in electric bills this winter, is not the result of miscalculations, unforeseen circumstances, or unavoidable events. The Independent System Operator for New England, the federally mandated manager of our electric grid, has chosen to favor natural gas over renewable sources such as solar and wind power.
More than six years after the Paris Agreement declared climate change a threat to human civilization, ISO New England still clings to rules that deliberately screen out all but a handful of wind and solar providers from the electric grid. As a result, 53 percent of our electricity is generated by natural gas plants, 27 percent by nuclear plants, less than 5 percent by wind, and less than 5 percent by solar.
Unless ISO New England is thoroughly reformed and forced to shed its close ties to the natural gas industry, we will be chained to an energy of the past for many more years.
Monte L. Pearson
The writer is a member of Fix the Grid, a regional grouping of community and environmental organizations.