I went to the Environmental Bond hearing on Tuesday at the State House, and heard most of Secretary Beaton’s presentation. The $1.4 billion bond bill, submitted by the Governor, is mostly a re-authorization of spending items in the $2.2 billion 2014 bond bill, with some $300M going to climate preparedness. This sounds good and welcome … and probably inadequate to the massive challenge at hand: Necessary-but-not-sufficient. There are some nice things in there.
The bill includes language on a “clean peak” standard — by which the state means to avoid bringing dirtier, more expensive energy online during peak demand. Beaton has insisted that this is not a backdoor invitation to bring more natural gas online: “That is not how we play ball”. Well OK then: These assurances were met with skepticism by Sen. Marc Pacheco and the Northeast Clean Energy Council back in April; as far as I can tell from the wording in the bond bill, all we have is Beaton’s assurance that gas won’t be part of the new regs. (Somebody tell me something different.)
It should be obvious that the more renewable energy we bring online — say, via a 3% yearly increase in the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard! — the easier it will be to avoid dirty peaks, without new gas pipelines.
And energy storage is no longer a thing of the future. In Southern Australia, a single Tesla battery of 100MW has stabilized their grid, which serves some 1.7 million people. It seems strange for an administration to both tout its investments in energy storage — which are pretty small money, $20M! — and on the other hand work with utilities and fossil fuel companies to construct more gas pipelines, to the tune of billions of dollars.
If our concern is genuinely about the marginal pollution created during times of peak demand — the crux of the argument in the Globe’s splenetic editorials, for instance — there are many ways to skin that cat, much area in the Zone Of Possible Agreement between the various stakeholders (utils, enviros, labor, industry, etc.). More pipelines, more fossil-fuel infrastructure that lasts a generation, encourages fracking and leakage, and displaces renewables – those are an absolute non-starter. Let’s do something else.