CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (March 6, 2020)—The Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) decided late last week to preliminarily approve Eversource’s proposal to construct an electrical substation along the banks of Chelsea Creek. The decision could set a precedent that energy infrastructure does not need to be responsive to climate science nor community concerns and is a missed opportunity to deploy clean energy to the benefit of communities in Massachusetts, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
“With decisions like these, the Massachusetts EFSB is keeping community progress and climate action on the backburner,” said Paula García, UCS bilingual energy analyst. “This is an example of the critical choices that energy utilities and regulators are making right now that could have implications long into the future.”
The substation proposal has been contested by numerous community members and lawmakers, including Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Joe Kennedy, Senator Ed Markey, State Representative Adrian Madaro and City Councilor Lydia Edwards, who point out that Eversource failed to provide the public with up-to-date, transparent information justifying the need for the project that will cost ratepayers close to $50 million. Furthermore, the utility proposed to locate the project along a waterfront in East Boston that will be at risk of chronic inundation later this century due to sea level rise.
“It’s disappointing to see a state office accepting ‘business as usual’ when it comes to Massachusetts’ electricity infrastructure. And from a technical perspective, it does not make sense as planned,” said García.
García led a study that explored meeting increases in electricity demand in the East Boston area through clean energy infrastructure instead of the substation proposed by Eversource. According to the UCS analysis, conducted in partnership with East Boston’s community-based organization GreenRoots, installing rooftop solar paired with energy storage on just a third of triple-decker buildings in the East Boston area could address issues that the substation is purportedly aimed at resolving.
EFSB announced plans to hold a community hearing on March 11 and is anticipated to release its final decision at the close of the event.
“It’s clear that there are more appropriate options for meeting electricity demand that would reduce customers’ electric bills and cut pollution, including global warming emissions, in ways that don’t jeopardize the community,” said García, who plans to testify at the hearing. “Clean energy opportunities are there, but Massachusetts decision makers have to be willing to see and support these opportunities for the benefit of their constituents.”