Grid Reliability

Forced electrification plans put your energy security at risk

Massachusetts policymakers have said that they plan to transition “one million residential gas, oil, and propane furnaces and boilers” to electric heat pumps by 2030. The Massachusetts Clean Heat Standard is a mechanism for forcing that process by inflating the price of traditional fuels and compelling private companies to convert their customers to heat pumps.

The inconvenient reality for this plan is that our electric grid is heavily reliant on fossil fuels and not ready to handle the massive increase in demand the Clean Heat Standard could impose.

There’s nothing hypothetical about grid reliability issues during peak winter demand. In recent years, we have seen the consequences of grid failures when household heating demand spikes. In February 2021, an unanticipated cold snap caused 4.5 million homes in Texas to lose power. And in December 2022, a prolonged winter storm knocked out power in Buffalo and throughout upstate New York.

Today, electricity generation for Massachusetts is a mix of fossil fuels and only a small amount of renewable sources. We fall back on petroleum-sourced generation during peak demand times. However, in-state Massachusetts electricity generation is half of what it was in 2010 as fossil fuel generation comes offline. We now use almost three times as much energy as we generate in the state.

The Massachusetts grid cannot come close to meeting the energy needs of its residents. And lawmakers want to add a million households’ heating systems to this system.

ISO New England is responsible for keeping power flowing in our region. It has repeatedly warned that the grid is becoming less reliable as demand for electricity increases. Gordon van Welie, the president of ISO NE, stated in 2022 that the grid was vulnerable to outages when there are “extended severe weather conditions.”

Van Welie also has concerns about the region’s push to electrify huge numbers of homes and the transportation sector. He said, “Regional transportation and heating initiatives to switch to battery-powered cars and replace gas and oil furnaces with electric heat pumps are expected to double electricity demand. That means the region will not only need to build enough clean resources to replace existing fossil fuel plants, but also meet the added demand. In addition to billions of dollars in new investment, these new projects will require dozens of siting decisions to be made in a region notorious for difficult siting processes.”

He added, “I’m not feeling sanguine about the risks. In the longer run, I’m still as concerned as I’ve ever been. There’s just too many variables out there that could break in the negative direction for us.”

There’s nothing hypothetical about grid reliability issues during peak winter demand. In recent years, we have seen the consequences of grid failures when household heating demand spikes. In February 2021, an unanticipated cold snap caused 4.5 million homes in Texas to lose power. In the end, hundreds of people lost their lives as a result. And in December 2022, a prolonged winter storm knocked out power in Buffalo and throughout upstate New York, leading to additional fatalities.

What will happen when the heat pumps of a million additional homes rely on a Massachusetts grid that is only getting less reliable? The answer is clear — the system won’t hold up when families need it the most.

We cannot risk the safety and comfort of Massachusetts families on a poorly considered electrification strategy. Policymakers need to hear from concerned residents like you. Please take a moment to get in touch with your legislator and tell them not to make our power grid even less reliable.