(The following letter was sent to ISO New England last week by U.S. Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren)
U.S. Senators in Support of Wind Power Project to Replace Mystic Generation Station
To the Editor:
We write concerning ISO New England (ISO-NE)’s Boston 2028 Request for Proposals (RFP) for transmission projects to help maintain grid reliability in the greater Boston area following the scheduled retirement of the Mystic Generating Station in Everett, Massachusetts. We are encouraged by this effort to use competitive bidding to provide new transmission solutions and reduce consumer costs. As part of ISO-NE’s evaluation of proposals, we urge you to prioritize the effects that projects may have on state climate, energy, and health goals. Currently, “environmental impact” is listed in the lowest priority category for the Boston 2028 RFP evaluation, and public health impacts are not called out at all. As Massachusetts and other New England states work to reach decarbonization targets and respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever that regional transmission organizations consider these impacts as part of electric-grid planning.
The Mystic Generating Station is an oil- and natural gas-fired power plant that is scheduled for full retirement by 2024. Initially, in March 2018, Exelon, the plant’s owner, decided to shutter the plant, citing a lack of profitability and economic concerns, but in December 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved a petition for short-term cost recovery. That plan allows ISO-NE to direct additional ratepayer payments to flow to the plant over the next several years in order to keep it open. A near-term transmission replacement for this uneconomic plant will benefit ratepayers, improve grid reliability, and protect nearby communities from air pollution.
In particular, the eventual retirement of this power plant, which is the largest fossil fuel plant in New England, presents an opportunity to continue cleaning up the New England power grid and safeguarding public health. The six New England states have all committed to achieving at least a 75-percent reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.The Carbon Free Boston
initiative aims to reach a target of carbon neutrality for the city by 2050.4 As part of the Boston 2028 RFP, ISO-NE should consider and prioritize these targets.
Additionally, as Massachusetts and other New England states continue efforts to limit and stop the spread of COVID-19, it is important to consider the public health effects of various kinds of electricity generation. Research continues to show a link between air pollution and higher COVID-19 death rates, placing a premium on regional transmission organizations’ factoring air quality into their grid-planning decisions — particularly for communities that are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and the historic burden of air pollution.5,6
Clean energy and clean air are both important policy objectives for Massachusetts and the broader New England region, and those priorities should be reflected appropriately among the evaluation criteria for the Boston 2028 RFP. Fossil fuel plants are increasingly uneconomic, particularly as the cost for new renewable electricity generation declines, and after factoring in the costs to public health from air pollution. In pursuing transmission solutions to meet electricity demand and address reliability needs, ISO-NE can also strive to better integrate low- or no-carbon generation projects, with the added benefit of saving ratepayers money and avoiding the need to bail out uneconomic plants. As ISO-NE continues to the next phase of this important process to meet demand and enhance reliability, we urge you to consider and prioritize climate and public health goals.