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Debate stirs over the limits of New England’s power grid

A man makes his way through the snow in Newton during a storm on Dec. 5, 2020. A recent meeting of power plant operators expressed concern about the capacity of the New England grid.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Transmission, storage are key steps in move to renewable energy

Re “Cold brings region’s power vulnerabilities to mind: Dependence on natural gas could be weakness for grid” (Page A1, Jan. 26): Jon Chesto’s article raises important questions about New England’s energy future. As we electrify heating and transportation, it will be critical to build the infrastructure that ensures reliability and a low-cost transition to the low-carbon economy. Modernizing the grid through development of transmission and energy storage are two critical steps policy makers must take.

Offshore and onshore wind perform well during the winter when the grid is stretched. Additional transmission will be needed to connect offshore wind projects far from shore and onshore wind in Northern New England. Both resources are located more than 100 miles from population centers where energy demand is greatest.


Legislation under consideration by the Massachusetts House requires independent transmission for offshore wind. The Baker administration should work with other New England states to build infrastructure benefiting the region.

Large-scale energy storage is being used to back up renewable energy and enable replacement of traditional power plants in California, New York, and Australia. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and other New England states are advancing energy storage programs that should be accelerated. What we cannot do is wait.

The transition to renewable energy is underway, and we have the tools to ensure reliability. Now the region must act.

Peter Shattuck

President, New England



Anbaric specializes in the development of large-scale electric transmission and storage systems to bring renewable energy to markets.

Eastern coast is lined up for a climate domino effect

Thank you to Jon Chesto for covering this important matter. It reminds me that we should be fighting with everything we’ve got to slow global warming.

From Maine to Delaware, the area along the country’s eastern coast is heating faster than most of North America. A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change in September links this phenomenon to the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. This system of ocean currents brings warm water from the tropics north toward Greenland. As the dominoes fall, glacial meltwater is causing the system to stall, diverting warm waters toward the Northeast US coast, one of the fastest-warming ocean regions on the planet. This is one of many planetary-scale slow-motion catastrophes causing a climate domino effect.


I suspect that people still favoring fossil fuel infrastructure are not grasping our peril. Nobody has a lock on the future, and nobody knows whether we can still fix this. But doing anything other than everything humanly possible is folly. We trust science with our lives when we step on a plane, an elevator, or a train. Why aren’t we listening to scientists when it comes to infrastructure?

Kerry Castonguay


Weakened grid only underscores our need to break dependence on natural gas

Jon Chesto’s article on our region’s power vulnerability gives us yet another reason to oppose continuing efforts by the industry to add new infrastructure that contributes to our dependence on natural gas. As Chesto reports, we are already overreliant on an energy source whose availability is threatened during periods of peak use, such as cold snaps. We can add this to our list of reasons to draw down our dependence on natural gas and fast-track renewable energy projects in the Commonwealth. The list includes pervasive methane leaks in the state’s gas infrastructure, CO2 emissions that the state ostensibly has committed to reducing, and threats to public health inside and outside the home, particularly in environmental justice communities.


Kent Wittenburg


The writer is a leader of the King’s Chapel Environmental Action Initiative.

Fossil-fuel industry must remake itself

Jon Chesto’s article on the vulnerability of our electricity supply was disappointing. The vague anxiety about potential risks to the grid expressed by fossil-fuel CEOs is driven, I suspect, by their preferred solution: more gas pipelines. This is most clear in the quote from Curt Morgan, chief executive of Vistra Corp.: “With a lot of focus toward offshore wind and a bitter hatred toward gas [here], I think it’s going to be a real challenge.”

A challenge to do what? Sell more gas.

But our state has strong climate plans that will leave natural gas behind. If the gas industry wants a role in the future of the state’s energy supply, it should find sincere ways to do so. The industry must remake itself — perhaps supplying geothermal power — in order to survive.

Ted McIntyre


Rush should be on toward cleaner energy sources

I was disappointed to read this article, which implies that New England’s regional power grid risks blackouts such as those that “rocked” Texas last winter, and that this is because of the region’s own “glaring weakness: an overreliance on natural gas” — also oil and coal, the very fossil fuels that have produced the climate crisis that imperils the future of our planet.

Since Massachusetts and many other states have passed strong climate laws calling for a gradual transition to cleaner energy sources such as solar and wind, I would rather read about how we can make this transition happen as quickly as possible, getting rid of obstructions at the federal and state levels. Fear-mongering from the fossil fuel industry accomplishes little that is positive toward achieving a future of clean energy.


Joan Pratt

Exeter, N.H.