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Region’s grid operator blocks the way to clean energy

Solar panels along Tihonet Road in Wareham.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

ISO-NE continues to prop up fossil fuels

In a Jan. 3 op-ed, Gordon van Welie writes, “Getting to a power system that runs on primarily clean energy isn’t as simple as flipping a switch.” That’s especially true with the Independent System Operator of New England operating the controls. While van Welie, ISO-NE president and CEO, is right that New England’s energy future is in the wind and sun, he fails to fully acknowledge the role that ISO-NE has played so far in stifling and delaying the region’s transition to cheaper and cleaner energy.

Instead of giving New England the green light for our clean energy revolution, under van Welie’s leadership, ISO-NE has sent us on a detour. The region’s not-for-profit grid operator and market administrator has repeatedly attempted to artificially prop up fossil fuels — the same fossil fuel resources that failed grids nationwide during the recent cold snap — and prevent lower-cost providers of renewable energy and battery storage from competing on a fair footing. The result of ISO-NE’s obstruction? Keeping pricey dirty energy on the grid and cheap clean energy off.

Van Welie argues that we will need to rely on fossil fuels “until long-duration storage technologies take hold.” The truth is, energy storage does currently exist, and it’s improving system reliability during California’s heat waves and here in Massachusetts on the Outer Cape.


Instead of making excuses, ISO-NE should play a leading role in establishing benchmarks for how our grid can improve and expand in order to provide reliable service. The time for change is now, not when ISO-NE gets around to it.

Senator Edward J. Markey


Flip the switch to more climate-friendly operation of the power grid

The op-ed by ISO-NE president and CEO Gordon van Welie (“A clean energy power system isn’t as simple as flipping a switch”) is an attempt to move attention away from the shortcomings of his leadership at the ratepayer-funded organization that manages our electric grid. While he points out the problems with offshore wind projects authorized by the Massachusetts Legislature, he neglects to mention that the state is mandating offshore wind projects to bypass ISO-NE. Van Welie’s organization for the last six years has used a regulation called the “minimum offer price rule” (MOPR) to block new wind and solar projects.


Van Welie says that less than 1 percent of New England’s electric grid is powered by oil and coal, neglecting to mention that natural gas, the burning of which produces vast amounts of carbon dioxide, still provides 53 percent of our electric power (less than 5 percent is generated by wind). These percentages have remained stable for years because of MOPR, which unfairly protects natural gas power plants from competition.

Nor does he mention that in May, against the opposition of Massachusetts Senators Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren, ISO-NE extended MOPR for two more years. Clearly, a significant step toward “a clean energy power system” would be to bring in new, more climate-friendly leadership at ISO-NE.

Monte Pearson


The writer is a member of the consumer group Fix the Grid.