Change Ahead for Gas Utilities

May 27, 2021 | By Carrie Klein

Governor Baker signs Next Gen Energy bill into law in winter 2021.

Gas utilities have faced both regulatory constraints and business pressure to adapt for years. Now, new climate legislation in Massachusetts spells out that gas utilities need to adopt new practices. 

“An Act Creating a Next Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy,” defines more clearly the state’s goals for reducing emissions. By 2050, emissions must be net zero compared to 1990 levels. This bill aligns with President Biden’s proposed infrastructure bill, which directs more funding for electrification and clean energy.

The Massachusetts legislation reduces financial risk and increases business certainty for electric utilities who purchase more renewable energy. For example, starting in 2025, electric utilities have to increase their renewable energy portfolio by 3% or more every year.

Major gas companies are feeling the pressure to change across the country as laws like this are filed and passed.

Fourteen gas companies, including Eversource, National Grid, and Consolidated Edison, have come together to share information and learn from one another about their plans for the future. Their coalition, the Downstream Natural Gas Initiative (DSI), is examining how utilities and the gas distribution network can play a role in a low-carbon future. DSI is looking at low-carbon fuels, renewable energy, and networked geothermal as possible alternatives to natural gas. 

HEET had the opportunity to speak to the Downstream Natural Gas Initiative this March about the GeoGrid🅭 solution that offers safe, renewable, low-cost, and reliable heating and cooling. 

With networked geothermal energy: 

  • Gas workers keep their jobs, with some retraining. 
  • Utilities remain in control of energy distribution. 
  • While initial construction costs are high, there is no need to purchase fuel, making monthly customer bills lower than for natural gas.