Energy Shift

ENERGY SHIFT: Pruning the Gas “Tree” to Go Carbon Free

The Problem

Why rebuild last century’s infrastructure?

  • 1/3rd of natural gas pipes under MA streets are aging and leak-prone.
  • At current rates, replacing all leak-prone pipes will cost $9.5 billion.*
  • Ratepayers (gas customers) are paying for this, raising gas prices.
  •  The work will continue for the next 17 years, damaging our streets and disrupting traffic.
  • The new pipes last 60 years, long past when we will have primarily moved to electricity, becoming ‘stranded assets’.

The Opportunity

  • Why rebuild last century’s infrastructure?
  • Instead let’s offer customers the choice of using the funding to transition to modern micro district heating powered by geothermal.
  • The cost of the install per linear foot of low temp hot water pipe is less than the current average install cost per foot of the gas pipes here.
  • The result would prune the “tree” of the gas infrastructure, while growing a new tree made of interconnected heating districts, a more resilient, renewable, cleaner tree. A better investment.

    Utility-reported data pinpoints good locations for the pilot.

The Pilot Study

  • One short street or cul-de-sac will have the opportunity to demonstrate this transition, winning insulation and state of the art electric appliances for all participants if 100% of gas customers sign on.
  • Designed and overseen by a collaborative team of renowned experts, this pilot aims to match or beat the cost of replacing the aging gas pipes and delivering gas.

The Outcomes

  • The gas utility is handed a viable business model that can fuel market growth and stabilize costs.
  • We unlock ratepayer funding for electrification and renewable thermal by persuading the Dept. of Public Utilities to enact regulations allowing groups of customers to choose how the gas-main-replacement funding is spent.
  • We help educate the public on long term benefits (health, environment, economic) of transitioning off fossil fuels.
  • We demonstrate a path to a carbon free future NOW.

Regulatory/State Level

  • Passed law providing a waiver of regulations for innovative greenhouse gas reduction pilots.
  • Assembled working group to oversee pilot at regulatory/state level: Includes AGO office, DOER, and Conservation Law Foundation.
  • Pursuing long-term regulatory change and reform together with Gas Leak Allies and Conservation Law Foundation.

Technical/Utility Level

  • Columbia Gas and Eversource interested.
  • BuroHappold Engineering will perform the feasibility study to investigate the engineering and economic aspects of the pilot study and a potential scaling up of the project.

    How to use an efficient electric induction stove. Credit Colleen Brannen photographer

Community/Household Level

  • Several municipalities engaged and supportive.
  • Designed and tested the ‘Taste the Future’ events: cooking parties demonstrating that electric induction cooking is faster, safer and more precise than gas.

Merrimack Valley Gas Disaster

  • We are working to place the pilot in Merrimack Valley if possible to allow affected families the option of transiting off of gas.

*Using publicly available utility-supplied Gas System Enhancement Program data

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