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Fall 2022

Eversource Gas breaks ground on first networked geothermal installation

Framingham, Massachusetts is the site of the first gas-utility-run networked geothermal system, ever! Once complete, this network of water-filled pipes, heat pumps and boreholes will provide heating and cooling to a community of over 40 houses, apartments and commercial buildings, including low-income housing. 

In preparation for utility-run systems like the one in Framingham to become a reality, HEET has convened top scientists and experts from across the country to evaluate NetGeo as a viable pathway to zero-emissions heating and cooling. Massachusetts Clean Energy Center awarded HEET a $5 million grant for the multi-year research effort. 

HEET Co-Executive Director gives a TED Talk—and invites a gas utility president on stage 

This November, HEET Co-Executive Director Zeyneb Magavi was asked to give a TEDxBoston Talk as part of a series on planetary stewardship

Zeyneb described her idea for a gas to networked geothermal (NetGeo) transition. She explained HEET’s unusual approach of building trust with utilities that has given Massachusetts the first permissioned gas utility NetGeo installation. And In the last few minutes of her talk, Zeyneb demonstrated this trust by inviting Bill Akley, president of Eversource Gas, to join her on stage and share his perspective. Unscripted. 

Meet HEET’s newest team members

Get to know Rachel DeFronzo Wheeler, Executive Assistant and Logistics Director and Angie Alberto Escobar, Director of the Gas to Geo Network!

A conversation with Cary Smith: A founding innovator of networked geothermal

Cary Smith, owner of Sound Geothermal Corporation and a principal with the Grey Edge Group, has designed countless geothermal systems across the country. This fall, Cary visited HEET at Eversource’s worksite in Framingham, Massachusetts, where the first utility-run NetGeo system is currently being installed. We had a chance to talk with Cary during a lull on-site.

Weatherizing for the winter 

As we head into what could be one of the most expensive winters in recent history due to rising energy costs, we’re thinking of small steps that can make a difference in our energy bills. 

Weatherization is one important step to cut energy costs. By sealing the cracks and insulating, heat is kept inside in the winter, and cool air in the summer, reducing your energy needs for comfort year round. HEET’s middle name is energy efficiency, after all, and we stand by it! 

Fixing super-emitting gas leaks: Shared Action Plan Update

Each year since 2017, HEET has tracked the progress of gas utilities in finding and fixing gas leaks with the highest environmental impact. This work is part of the Shared Action Plan, a collaboration between HEET, Eversource Gas and National Grid Gas that aims to both cut emissions and improve the safety of Massachusetts’ gas distribution system. 

Our team is working hard to prepare a report on the findings of year three of the Shared Action Plan.

Introducing the Falcon Curve

In a paper published in Scientific Reports, researchers from HEET, Harvard University and Boston University illustrate how technology efficiency is a key factor that will affect the affordability, speed and equity of emissions reductions. Meet the Falcon Curve. 

We’re hiring!

Want to join our team? We’re hiring to fill two new positions: Project Manager and Grants Manager. Read the full descriptions and apply here.

In other news…

➡ If you’re in New England: sign up for shave the peak alerts from Green Energy Consumers Alliance! 
➡ Check out this op-ed published in The Washington Post, written by the researchers who helped develop the Falcon Curve: Want to phase out fossil fuels? We must fundamentally change our buildings. 

Spring-Summer 2022

Home is Where the Pipeline Ends: Study identifies chemical contamination in natural gas delivered to homes 

Home is Where the Pipeline Ends: Characterization of Volatile Organic Compounds Present in Natural Gas at the Point of the Residential End User” is now released in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The study by HEET, Harvard, PSE Healthy Energy, and Boston University examined the chemical composition of unburned natural gas samples from kitchen stoves across Greater Boston. Researchers found 296 unique chemical compounds, including 21 federally designated hazardous air pollutants. While the study identified the presence of these chemicals, further research is needed to determine human exposure and possible health impacts. 

New Maps: Gas Leaks & Plans for New Gas Pipes

HEET started mapping gas leaks in 2015. Now, we are excited to share an improved format of our annual gas leak maps, PLUS a first-ever map of Massachusetts’ costly plans to replace aging gas pipes with new ones (the “Gas System Enhancement Plan” or GSEP). These maps are made possible thanks to HEET Director Dominic Nicholas, who made them! 

While you’re checking out our new maps, help us make a third! Want a non-emitting networked geothermal system on your street? Add yourself to our data set to map the future! 

Gas Leaks at Massachusetts School Properties

Our report with UndauntedK12 provides the first statewide analysis of gas leaks reported at school properties. There were 91 such leaks in 2021 alone. A third of those required immediate attention by utility workers. 

Importantly, none of these leaks are currently an imminent threat to human safety; nor are they examples of wrong-doing by schools, utilities, or first responders. Rather, what we describe is the reality of living with gas infrastructure. 

What is the Future of Gas?

As more and more states adopt emission reduction goals, gas utilities are facing the question of how to meet the scale of this challenge. In Massachusetts, the Department of Public Utilities opened a proceeding, known as Docket 20-80, to examine “The Role of Gas Distribution Companies in Achieving the Commonwealth’s Climate Goals”. HEET had the chance to submit our thoughts and recommendations. We tell you all about them here.

Energy Efficiency Tip

At HEET, we’re all about systems change–and direct carbon-cutting steps are an important part of that process. Jason Taylor, a home weatherization expert and green jobs trainer, is here to share simple steps you can take right now to cut carbon emissions at home. 

Out and About

HEET had the chance to table at the Franklin Park Zoo this April for Earth Day! We connected community members with free Mass Save home energy assessments and weatherization upgrades. Learn more about this work and our EJ Air program herePhotos, left to right: Kai Palmer-Dunning and Molly Fairchild talk with families.

A few members of the HEET team traveled to Albany for the New York Geothermal Energy Organization’s annual conference. It was thrilling to share knowledge with drilling and design experts, community leaders, regulators, and more from across the country. Photos: HEET Co-Executive Directors Zeyneb Magavi, right, and Audrey Schulman, left, spoke at the conference.

Coming Up: Community Conversations

We’re re-launching our Community Conversations series, a chance to connect through small and dynamic conversations about interesting topics (think: climate change, barriers to weatherization, exciting new clean energy technologies). We want to hear from you! What topics are you most interested in? Let us know in this quick survey

In The Loop: News From Our Network

Workers build the frame of the greenhouse at Eastie Farm. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

➡ New York has passed groundbreaking legislation allowing gas utilities to develop thermal energy networks. This is a huge step forward, supported by the labor workforce, utilities, and climate advocates.
➡ Kannan Thiruvengadam, HEET advisory board member and Director at Eastie Farm, has built a greenhouse powered by ground source heat pumps! It’s the first of its kind. 
➡ MA’s Gas System Enhancement Plan (GSEP) to replace leaking gas pipes with new ones is now estimated to cost $40 Billion. Read about it in an op-ed by economist Dr. Dorie Seavey.
➡ Dr. Volts (David Roberts) interviewed Audrey and Zeyneb on his podcast.
➡ Local Warming, by Audrey Schulman. 
➡ Department of Energy Announces Intent to Release $13 Million to Support Community Geothermal Projects

Winter 2022

Six GeoMicroDistrict demos planned for Massachusetts 

Watch HEET’s new video on the GeoMicroDistrict.

GeoMicroDistricts are taking off! Eversource Gas and National Grid, the two largest utilities in Massachusetts, have both received approval to install demonstration projects using HEET’s GeoMicroDistrict model: non-emitting systems of networked ground source heat pumps. 

The Mass. Attorney General’s Office is running a Request for Proposals to design, install, own and operate an additional GeoMicroDistrict in the Merrimack Valley, funded by a settlement with the former Columbia Gas. We are thrilled to see this progress in-state, plus the growing interest in GeoMicroDistricts across the country. 

P.S. Wondering how the GeoMicroDistrict works? Check out our new video to learn how this innovative energy solution has captured the attention of utilities and climate activists alike. Please share on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram!

Environmental justice communities in Massachusetts have a higher density of gas leaks, new research by Salem State University and HEET finds

Marcos Luna and HEET director Dominic Nicholas examined over 26,000 utility-reported leaks in relation to demographic groups. Their findings show that low-income and communities of color, as well as renters, limited English-speaking households and adults with lower levels of education, have a higher density of gas leaks and that leak repairs are comparatively slower for these populations. 

The paper is freely accessible in the peer-reviewed journal, Energy Policy.

Our report on year two of the Shared Action Plan is here! 

The Shared Action Plan (SAP) is the unique collaboration between gas utilities, HEET, and our allies to prioritize finding and repairing distribution system gas leaks with the highest environmental impact. The SAP goal? Cut distribution pipe leaks in half fast. The good news is – it’s working! 

HEET continues to verify both the measurement and identification of leaks and their successful repair. Read the full report.

Massachusetts state house allocates $5M of ARPA funds to networked geothermal research 

This October, HEET received the exciting news that $5 million of Massachusetts’ ARPA funding has been allocated to researching networked geothermal energy. With six GeoMicroDistrict demonstration installations moving forward in-state, rigorous independent data and analysis of the results  is essential.  

We are so grateful for Senator Barrett and his team for their leadership in securing this critical funding and ensuring that demonstration project results are science and data based. 

Rising winter heating costs and the importance of addressing energy burdens

Households across the Northeast region are feeling the effects of higher heating costs on their utility bills. The pandemic, seasonal demand, and inflation are some contributing factors.

High fuel prices place the greatest burden on families in under-served communities that live in older, less energy-efficient homes. One solution is weatherizing and retrofitting homes to make them more energy-efficient and drastically reduce utility bills.

Save money on your heating bills with Mass Save’s free insulation programs 

Good News for renters! Good News for landlords! Good News for people who want to stop climate change! 

MassSAVE is offering free insulation to two and three family buildings if the WHOLE building gets properly weatherized. Building science says you have to insulate and air-seal an entire house to get the most heat-loss reduction. Get your whole house insulated and the work is completely free.

In Other News…

Fall 2021

HEET Awarded Boston’s Community Clean Air Grant 

We are so pleased to announce that HEET and the East Boston chapter of Mothers Out Front were selected as the two recipients of Boston’s first Community Clean Air Grant! The grants are awarded to support Boston’s clean air and carbon neutrality goals.

Funds will allow HEET to distribute induction cooktops to Boston residents with gas stoves who are being treated for asthma, as a part of Boston’s Breathe Easy at Home program

Charrette Update: Growing the GeoMicroDistrict 

HEET’s charrettes bring together utility representatives, environmental advocates, legislators, geothermal experts and other stakeholders to share knowledge on the best path forward for the GeoMicroDistrict (networked ground source heat pumps).

This fall, stakeholders gathered over Zoom to discuss what legal and regulatory changes will be necessary to allow the GeoMicroDistrict to expand, plus the most cost-effective way to transition away from fossil fuels.

EJAir Partners with All In Energy to Support Weatherization in Boston Communities

Our newest program, EJAir (Environmental Justice Air), is partnering with the non-profit All In Energy to help improve the connection between environmental justice communities and Mass Save’s weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades.

A Deep Dive Into Recent Methane Emissions Research

Methane emissions in Massachusetts are six times higher than the state’s estimates, according to research published this November by Harvard University and Boston University scientists (Sargent, M.R., Floerchinger, C., McKain, K., Budney, J., Gottlieb, E.W., Hutyra, L.R., Rudek, J., and Wofsy, S.C.). Their research also finds that methane emissions have not decreased significantly between 2015 and 2020. Why? And what does this mean? 

Reducing Food Waste with the Boston Area Gleaners

In November, the HEET team put our efficiency skills to the test with a trip to the Boston Area Gleaners. Gleaners is a wonderful nonprofit that harvests surplus farm crops and distributes them to communities facing food insecurity. Gleaners has been a key partner in Our Table, an initiative launched by Lawrence community leaders with HEET’s support to bring fresh food to families. 

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It)

HEET is receiving national news coverage. Check out co-founder Audrey Schulman’s feature in The Washington Post, “From novelist to climate crusader: How one woman is working to put a stop to natural gas.” Or read our summary.

Gas Leak Allies hosted a webinar on their new report predicting GSEP gas pipeline replacements will exceed $20 billion. Watch here