Recognition and Press

In The News

Outsiders sway utilities to test novel heating

Audrey Schulman (left) and Zeyneb Magavi are co-directors of the Cambridge non-profit group HEET. JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF

The Boston Globe, Feb. 11, 2022

“Last month, after years of prodding, state regulators approved a $16 million project that Magavi and Schulman proposed to demonstrate that there’s a financially viable, technically sound way to heat and cool the vast majority of the state’s homes and businesses without fossil fuels. The project uses linked heat pumps and subterranean pipes that can harness steady underground temperatures to heat and cool buildings.

That project, which will be installed by National Grid, follows the state’s approval of a similar geothermal project — also based on their ideas — proposed by Eversource, which plans to spend $10 million starting this year to connect about 100 homes and businesses in Framingham with a network of ground-source heat pumps.”
Read more…

_____________

Efforts to develop centralized community geothermal heat pumps expand
S&P Global, May 19, 2022

“The District of Columbia is soliciting design proposals for a community heat pump system, the latest pilot project to attempt to scale a decades-old geothermal heating and cooling technology to the neighborhood level…In doing so, Washington, D.C., joined a spate of other regional efforts to try to expand the use of a technology that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sees as the most energy-efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to heat and cool a building.”

Climate Change: The Technologies That Could Make All the Difference
The Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2022

“In Massachusetts, HEET, a nonprofit seeking to reduce fossil-fuel emissions, is working with two of the state’s largest natural-gas utilities to install and test networked heat pumps in neighborhoods, in the hopes of scaling the technology. A three-year Eversource project will connect about 100 homes and businesses, starting this summer. Four National Grid pilots announced in February will explore implementation in different types of neighborhoods. Changing the regulatory structure to allow gas utilities to sell thermal energy is now on the agenda at the Massachusetts Legislature.”

Volts podcast: Audrey Schulman and Zeyneb Magavi on how to replace natural gas with renewable heat
Volts, April 1, 2022

“Today’s guests have developed a visionary solution for for America’s sprawling natural gas infrastructure. In short, they want to replace it with “networked geothermal,” water pipes that carry heat harvested from the ground. It’s called the GeoGrid, developed by the HEET (Home Energy Efficiency Team) Coalition, run by Audrey Schulman and Zeyneb Magavi.

What’s the future of gas in Mass.? Utilities and critics have different visions
WBUR News, March 18, 2022

“Co-executive director Zeyneb Magavi said gas utilities can evolve into ‘geo-utilities,’ delivering a consistent temperature to customers instead of natural gas, and utilize the expertise of their work crews to drill holes and network the necessary pipes.

Without an ambitious project like that, Massachusetts is nowhere near achieving its goal, Magavi warned.”

New Research Shines Light On Natural Gas Leak Crisis
Forbes, Feb. 17, 2022

“A growing body of research shows that natural gas leaks at the distribution level are much more common and extensive than previously thought.

“Although scholars and advocates have raised alarms about the climate change and economic significance of these leaks, there has been little consideration of the problem from an environmental justice perspective.”

Geothermal energy lies right beneath our feet. Could Philadelphia tap into it?
WHYY, Feb. 8, 2022

“Philadelphia wants to see if this can work on a larger scale, and possibly replace natural gas. Philadelphia Gas Works has agreed to take steps toward exploring how to reduce its carbon footprint as part of the city’s overall goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

Natural gas leaks in Boston are vastly underreported — and could be coming from inside homes, study says
The Washington Post, Oct. 25, 2021

“Six times more natural gas is leaking into the skies of Boston than is officially reported, new research shows. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also suggests that gas could be escaping not only from distribution pipelines but from inside businesses and homes as well — a finding that some say may be overstated.”

As Massachusetts envisions a fossil fuel-free future, gas companies are quietly investing billions in pipelines
The Boston Globe, Oct. 3, 2021

“The science on natural gas’s role in climate change has advanced and the policies enacted by the state have called for nothing short of a transition off of fossil fuels by 2050. That changes the math on pipeline replacement, said Ania Camargo, one of the founders of Gas Leaks Allies. ‘The fundamental assumptions that created GSEP have changed,’ she said.”

Overheard at the NECA Fuels Conference
RTO Insider, Sept. 26, 2021

“As an alternative to hydrogen, Magavi’s GeoBlock concept, also known as a geothermal district, could use existing natural gas rights-of-way to heat and cool buildings.”

National Grid Lowers Planned Geothermal District Project Costs
RTO Insider, Sept. 6, 2021

“National Grid (NYSE: NGG) has agreed to cut the monthly cost of its geothermal heat pump demonstration project by over half from its original proposal for low-income participants and stretch the project payment out over a longer period.” *Story available with free registration to RTO Insider.*

The Surprising Root of the Massachusetts Fight Against Natural Gas
Eos, May 21, 2021

“In 2019, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities adopted the new classification, and the changes may slash the state’s emissions by approximately 4% in as little as 3 years, said Audrey Schulman, a climate activist with the Boston nonprofit the Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET) and member of the Gas Leaks Allies.”

Salem launches online portal about gas leaks
Massachusetts Municipal Association, May 2021

“Legislation enacted in 2014 requires gas companies to report gas-leak information annually to the state. Through those disclosures, HEET has been analyzing, geocoding and mapping National Grid’s information, making the raw data more accessible.”

Cities Confront Climate Challenge: How to Move from Gas to Electricity?
Yale Environment 360, April 20, 2021

‘We have to work with the pieces we have,” said Magavi. “The fastest way forward is to flip utilities’ financing mechanisms and customer networks, all these pieces that we can redirect toward building a better energy system.”

In Newton, leaks in gas lines are a never-ending challenge
The Boston Globe,
Jan. 27, 2021

“We need to avoid rebuilding, basically, a 19th-century infrastructure,” said Nathan Phillips, a professor in the Earth and Environment department at Boston University who lives in Auburndale. “Instead, we need to pivot toward the heating of the 21st century.”

How HEET is Cutting Out Carbon and Transforming Energy
Conservation Law Foundation,
Jan. 11, 2021

“One way of helping people, especially during this pandemic, is to make sure they can pay their bills, which is part of HEET’s plan for the Transdev funds. The organization plans to provide outreach to residents to access the low-income discount rate for their energy bills and enroll in energy efficiency programs that further cut emissions while reducing their bills.”

Can gas utilities survive the energy transition? Massachusetts is going to find out.
Grist Magazine,
Nov. 4, 2020

“Magavi and Schulman are the masterminds behind a particularly innovative solution to decarbonize the gas system that they believe will benefit utility companies and customers.”

Sustainable Energy, Sustainable Somerville
The Somerville Times, Aug. 19, 2020

“In a virtual meeting per state orders, the Somerville Commission for Energy Use and Climate Change (CEUCC) met on Wednesday, August 12, to discuss plans for a more sustainable future, and all the steps in between.

The co-executive directors, Zeyneb Magavi and Audrey Schulman, presented plans for a microdistrict with the intention to cut carbon emissions and reduce fracking.”

Op-Ed: The Case for Beneficial Electrification
PHCP Pros, July 8, 2020

“Beneficial electrification is used to describe the need and the benefit to our society to electrify all our buildings. The primary purpose for doing this is to reduce the emissions coming from combustion heating of those homes and businesses.” 

Overheard at 166th NE Electricity Roundtable
RTO Insider,
June 16, 2020

“HEET is proposing a new way to heat buildings where old gas pipe is dug up, through the ‘Geo-Micro-District,’ an ambient temperature, shared-water loop connecting many customers for both heating and cooling.

‘Some of the gas pipelines in Boston date to the Civil War. … Is this the infrastructure we want for the coming century?’ Magavi said.”

Geothermal Microdistricts & the FUTURE: A renewable alternative to gas heating
Take Back The Grid,
April 4, 2020

“HEET is working with Eversource to build three GeoMicroDistrict pilot locations in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts state senate recently approved an amendment to its 2020 climate package allowing for thermal energy pilot projects.”

Climate change front and center at League of Women Voters forum
The Boston Globe,
March 9, 2020

“The panel brought together state Senator Cynthia Creem, Audrey Schulman and Zeyneb Magavi of HEET (Home Energy Efficiency Team), Jordan Stutt of the Acadia Center, and Craig Altemose of the Better Future Project to discuss climate science and the potential of regional transportation and energy improvements in Massachusetts and nationwide.”

The $9 Billion Question: Stranded Assets or GeoMicroDistricts?
PHCP Pros, Feb. 3, 2020

“Due to the hard work and unyielding efforts of groups such as the Home Energy Efficient Team (HEET), Mothers Out Front and the Gas Leaks Allies, Massachusetts legislators understand that the state’s aging natural gas pipelines are leaking methane, adding to the challenges of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions…”

Thousands of gas leaks plagues Massachusetts in 2018, new DPU report says
Boston Herald, Jan. 1, 2020

“Gas companies reported 32,877 gas leaks across Massachusetts in 2018, according to a new report from the Department of Public Utilities, a consequence of an aging system that a leading advocate says remains inherently unsafe.

‘It’s pretty much the same year after year,’ said Audrey Schulman, co-executive director of HEET, a Cambridge-based energy efficiency nonprofit that maps gas leaks across the state. ‘That’s a demonstration that we’ve got an aging infrastructure that is unsafe.'”

Smell gas? Getting it fixed may depend on race and income
E&E News, April 25, 2022

“Luna specializes in applying geospatial technology to issues of environmental justice — the concept that society should cease burdening disadvantaged communities with disproportionate amounts of pollution. He teamed up with Dominic Nicholas of Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET), a nonprofit that tracks the integrity of the gas distribution system, to analyze Massachusetts’ uniquely detailed data on gas leaks.”

Biomass is not health neutral
The Hill, March 27, 2022

“……we found that burning wood and biomass in buildings and in industry had a combined public health burden of at least 18,000 deaths, higher than that of coal-fired power plants.”

“Alternatives to wood and biomass for home heating exist. These include air-source heat pumps, ground-source heat pumps, and GeoGrids — a novel home heating and cooling technology with six demonstration projects underway in Massachusetts.”

A net-zero future for gas utilities? Switching to underground thermal networks
Canary Media, March 1, 2022

“Massachusetts’ major gas utilities, facing the eventual demise of fossil fuels under the state’s decarbonization mandate, are contemplating a new business model: replacing neighborhood gas pipeline networks with pipes that capture and share thermal energy underground.”

Communities of color get more gas leaks, slower repairs, says study
WBUR News, Feb. 4, 2022

“Study co-author Dominic Nicholas built the database used in the study. Nicholas, a program director for the Cambridge-based nonprofit Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET), had taken the natural gas utilities’ records of gas leaks, geocoded them, and made the data publicly available.”

‘With this large data set finally being geocoded and really high quality, it allowed us to explore the problem at different geographic scales, which was a breakthrough, I think, for this work,’ Nicholas said.

National Grid Wins Approval for $15.6M Geothermal Demo
RTO Insider, Dec. 21, 2021

“Massachusetts regulators on Thursday gave National Grid (NYSE:NGG) the go-ahead to study geothermal district energy as an alternative to replacing natural gas pipes that leak.

The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) issued an order approving the utility’s $15.6 million, five-year demonstration program, saying it could inform the state’s efforts to understand the role of gas distribution companies in achieving its 2050 climate goals.”

*Register for free on rtoinsider.com to read the full article.*

As state law requires steep emissions cuts, utilities face an urgent quandary: to build or not to build new gas pipelines?
The Boston Globe, Oct. 19, 2021

“Environmental advocates urged Eversource to consider investing the millions of dollars it would take to build the new pipeline in alternatives, such as networked ground source heat pumps, which transfer heat from the ground to warm buildings and pump heat back into the ground to cool them. They note that such geothermal technology has been used for years in Europe, and that the utility has already announced plans for a pilot program of the technology.”

From novelist to climate crusader: How one woman is working to put a stop to natural gas
The Washington Post, Sept. 30, 2021

“Schulman is not an engineer or a scientist. By profession, the 58-year-old is a writer with five novels to her name, and a sixth set to publish next year. But she is also the founder and co-director of an environmental nonprofit called the Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET). Founded in 2009, the organization has evolved from focusing on weatherizing buildings in the Boston area to putting an end to natural gas — a mission that could eventually reshape how the entire state and beyond gets energy.”

If you are not a Washington Post subscriber, read our summary here.

Boston lawmakers approve zero emissions for large buildings by 2050
The Hill, Sept. 23, 2021

“The Boston City Council on Wednesday approved an ordinance requiring buildings larger than 20,000 square feet to cut emissions completely by 2050.

‘Energy efficiency is always the greenest, cheapest renewable energy, and Boston’s aging large buildings are the Saudi Arabia of wasted energy for us to tap,’ Audrey Schulman, president of Cambridge-based Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET), told The Globe.”

As Philadelphia works to tackle climate change, a question emerges: Is PGW on board?
WHYY, May 28, 2021

“Julie Greenberg, a climate and racial justice advocate who works with the interfaith grassroots group POWER, has a vision for Philadelphia’s energy future: GeoMicroDistricts, or a network of underground pipes carrying water, shared by homes in a single block or neighborhood, powered by the region’s abundant geothermal energy.”

Can Philadelphia’s gas utility survive in a climate where fossil fuels are shunned?
The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 11, 2021

“Several activists expressed support for replacing gas service with geothermal microdistricts, which would connect clusters of homes and businesses to a common geothermal heat source, built and managed by PGW.”

Utilities testing geothermal heating and cooling
The Eagle-Tribune, April 29, 2021

“We shouldn’t be installing new gas infrastructure when we know we’re going to be decarbonizing by 2050,” said Audrey Schulman, founder and co-executive director of HEET, a nonprofit that promotes geothermal energy. “We need to be aggressive about pursuing non-fossil fuel sources of energy.”

After passing a landmark climate law, Mass. officials now face the hard part: how to wean the state off fossil fuels
The Boston Globe, April 6, 2021

“It’s just fiscally irresponsible, and it sets up a classic utility death spiral,” said Zeyneb Pervane Magavi, co-executive director of HEET, a Cambridge nonprofit that specializes in energy efficiency. “As people move off the gas system, you have fewer people paying for it, meaning they will be shouldering more of the costs. It’s a disaster.”

New York, Massachusetts Utilities Investigate Potential New Business Model: Community-Scale Geothermal
Electric Power Research Institute,
Jan. 26, 2021

“With widespread deployment of community-scale geothermal systems, utilities could become thermal distribution managers. ‘They would predict thermal demand and make real-time decisions to move or store energy,’ said Zeyneb Magavi, HEET’s co-executive director.”

Eversource considers Worcester for renewable energy project
Worcester Magazine,
Jan. 21, 2021

“‘You can move what would be wasted energy around to the building that needs it,’ in a form of energy sharing and load canceling. A state-wide study two years ago found that ‘any place that has gas systems currently can get almost all the heating and cooling done through a network of ground source heat pumps, but it may be challenging in densely populated areas.'”

Can we really end our reliance on natural gas? These moms have a plan — and the ear of utilities.
Grist Ma
gazine, Jan. 8, 2021

 “We’re going to integrate ideas about job creation, fair wages, low-income access, and reducing public health gaps,” Magavi says.

Podcast: Stopping Natural Gas Leaks and Cutting Emissions NOW Using Community Geothermal Systems
AWESome Earthkind Energy Podcast,
Dec. 7, 2020

In this episode, Audrey and Zeyneb talk with Ron Kamen about the danger of gas leaks on our streets. They also talk about community geothermal heating and cooling systems that replace leaking gas pipes in a more natural way that is not only safer for everyone – but helpful to the environment as well.

2 years since gas disaster hit region
The Eagle-Tribune,
Sept. 12, 2020

“Zeyneb Magavi of HEET, the Home Energy Efficiency Team, explained ‘we want to move communities away from gas,’ therefore silencing concerns of another gas explosion.

An option, according to Magavi, is ground source heat pumps.”

The Natural Gas Divide
Grist Magazine,
Jul. 15, 2020

“Geothermal heating systems can also be made more efficient by linking multiple buildings to the same pipe system… Schulman and Magavi from HEET argue that these systems could be connected at a much larger scale. They have studied the potential for gas utilities to transition into networked geothermal companies that oversee a ‘thermal grid.'”

Report cites slow progress fixing gas leaks
The Salem News, June 26, 2020

“The report, compiled by environmental groups using data from publicly regulated utilities, found at least 15,728 gas leaks statewide at the end of 2019, some of them dating back several years. A majority are ‘grade 3’ leaks, considered the least dangerous, but the report’s authors note that any leaking combustible gas is a hazard.

‘Gas leaks are potentially explosive, kill trees, harm human health and release destructive greenhouse gas,’ said Audrey Schulman.”

Massachusetts Moves to Follow California, New York in Planning for Natural Gas Phaseout
Greentech Media,
June 22, 2020

“Gas companies in Massachusetts are not historically allowed to innovate, and they’re not allowed to deliver anything other than gas to their customers,” Schulman said in an interview. “And so, they are unable to change. Because they have to replace the infrastructure now for safety, they are installing at incredible cost a technology the was cutting edge in the 1800s.”

A Study Advocates for a Utility-scale Approach to Replace Existing Gas Lines with Ground-source Heat Pumps
Retrofit Magazine, May 4, 2020

The leading building retrofit magazine posts an explanation of the problem of leaking gas pipes and the GeoMicroDistrict solution.

GeoMicroDistricts are ground-source heat pumps arranged in a closed vertical system that could be installed in a single row along an existing utility corridor. Vertical boreholes and service connections could be located between existing infrastructure.

Geothermal heating district could rise in Mattapan
The Boston Globe,
Feb. 11, 2020

City officials say they’re backing the project because it would further Boston’s “commitment to climate action.” They see its potential to become a model for other micro-district heating systems, a success story that could be replicated elsewhere…

Pipes or Wires?
Rocky Mountain Institute, Jan. 23, 2020

“Perhaps this is the time for gas companies to explore a new business model, one with a promising future for both the companies and the planet. A business model where the companies deliver renewable heating and cooling to homes and businesses along every street, allowing customers a choice in our renewables from both wires and pipes.”

How a Climate Change Nonprofit Got Eversource Thinking About a Geothermal Future
Earthwhile, Jan. 13, 2020

“The idea is that a gas utility takes out its leaky gas pipe and, instead of putting in new gas pipe, we put in a hot water loop,” Magavi said. “If we’re going to invest in infrastructure, let’s invest in infrastructure for the next century. Let’s not invest in infrastructure that was hot in 1850.”

HEET commissioned a study to investigate if there were a way to make geothermal energy appealing to both utilities and environmentalists.

Read more in our archive.

Awards