Environment

People at ISO New England’s first public meeting had strong opinions, but not on energy costs

The board plans to host public meetings annually moving forward, with next year’s meeting taking place in the fall.

The ISO New England Board of Directors held its annual open meeting Tuesday, giving the public a glimpse into the workings of New England’s electric grid operator. Robert F. Bukaty/AP Photo, File

The ISO New England Board of Directors held its first annual open meeting Tuesday, giving the public a glimpse into the workings of New England’s electric grid operator.

Energy

What followed, according to The Boston Globe, was an “hour-long dressing down” from speakers offering public comment — not on rising energy costs, but the climate crisis and the grid operator’s response. 

“The board has followed a consistent policy of favoring electric power produced by fossil fuel burning plants, especially natural gas, in the name of reliability,” said Monte Pearson, a member of the activist group 350 Mass, according to the Globe. 

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The public meeting came as part of a set of governance changes that the ISO-NE Board of Directors announced in July. 

Several speakers pointed out that the grid operator continues to operate a coal plant in New Hampshire, the Globe reported. The speakers also noted that ISO-NE failed to make a change in its market rules that — according to climate advocates — would have made it easier for large-scale solar and wind generators to join the grid.

The tone of the public comment period wasn’t entirely unexpected, according to board chair Cheryl LaFleur.

“If they were happy with the ISO, they might not have come to the meeting,” she said, according to the Globe. Amid rising natural gas prices, however, it did surprise her that commenters focused intently on climate change. 

“We certainly share that passion, because adapting the system, both the markets and the transmission grid, to climate change is at the center of the projects the ISO is working on,” she said, according to the Globe.

The meeting included a presentation about the grid operator’s strategy for transitioning to clean energy and some of the hurdles, including workforce competition and fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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LaFleur was not available for additional comment, an ISO New England spokesperson told Boston.com Thursday.

“I can say that we were pleased with the success of this year’s meeting, and hope the members of the public who attended found the conversation informative,” spokesperson Matt Kakley said in an email. 

Kakley said the board plans to host public meetings annually moving forward, with next year’s meeting taking place in the fall.

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