State efficiency programs help make Massachusetts among the least energy-intensive states in the nation.
Massachusetts is one of the most densely populated states in the nation and home to almost half of New England’s residents. The population is concentrated in the east, around Boston. Half the state’s land remains forested. It rises from the coastal marshes of Cape Cod on the east to the fringes of the Taconic Mountains, the Green Mountains, and the White Mountains to the north and west. The region’s longest river, the Connecticut, with its fertile river valley, cuts across the state and has many dams, 12 of which provide hydropower. South Hadley Falls, the highest falls on the river, is located in the central part of the state near Holyoke; textile and paper mills were located there in the mid-1800s to harness the river’s water-power. The state experiences wide ranges in temperature, but precipitation is equally distributed throughout the four seasons, and even coastal areas can get heavy snows. The ocean-moderated climate to the east helps make Massachusetts the nation’s second-largest grower of cranberries. Agriculture in the rest of the state includes nurseries, fruit orchards, vegetable production, and berry, tobacco, and commercial truck farming. But overall, only one-tenth of the state is farmland, and half of the farmland in the state is woodland or pasture. The state does not have any fossil energy resources, but it does have renewable resources, particularly biomass, hydropower, solar, and wind.
Energy consumption in Massachusetts is much greater than production. However, per capita energy consumption is low compared to other states, in part because of state efficiency programs. Massachusetts is a leading state in energy efficiency policies and programs. Additionally, the state economy’s relies on less energy-intensive industries, such as financial services and real estate; professional, technical and scientific services; information technology; health care; and computer and electronic products manufacturing. The transportation sector and the residential sector lead state end-use energy consumption.
Massachusetts aims to have 2,000 megawatts of wind capacity and 1,600 megawatts of solar capacity.
Until recently, all utility-scale renewable power generation in Massachusetts came from hydroelectric and biomass facilities. In 2008, only about one-twentieth of the electricity generated in the state came from renewable resources. By 2015, more than one-tenth of the state’s power was generated with renewable energy, including distributed generation, and more than two-fifths of that was provided by wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) power. Most new renewable generating resources planned in New England are wind-powered, and Massachusetts has set a goal of 2,000 megawatts of wind capacity by 2020. About 5% of that capacity was in place by early 2016. Most of the onshore commercial wind development in Massachusetts has been along the coast, but the largest projects are near the state’s northwestern border. Ridge crests in the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts also have good wind potential. However, offshore regions have the state’s highest wind resource potential. In 2009, Massachusetts issued its first comprehensive Ocean Management Plan for state waters, identifying areas appropriate for offshore wind development. In 2010, the first commercial offshore renewable energy lease in the United States was granted to a project in the federal waters off Massachusetts’ Cape Cod. Although the state’s wind resources are excellent around Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, there has been opposition to building facilities within sight of land. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the state have worked together to open more offshore areas to wind development. Massachusetts policies also promote solar energy. As of 2016, there were solar installations in 350 of the state’s 351 cities and towns. In 2015, Massachusetts ranked sixth in the nation in combined utility-scale and distributed solar PV electricity generation.
Massachusetts adopted a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) in 2002. As amended in 2008, the RPS requires companies selling retail electricity in Massachusetts to acquire renewably sourced power in 1% increments from 2008 forward. There is no ceiling to the requirement, but renewable generation must account for at least 15% of total electricity sold in 2020. A portion of the renewable energy must be from in-state interconnected solar facilities. The state’s RPS specified at least 400 megawatts of solar capacity by 2020, but that target has since been increased to 1,600 megawatts from solar by 2020. More than two-thirds of that capacity requirement was installed by early 2016, and Massachusetts ranked sixth in the nation in installed solar PV generating capacity in 2015. State policies supporting solar power include net metering for customer-sited installations.
In 2009, Massachusetts created an Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, requiring that 5% of electric load in 2020 be met with high-efficiency customer-sited systems, such as industrial cogeneration. The state is part of the ISO-NE regional electricity market. ISO-NE has promoted demand response programs to maintain the reliability of the electricity grid. As a result, industrial and commercial consumers in Massachusetts have committed to making substantial power reductions during demand peaks and emergencies. Massachusetts is also part of the northeastern Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a market-based cooperative effort to limit carbon emissions. With its declining use of coal and petroleum for electricity generation, the state is within its RGGI goals.
Natural gas has become the primary fuel for electricity generation in Massachusetts, displacing coal and petroleum.
Natural gas fuels almost two-thirds of the electricity generation in Massachusetts. As coal and petroleum plants are retired, their capacity is being replaced by natural gas-fired facilities. For example, a new natural gas-fired power plant is planned at the site of the recently retired coal-fired Salem Harbor power plant. A decade ago, coal fueled about one-fourth of the state’s power generation, but, by 2015, coal’s share of net generation had fallen to less than one-tenth. In 2017, coal’s contribution will end with the scheduled retirement of the state’s last large coal-fired power plant. Petroleum-fired generation decreased from 15% in 2005 to less than 3% in 2015. The grid operator has expressed reliability concerns, as petroleum-fired capacity is being shut down. Use of petroleum for generation had dropped to less than 1% between 2010 and 2012 but has increased to its current levels near 3% as the regional grid operator, Independent System Operator-New England (ISO-NE), has paid generators with dual-fired power plants to stockpile petroleum fuel to meet demand in severe winters when the natural gas delivery system is constrained. Massachusetts has received around one-sixth of its electricity from the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth on Cape Cod Bay. However, the nuclear facility will no longer be providing power as of June 2019, putting further strain on the state’s generating capacity.
Virtually all new non-renewable electricity generation being planned in Massachusetts will be fueled by natural gas. Natural gas infrastructure has been added to transport natural gas to the Northeast from the productive shale regions of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. Massachusetts is among the leading states near the Marcellus and Utica shale region in the amount of natural gas-fired capacity additions coming online in the 2016-18 period, with 0.7 gigawatts under construction.
Overall, more electricity is consumed in Massachusetts than is generated there, even though per capita electricity consumption in the state is among the lowest in the nation. Few households, about one in seven, use electricity as their primary energy source for home heating. Although many Massachusetts homes have air conditioning, some do not use it during the mild summer months.
Massachusetts does not produce natural gas but consumes nearly half of the natural gas used in New England. Electric power generators and the residential sector are the state’s leading consumers of natural gas. Massachusetts receives its natural gas supplies by pipeline from other states and by ship as liquefied natural gas (LNG), mainly from the Caribbean and the Middle East. Pipelines entering the state from New York and Rhode Island bring natural gas from the Gulf Coast, Midcontinent, and Appalachia. A pipeline that traverses Maine and New Hampshire brings in offshore, onshore, and LNG-sourced natural gas from Atlantic Canada.
Massachusetts has New England’s only operating LNG import terminals.
Massachusetts has the only LNG import terminals in New England, one at Everett on Boston Harbor and two offshore from Gloucester. The Canaport LNG terminal in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, also sends natural gas south by pipeline. LNG provides about one-tenth of New England’s natural gas supply, and it is used primarily during the winter when natural gas is needed for heating. With U.S. natural gas prices generally low in recent years, LNG imports have been largely limited to contract deliveries at Everett and Canaport. Interstate pipelines operated at capacity during the harsh winter of 2014-15, and higher LNG prices drew more cargos to New England terminals, including the first delivery since 2010 to one of the two offshore terminals. Milder weather in the winter of 2015-16, the warmest winter on record in the Lower 48 states, resulted in lower natural gas demand. Massachusetts typically sends natural gas by pipeline to other New England states, but it is a net supplier only to Connecticut and, in some years, New Hampshire.
About half of the households in Massachusetts rely on natural gas as their primary energy source for home heating. Because of the difference in cost between natural gas and fuel oil, many households have switched to natural gas in the past decade. The residential sector uses more than one-fourth of the natural gas consumed in the state, but the largest consumer in Massachusetts is the electric power sector, which uses almost two-fifths of the natural gas consumed. Like other New England states, Massachusetts has no underground natural gas storage and depends on storage capacity in other states to meet peak winter demand. As increasing amounts of natural gas are used for electricity generation in Massachusetts, and throughout New England, assurance of natural gas supply has become a critical energy issue for the region.
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