The electric power grid is an essential part of our energy system. While we can see the transmission lines and supporting infrastructure that crisscross the landscape, what is hidden from view are the billions of dollars consumers pay to support the power grid. 

Historically, the power grid has established planning and tariff policies that have favored fossil gas generation in the name of reliability and has failed to embrace the full potential for clean energy. The result is that over 50% of electricity is generated by fossil gas plants. This exposes consumers to volatile pricing in fossil fuel markets and imposes economic burdens by limiting clean energy options that offer clean, cost-effective technologies. By sustaining fossil infrastructure, public health is damaged, most often in communities that suffer from disproportionate impacts of pollution. Acadia Center’s recent RGGI Report shows the stark legacy of siting fossil fuel infrastructure near low-income communities. 

Local communities are key stakeholders in how the regional grid is operated. Many cities and towns have adopted clean energy and climate goals that can only be achieved with the regional grid acting in alignment to embrace clean energy. Hospitals, agencies, and social services – are impacted by energy costs, volatility, and the myriad ways harmful air pollution affects residents. 

For these reasons, with the generous support of the Barr Foundation, Acadia Center is starting a new program to conduct outreach on power grid issues to communities. Our Communities and Clean Grid Engagement Project will explore the interest of local communities in adding their voices to the critical issues addressed at the regional grid level. 

Cities and towns play a unique role because they are large energy consumers themselves and they represent their residents’ interests in having access to reliable, affordable, and sustainable electricity. Across the United States, cities and towns are emerging as clean energy leaders and have procured over eight gigawatts of renewable energy over the last five years. This city leadership is catalyzing action across smaller communities and other public institutions. 

Acadia Center has been engaged since 2006 in the role of the grid in addressing and intruding on climate, clean energy, and consumer goals. We have raised issues around barriers created by project funding and tariff formulas, governance, and failures in long-term planning. We are working with other organizations and coalitions growing in their focus and outreach. 

We look forward to engaging with public officials, community leaders, and other stakeholders around the region and strengthening the movement for building a clean grid that benefits all residents.