Last fall, in between meetings about how to stop coal trains destined for the region’s last coalburning plant, a group of climate activists quietly turned their attention to another, perhaps less obvious, pursuit: Getting elected en masse to an arcane group affiliated with ISO-New England, the region’s power grid operator.

In late November, roughly 100 members of No Coal No Gas showed up at a meeting of the Consumer Liaison Group, successfully electing six members to its governing committee.

The short-term goal was to earn some level of access to ISO-New England—a famously opaque entity that plays a critical role in determining whether the region can meet its emission-reduction targets. The consumer group doesn’t have any real power to influence the grid, but it does have a guaranteed audience with ISO-New England four times a year.

“ISO is putting its thumb on the scale to choose fossil fuel fired resources in the name of reliability,” said Amy Boyd, vice president of climate and clean energy policy for Acadia Center, a clean-energy advocacy group. “The people’s interest in having climate goals met shouldn’t have to run at cross purposes to their interest in keeping the lights on. We can do both of these things at once.”

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