Our Opinion: An energy victory for consumers, planet


This editorial has been modified to correct the name of the attorney general.

By an uncharacteristically one-sided vote of 6-2, the U.S. Supreme Court Monday upheld the concept of "demand response" in lowering electricity costs. This constitutes a victory for consumers, the environment and common sense.

The decision upholds the right of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to authorize financial incentives to customers, from individual consumers to factories, schools and hospitals, to reduce electricity consumption at peak times. This will reduce consumer costs while lessening the demand that can cause blackouts on a humid summer day.

Fossil fuel companies, which are more interested in protecting their profit margins than benefiting consumers or reducing the strain on the grid, opposed the FERC action and challenged it in court. On the other side were environmentalists, utilities, state officials and consumer groups, united behind a cause whose rationale is airtight.

The utilities realize that if demand is curtailed through "demand response" they should be able to shut down older, inefficient power plants while having to build fewer new ones. This will reduce the air pollution that contributes to climate change and provide incentives for solar and wind energy to contribute further to a balanced grid.

The Supreme Court decision was welcomed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (Eagle, Jan. 27), who released a study commissioned by her office last summer concluding that reducing power during peak times will — by lowering demand — provide an alternative to the creation of new fossil fuel infrastructure, such as the proposed Kinder-Morgan pipeline through the Berkshires and Western Massachusetts. If the argument for pipelines and against "demand response" is reduced to their impact upon the profit margins of fossil fuel companies, that becomes not much of an argument at all.


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