Regional leaders meet to discuss energy efficiency in fireside chat in air-conditioned room

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BOSTON >> As the sun beat down and the temperature outside climbed into the high 80s on Monday, the six New England governors and the premiers of five Canadian provinces sat in the chilly, conditioned air of the Hynes Convention Center discussing how the region can use energy more efficiently.

The international leaders could have taken at least one immediate and concrete step toward greater efficiency Monday.

"We were in a meeting room earlier today that had both cooling and a fireplace going," said H. Wade MacLauchlan, premier of Prince Edward Island.

Hosted by Gov. Charlie Baker as part of the 40th annual Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers, the international panel discussed the shift to renewable forms of energy, efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and ways to keep energy costs down for consumers.

They also talked about how consumers expect the grid to be able to handle the load of powering thousands of air conditioning units throughout a hot summer.

"I suppose a day like the 29th of August, with 80-plus degrees and brilliant sunshine, gets at the question of how do we tamp down people's expectations that they're going to have electronic cooling on days like this?" MacLauchlan asked a panel of energy experts. "What are we going to do about summer?"

Summertime in Prince Edward Island is "hot, but rarely humid. We wear short sleeves," the island province declares on its website. The mean maximum temperature in July, the hottest month of the year, is 74 degrees, according to the province, though the mercury can climb as high as 93 degrees.

The premier suggested some people, instead of cranking up the AC, "might be better off to go outdoors or have a walk in the woods."

The answer came back from experts on the panel: communities and utility companies need to plan for a changing climate and through technological advances can slow the rate of climate change so power-free cooling options like a walk in the woods remain viable.


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