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Peak Use Energy Shouldn’t Have to Be Dirty Energy


On June 16, I joined 87 other Massachusetts residents, representing Mothers Out Front and several groups of allies, at a Climate Action Call to help stop the use of dirty, expensive power plants to meet high energy use on hot summer days.

At Mothers Out Front’s monthly Climate Action Calls, participants learn about a specific climate issue, take meaningful action, and connect with fellow activists, all in 45 minutes.

Air Pollution Harming Children: a Personal Story

“The pollution is killing the flowers,” Ann Coles’s young granddaughter told her sadly, showing her a painting she had made illustrating just that.

Coles, a volunteer with Mothers Out Front’s Brookline, MA chapter, shared this personal story on the call, reminding us that we each have personal, as well as universal, reasons for taking climate action.

Coles knew that air pollution was affecting not just flowers, but also trees and children like her granddaughter. Today, Coles plants trees with the Brookline Tree Team. Planting trees has an additional benefit — “Trees create a sponge to absorb the carbon from the air,” said Coles.

Hot Summer Days: Facts About Peak Energy Use

Did you know that, during the hottest parts of summer days, when many businesses and households are running air conditioners at full blast, electricity prices can be ten times as high as during times of normal demand?

Two inspiring climate partners joined the call to urge us to take action to organize our households and our communities to reduce the impact of peak electricity production.

First, Kai Salem, the Policy Coordinator from Green Energy Consumers Alliance, shared key facts about peak energy use. On a day with normal energy demand, enough energy is produced by regularly operating renewable energy, hydro power, nuclear, and gas plants. However, on a day with peak energy usage (e.g., August 25, 2021), additional energy must be drawn from dirty oil and coal plants, which are also very expensive to run.

Salem described how, to reduce peak energy usage, she started the “Shave the Peak” program, five years ago. “However, individual action only goes so far, and we need to move toward collective action.”

One measure that utilities companies are planning to take is installing “smart meters,” which provide real-time usage information to the utility and to customers, helping customers to reduce peak energy use and helping utilities to manage energy supply.

A second way to reduce peak energy use is through “Time of Use rates,” a pricing system where energy customers are charged differently depending on whether they are using energy during the peak or off the peak.

Saying No to Dirty Peaker Plants

Rosemary Wessel, the Program Director for No Fracked Gas in Mass and BEAT – the Berkshire Environmental Action Team, described the dangerous impact of “peaker plants,” the dirty energy plants that are only fired up during peak energy demand.

“They’re old, they’re inefficient, with longer startup times, and they’re really expensive — they’re paid millions to sit idly on standby, even if they’re never run, for years,” said Wessel. “90% of the peaker plants in Massachusetts are over 30 years old. The majority are over 50 years old.”

Wessel and other groups of allies, including Breathe Clean North Shore, have been fighting against peaker plants. “We’ve convinced three of them to convert to renewables and storage,” said Wessel, “We’re fighting the proposed new peaker plant in Peabody, and we’re building a statewide campaign to shut down even more.”

Actions Taken: Shaving the Peak & Cleaning the Peak

In the next part of the Climate Call, we used Mothers Out Front’s action toolkit to sign up for Shave the Peak, share the resource on social media, and email our electricity companies, urging them to implement a peak usage alert system.

“We want you to reach out to your electricity provider and ask them to start using their powerful marketing departments to educate consumers about peak electricity,” urged Laura Davis of Mothers Out Front.

“It’s not enough for a few thousand climate activists and their friends to shave the peak. We need programs and financial incentives to get everyone to change their behavior.”

Tommy Weir wrapped up the call, urging us to attend the “Wake Up for Climate Justice” rally on Boston Common, June 21. “The final due date for our state legislature to pass a serious climate bill is on July 21st. With just 30 days left, there is an opportunity for you to help send an important message to legislators – it’s time to wake up and get serious about climate change. You can join a huge coalition of climate groups at the statehouse for this rally.”

Join Us in Climate Action!

Missed June’s call? Use the Action Toolkit to shave the peak and stop dirty energy.

Join Mothers Out Front on Thursday, July 21, 12:00-12:45 pm to take action for a livable climate! No prior experience or knowledge is necessary—Mothers Out Front organizers will provide the background and tools needed during the event. Register here.



Chandreyee Das is a volunteer with Mothers Out Front in Arlington. She is a writer for a clinical trial data management company, and a mother of two nature lovers.