Getting Involved in Utility Regulation in the Bay State

Earlier this year, a working group convened by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office launched an initiative to determine how to make utility regulation more accessible to everyday Bay Staters. What exactly is utility regulation? Learn more here

The group, which Vote Solar is proud to participate in, has come up with various goals including:

  • Learning how and where folks want to engage. Is it better to be in person or online? If they are in person, what kind of locations work best?
  • Learning what might be preventing folks from participating, such as factors like inconvenient meeting times, childcare commitments, language barriers, or a general feeling of exclusion.
  • Learning what people already know about energy and what issues they need further education on.

We’re happy to say that now the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has opened a formal docket to assess public awareness and participation. Vote Solar, along with other advocacy, social justice, and community service groups, has submitted written recommendations on how the DPU can improve public engagement.

Increased public participation in regulatory proceedings matters.

You can help influence crucial energy policy – but not enough people know how.  Energy regulators like the DPU make hugely important decisions like when, or whether, polluting gas plants should be closed and how much energy should come from renewable sources. But most people don’t even realize that they can engage with the DPU.

We can show up for ourselves and one another, fully, with equity and justice. Decisions about where energy comes from and how much it costs have historically excluded marginalized communities, most often BIPOC and low-income folks. At the same time, these same communities are more likely to face disproportionately high utility bills and health concerns exacerbated by polluting facilities.

We can meet one another where we are, in whichever space is necessary. Environmental and energy justice require that everyone have full access to the rooms where these types of decisions are made.

Vote Solar’s recommendations for the DPU include: 

  • Making community-based organizations (like clubs, community centers, places of worship, neighborhood associations, and parent-teacher groups) aware of public hearings or other engagement opportunities and encouraging them to share these events with their members.
  • Having dedicated DPU staff tasked with educating the above organizations and providing them with any technical assistance that they need to engage fully.
  • Including information about public hearings on utility bills, increasing the likelihood of being seen.
  • Compensating qualified intervenors, people formally opposing a utility proposal in a docket, for their time and efforts. States like California have implemented intervenor compensation programs successfully and Massachusetts can look to them as a model.

Vote Solar will be sharing opportunities to weigh in at the DPU. To learn more and get engaged, sign up here to stay in the know.

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