How Massachusetts is Working to Make Utility Regulation Accessible
At Vote Solar, we’re working to fundamentally transform our legacy energy system to put people first, and know that doing so will require deliberately making space for those whose voices have been systemically silenced. Historically, decisions about how our energy is generated and consumed have excluded the people most impacted, often Black and brown and low-income communities.
It shouldn’t require an advanced degree, professional policymaking experience, or a dictionary to have a say in where your energy comes from. Still, across the country, we continue to see significant barriers in place that prevent utility customers from engaging with state energy regulators – or even knowing that they can.
In Massachusetts, we’ve joined a working group convened by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office (AGO) to identify barriers to participation in regulatory processes and propose solutions. We’re starting by reaching out to those whose voices should always be present where energy decisions are made — the people of Massachusetts.
Through surveys, one-on-one interviews, and focus groups, the working group is seeking to learn:
- Where Bay Staters prefer to learn about energy issues. Meeting people where they are — whether at a community center or place of worship, scrolling social media, or listening to their car radio — is critical.
- How the Commonwealth can make it easier for people to participate in public meetings or hearings. Caregiving responsibilities, language barriers, time constraints, or lack of transportation are all potential barriers that could prevent someone from engaging. Knowing what resources would be most useful will make it more likely that they’re provided.
- What Massachusetts ratepayers already know about energy in the Commonwealth, and what they’d like to learn. Issues like the lifespan of polluting power plants and programs to make solar more affordable have tangible impacts on peoples’ health and wallets – but discussions about them often include technical language and needlessly inaccessible jargon. Understanding what folks care about is an important first step in opening up those conversations.
The working group will use our findings to develop formal recommendations for the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) and Department of Public Utilities (DPU), with the goal of increasing access to public utility regulation and moving toward an energy system that centers the needs and voices of those most affected.
True energy equity requires that everyone have the opportunity, knowledge, and access to participate fully in the regulatory process. Though we know there’s a lot of work left to be done, efforts like these in Massachusetts show that there’s meaningful progress being made. Stay tuned for additional updates on our efforts to advance energy democracy and empower communities to make their voices heard.