Making Utility Regulation a Space for All
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 who have been systemically left out of the conversation.
Historically, decisions about how our energy is generated and consumed have excluded the people most impacted by unaffordable and polluting energy sources, often low-wealth communities and communities of color. Massachusetts, unfortunately, is no exception. While the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) play critical roles in overseeing the Commonwealth’s energy resources, cost, and infrastructure, their work is often too exclusive and veiled in secrecy.
For more than a year and a half, we’ve been working closely with a working group convened by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office (AGO) to identify barriers to participation in regulatory processes and propose solutions. Today, we’re excited to share our recommendations for the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB)!
We knew it was critically important that we listen first and not make any assumptions about what community members need or want. That’s why, before we even started drafting, our group reached out to those whose voices matter most — the people of Massachusetts. We’re appreciative of the more than 650 Bay State residents who took the time to share their thoughts and experiences with us, through surveys, focus groups, and interviews. Here’s what we learned:
- We need greater transparency and accountability for addressing ratepayer concerns, including more visibility of DPU commissioners and Siting Board members.
- Information about regulatory proceedings must be communicated in ways that people understand — plain, non-technical language, with plenty of multilingual resources to aid in understanding.
- The timing, location, and format of public hearings often make them difficult or impossible for community members to attend — but several easy-to-implement solutions can help. For example, scheduling meetings at accessible locations and at various times of day, providing language interpretation, and giving the public more advance notice of meeting dates could make meaningful improvements in participation.
It shouldn’t require an advanced degree or technical expertise to have a say in where your energy comes from. A truly equitable clean energy future requires that everyone have an opportunity to meaningfully participate. We’re honored to be a part of making that future a reality, and urge the DPU and EFSB to implement our recommendations to work toward an energy system that centers the voices and needs of those most impacted.