Letter Text (PDF)

Washington (April 30, 2024) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chair of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety, today led a letter joined by three of his colleagues to the Independent Service Operator-New England (ISO-NE) on his priorities for the region’s electrical grid, urging the grid operator to continue to improve its governance and transparency policies, proactively plan for new transmission, and ensure fair access to markets for clean energy technologies.

ISO-NE has historically prioritized fossil fuel generation ahead of cleaner, cheaper alternatives—alternatives that could support system reliability and provide cost savings for residents all across Massachusetts. It also has failed to support new transmission capacity and efficiencies on the scale necessary to help New England states meet their renewable energy goals. These policies have been developed without sufficient public involvement, as ISO-NE's governing procedures lack transparency and allow fossil fuel industry representatives to play an outsized role in decision-making. Following pressure from Senator Markey, other lawmakers, and advocates, ISO-NE is changing some of its policies to address these issues — including opening some of its board meetings to the public, establishing a process to evaluate and reach longer-term transmission goals, and developing a more realistic resource accreditation approach for gas.

In their letter to ISO-NE President and CEO Gordon van Welie, the lawmakers wrote, “Too many of ISO-NE’s policies—as well as those of the New England Power Pool (NEPOOL), its stakeholder advisory group—limit community involvement, stymie comprehensive transmission investment, and prioritize incumbent fossil interests over affordable and reliable clean technologies. Even though ISO-NE is funded by ratepayers, it lacks key accountability measures and has historically failed to meet the needs of states with clean energy and climate targets.”

The lawmakers continued, “The Northeast energy grid is about more than technical markets—it is about the people it serves. ISO-NE must address issues of governance with increased accountability and transparency, strategically build out transmission capacity, and reshape the ISO-NE market structures that have a history of unfairly subsidizing existing fossil fuel generation. Ultimately, continued reliance on fossil fuels creates both long-term climate and economic risks and short-term public health risks for frontline communities. We must look towards a clean, affordable, and reliable energy future—built with good-paying union jobs that delivers a livable future for all.” 

In their letter, the lawmakers requested that ISO-NE respond to questions that include:

·         Will ISO-NE commit to transparent and accessible governance through open and responsive board meetings, diverse Board representation, and more proactive community engagement?

·         Will ISO-NE continue to improve upon its long-term transmission planning by including a more complete list of benefits, ensuring adequate evaluation and use of grid-enhancing technologies, and continuously improving the interconnection process?

·         How is ISO-NE working with states and other stakeholders to address market rules and out-of-market mechanisms that create an unfair advantage for oil and gas?

·         What structures and frameworks are in place to determine if market rules and out-of-market mechanisms are necessary and based on clear, cohesive, and transparent evidence?

·         How is ISO-NE ensuring market rules reduce barriers to participation by renewable resources, distributed energy, demand response, and energy storage?

The letter is cosigned by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

Senator Markey has long been a champion of much-needed grid modernization. In July 2023, Senator Markey and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) and Greg Casar (TX-35) led the reintroduction of the CHARGE Act, which contains several key provisions for expanding transmission and critical grid infrastructure to improve reliability, lower costs for ratepayers, and spur clean energy innovation. In April 2022, Senator Markey led a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) urging it to reject ISO-NE’s proposal to delay the elimination of the minimum offer price rule (MOPR), which created an artificial barrier to entry to capacity markets for renewable generation.