Energy Solutions Center
Energy Solutions Center, Inc. (ESC) is a 501(c)(6) non-profit organization that helps utilities expand the gas market. ESC, which has links to the American Gas Association, provides its utility members with pro-gas educational and promotional materials and guides them in various marketing strategies. The materials can be branded by the member utilities to use with their respective employees and customers. The Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Natural Living included articles titled “A Clean Energy Future: Is Residential Electrification the Answer?” and “Something Unique: Renewable Natural Gas, Good for the Planet, Good for the Home.”
ESC’s membership includes some of the nation’s largest investor-owned gas utilities and several publicly-owned municipal gas companies. Several member utilities recover membership costs from their customers. For instance, according to documents filed with Connecticut utility regulators, Eversource’s subsidiary Yankee Gas paid ESC $36,971 in 2020. Meanwhile, DTE Gas attempted to have customers pay for its $47,000 membership to ESC during a 2020 rate case application – an increase from the $5,000 payment in 2014. However, DTE removed the request to “minimize the issues in this case” after an intervener objected to the payments and requested that the Michigan Public Service Commission require DTE to explain why customers should pay for ESC dues.
ESC is closely tied to the American Gas Association, the trade association for more than 200 companies that deliver fossil gas throughout the United States. Both groups share the same Washington D.C. address. David Weiss, ESC’s former Executive Director (who retired in mid-2021), was also listed in tax documents as an AGA employee compensated by the trade association.
ESC’s member utilities can join the group’s various ‘consortia,’ which focus on promoting gas in specific sectors of the economy. These include such consortia as “Residential,” “Multi-family,” “Industrial and Major Accounts,” “Gas Heat Pumps,” and “Blue Flame Alliance.” In the summer of 2020, ESC started a new consortium – “Electrification” – in an effort to produce materials critical to electrification policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In an internal industry presentation from February 2021, a representative from Eversource labeled the new consortium as “ESC’s Consortium to Combat Electrification.” Eversource, which co-led the consortium, told the assembled utilities that gas is “in for fight of it’s life” [sic] and renewable natural gas (RNG) will “likely save” the gas business. A “call to action” slide framed several questions for the utilities to discuss, including: “how can we make sure we reach decision-makers” and “take advantage of power outage fear.” Other consortium members included Atmos, DTE Gas, Exelon, Enbridge, MDU, National Fuel, SoCalGas, South Jersey Gas, Spire, Summit, UGI, and Washington Gas.
The electrification consortium produced a number of “deliverables” for member utilities to share among their companies. These included short videos critical of electrification, handouts with such titles as “Understanding the Electrification Movement,” and various infographic materials that compare electrification to gas.
In media stories that revealed the work of the consortium, ESC denied that it was “anti-electrification” since it does not engage in lobbying, according to the group. Several months later, Eversource withdrew from the consortium, and the remaining members changed the name to the “Electrification Education Consortium.”