A long-awaited bill introduced in the Massachusetts House of Representatives last week that would ease the path for Canadian hydropower and offshore wind into the state and New England electricity markets was criticized by both clean energy advocates and power generators.
The bill calls for power distribution companies and the state Department of Energy Resources to procure 1,200 MW of offshore wind and 9,450 GWh of hydropower annually by June 30, 2017. The contracts would last between 15 and 20 years.
Gov. Charlie Baker called the proposal “a very strong bill that’s built around the idea of expanding our portfolio, diversifying our energy sources and incorporating big slugs of hydro and wind into our portfolio here in Massachusetts and across New England.” (See Baker: Hydropower Contracts Best Way to Lower Costs.)
The bill isn’t as comprehensive as many stakeholders had hoped for, lacking provisions for solar, nuclear power, energy efficiency or other technologies. An extension of the solar net metering cap earlier this year was the only significant issue addressed this session. (See Massachusetts Raises Net Metering Cap, Cuts Payments.)
The New England Power Generators Association said the bill interferes with market mechanisms that had delivered lower-cost power.
“The proposal would carve up one-third of the Massachusetts electricity marketplace into decades-long contracts that have the potential to dramatically increase electricity costs for consumers,” NEPGA president Dan Dolan said in a statement.
Some environmental advocates see the bill as weighted too heavily toward hydropower. “The Massachusetts House deserves full credit for recognizing the urgent need to address our state’s energy future. However, this bill is not strong enough,” said Caitlin Peale Sloan, a staff attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation. “We need to take bold action to counter climate change and that means choosing the cleanest energy that we can. Wind is one of the cleanest energy sources — cleaner than imported hydropower.”
A coalition of offshore wind developers said the bill begins a new era for the state.
“Offshore Wind Massachusetts looks forward to continuing to work with the House and Senate to fashion a final bill that will enable Massachusetts to make use of one of its greatest resources — abundant and reliable wind that will power a new industry and benefit our citizens for the rest of this century and beyond,” said Matthew A. Morrissey, its managing director.
The bill would exclude the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound by limiting eligible offshore wind projects to those in a “competitively solicited federal lease area” south of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The project, once expected to be the country’s first offshore wind farm, has struggled to obtain financing.