The House approved an energy-diversification wish list last week by voting to compel energy providers to enter into long-term contracts with hydroelectric and offshore wind companies.
The bill requires utilities to solicit contract proposals up to 20 years for roughly 1,200 megawatts of hydropower and 1,200 megawatts of offshore wind energy. This fits into the governor's vision of implementing increasing amounts of hydropower to lessen the state's reliance on natural gas -- the environmentalists' new target, since the marketplace has all but eliminated coal- and oil-fired power plants.
The bill's backers waxed eloquent in extolling the virtues of this shift to pristine sources of energy. Rep. Tom Golden, the Lowell Democrat and co-chair of the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee, opined the measure would have the state become "the largest procurement of offshore wind in the nation."
This bill, apparently by design, is long on froth and short on details.
The governor's hydro plan would have the state purchase electricity produced by Hydro Quebec, a utility subsidized by the Canadian government. At this point, there's no infrastructure in place to transmit that electricity from the source to the end user.
It entails connecting roughly 190 miles of power lines between the population centers of New England and the massive hydro-power network of Quebec.
But there's fierce opposition from environmentalists to the Northern Pass -- the project's name -- because it requires 40 miles of easements through New Hampshire forests.
State regulators have postponed a decision on this venture until September 2017, which leaves plenty of time for the opposition to create further delays.
And as for wind, the only large-scale project attempted, Cape Wind, a bid to erect 130 wind turbines off Cape Cod, collapsed a few years ago after NStar and National Grid dropped out of the deal because the company couldn't produced as promised.
We understand why these proposed contracts contain 20-year terms, because it's probably going to take that long for them to be feasible. And we don't know how getting locked into decadeslong deals creates a competitive price environment. It's interesting that the financial burden on consumers and businesses to reach this desired energy mix doesn't seem to be addressed.
In the meantime, natural gas provides an abundant supply of clean, reliable, competitively priced energy. It's also called on to back up those green energy sources when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow.
We can only predict one certainly -- the consumers will pay the price for this energy diversity.