Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) used his Jan. 21 State of the Commonwealth address to urge lawmakers to endorse a much-debated plan that would endorse importing a significant amount of hydroelectric power into Massachusetts from Canada.
Baker said that with 10,000 MW of older power plants being closed down, and the Massachusetts solar industry not yet mature, the state needs to augment its energy supply with carbon-free hydro power.
The speech drew a swift reply from New England Power Generators Association (NEPGA) President Dan Dolan. The competitive generation group is staunchly opposed to the plan, saying it would be expensive and undermine the extensive investments being made by merchant power companies operating in Massachusetts.
“Governor Baker is wrong to center this state’s long-term energy future – potentially our most important economic policy decision – on purchasing power from Hydro-Quebec. Subsidizing an overdependence on one foreign government-owned source of electricity will lead to lost jobs and soaring energy bills for decades to come,” Dolan said in a statement.
“First, Hydro-Quebec is not needed to help our state energy suppliers meet energy production carbon targets. … In fact, power plants have reduced carbon emissions 51% since 1990, orders of magnitude greater than any other sector of the economy,” Dolan said.
“Second, power plants in Massachusetts provide more than 2,000 well-paying, highly skilled jobs, and $100 million in tax dollars for cities and towns around the state,” Dolan said. “We have nearly 7,000 megawatts of new power generation capability competing to come online now – with New England workers, paying taxes in New England communities,” Dolan said.
“After a decade of trying, Hydro-Quebec still has no path through neighboring New Hampshire to run its transmission line and there are no indications that approval is coming any time soon,” Dolan said.
Dolan also characterized the hydro import options as “far too expensive.” It could cost Massachusetts ratepayers an extra $777m, the NEPGA official said.
Baker cites need for regional cooperation on low-carbon options
During his state address, Baker said that Massachusetts has recently invested $37m in climate change and energy resiliency projects.
“Over the next few years, the region stands to lose about 10,000 megawatts of power as older generation plants come off line,” Baker said. “That represents enough energy to supply Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island combined.”
Baker said that Massachusetts needs to cooperate with the other New England states because the region’s energy infrastructure and supply is closely linked.
“Our administration has outlined ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions, and we have a plan to meet those goals, through a diversified, sustainable and affordable approach,” Baker said.
“But meeting our energy needs with renewable resources requires us to act now,” Baker said. “We have a growing solar industry which we should continue to support, but not at prices two to three times more than every other option,” Baker said.
“Cost competitive wind options are already available to us, and if advances in off shore wind technology bring a competitive price, then we should embrace them too,” Baker said.
“But if we’re serious about reducing our carbon footprint while maintaining a reliable energy grid and improving our competitive position, then we must significantly increase the supply of clean and affordable hydropower,” Baker said.
“Governors across New England – Democrats and Republicans – have made clear to me that they’re ready to go. They’re waiting on us. “And solutions will take time to implement. “I urge the legislature to move on this now,” Baker said.