Legislation filed today by the Baker administration to increase purchases of hydroelectric power from Canada takes a constructive first step toward stabilizing the price of electricity and helping the commonwealth meet impending deadlines to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The measure would require Massachusetts electricity distribution companies to seek competitive proposals and sign long-term contracts – potentially in partnership with other New England states – for 1,200 to 2,400 megawatts of hydro power from sources that would likely include Hydro-Quebec and other Canadian producers.
State officials say hydro power will stabilize electricity rates by providing cost-effective, clean base load generation that would ensure system reliability in the face of an anticipated loss of as much as 8,500 megawatts of regional electric generation capacity by 2020. Hydro power, these officials maintain, can be dispatched around the clock while solar generation produces electricity only13 percent to 14 percent of the time.
Associated Industries of Massachusetts, which has been working to reduce some of the highest electric rates in the nation, is reviewing the Baker hydro proposal.
“The 4,500 member employers of Associated Industries of Massachusetts support any proposal for renewable or low carbon power that is competitively bid and results in real energy price relief for consumers,” said Robert Rio, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for AIM.
“We intend to work with the Legislature and the administration to verify that clear and rigorous review standards are contained in Governor Baker’s bill so any result may be judged objectively against alternatives consistent with good economic principles.”
The Baker bill would allow utilities to enter into contracts lasting 15 to 25 years with hydro producers. It would also allow companies to seek proposals for electric transmission infrastructure to interconnect load centers in the New England control area with regions or areas where clean energy generation resources may be available. And it would not preclude intermittent renewable energy resources, such as wind, from participating in the solicitation provided the renewable resources is supported by hydropower.
The Global Warming Solutions Act requires Massachusetts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020. The Act anticipated that part of that reduction would be accomplished through the purchase of 1,200 megawatts of electricity generated by hydro producers.
Officials say the legislation is necessary to allow Massachusetts to move forward on a regional basis with Connecticut, Rhode Island and other states that already have the authority to forge long-term deals for hydro power. Baker met with other New England governors in April and emphasized an “all-option approach” on energy that calls for importing hydroelectricity from Canada and expanding the region’s natural gas capacity.
“This legislation is critical to reducing our carbon footprint, meeting the goals of the Global Warming Solutions Act and protecting ratepayers already stuck by sky high energy prices,” Baker said.
“Increasing the flow of hydroelectric power into Massachusetts and New England diversifies our energy portfolio and makes it clear we are ready to collaborate with our neighboring states to secure cost-effective, carbon-reducing energy solutions for the region.”