Baker right on hydropower, clean energy contracts

More natural gas capacity is also needed

DAN DOLAN’S broadside against Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposal to bring additional hydropower into our electricity market reminds me of the time when the New England power generators essentially told me the lights would go out and the sky would fall if Massachusetts joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). That was 2007 and RGGI has been clearly a net plus both for the environment and for our economy as it has funded our nation-leading energy efficiency investments and helped keep prices down in the energy markets.

In response to such hyperventilation about hydropower, I feel compelled to set the record straight: Properly negotiated contracts for additional hydropower are vitally important to further diversifying our electric power mix.  The same is true for additional wind power contracts – indeed, the most recent round of new wind contracts, done in 2013, are money savers for ratepayers. The Legislature should move forward on Baker’s proposals on hydropower and ignore the noise from fossil fuel power generators who stand to lose revenue as Massachusetts secures more long-term contracts for clean energy.


As we look ahead, we need to continue to diversify our low carbon energy resources.  What does that entail?

  • First, we have to keep pushing on energy efficiency – it should always be the first fuel because it is the cheapest. The Legislature was prescient in 2008 when it put in place the Green Communities Act framework to prioritize efficiency with the utilities as key players. We are now five years as the No. 1 state in the nation on efficiency. The program is working and deserves continued investment.
  • Second, we need more long-term contracts for clean energy – this means more hydro and more wind. Projects like the TDI hydro transmission project in Vermont have won broad support from environmentalists and state regulators and are ready to move forward promptly. Maine is a vast repository of wind projects that are available to meet our power needs, as First Wind/SunEdison has already demonstrated in previous contracts entered into with Massachusetts utilities.
  • Third, we need to continue to help the solar industry become a primary source of power for decades to come – it is the one power generation technology that holds the promise to be ubiquitous, taking root on rooftops across the Commonwealth. State incentives for solar energy are due for restructuring and the solar industry would welcome a well-structured framework that supports long-term growth.
  • Fourth, we need to continue to be a beacon for still emerging technologies in clean energy. General Electric’s decision to move its headquarters to Boston was made in no small measure because of our leadership in developing and deploying clean energy technology as a top economic priority.  The clean energy sector now employs a remarkable 100,000 Massachusetts workers.  The downtown business community is still woefully slow to embrace clean energy as a pillar of our state’s innovation economy.  Perhaps GE, a world leader in advanced energy technology, can open the eyes of local business leaders to the opportunity here.
  • Fifth, and finally, yes, we do need additional natural gas capacity. Natural gas for the past several decades has been the fuel of choice for environmental regulators because it helps get us off coal and oil for power generation. We need ample supply to guard against electricity and home heating price spikes and provide resiliency and redundancy to our energy infrastructure. That is not to say that we should not hold additional fossil fuel power generation to a high standard in terms of siting and environmental impacts, including greenhouse-gas reduction under RGGI. We should. But curtailing additional supply of the gas commodity as if it itself represented some uncontrollable environmental threat is wrong-headed.
Governor Baker is, by and large, pursuing the right priorities on energy policy.  His push on hydropower, wind contracts, and solar energy growth and his push to achieve our state’s greenhouse gas reduction mandate are all right on the money. My recommendation to the Legislature is to ignore those voices that seek to muddy the waters and move forward on these key fronts.

Meet the Author
Ian Bowles is managing director of WindSail Capital Group LLC.  He served as secretary of energy and environmental affairs from 2007 to 2011 under Gov. Deval Patrick.

  • NortheasternEE

    The RGGI is partly responsible for the early retirement of coal and nuclear power plants in New England. The promise to diversify with wind and solar has done the opposite. We are now more and more dependent on natural gas for heat and electricity. I do not think electric rates have decreased. We pay some of the highest in the nation. The recent 37% increase has not been fully reversed.
    Solar power can never be a primary source. Primary sources need to be always available. The sun does not shine at night and power dips whenever a cloud appears.
    Mr. Bowles pushed onshore wind that gave us messy problems in Falmouth, Fairhaven, Kingston, Scituate and the western part of the state. Ill sited 400 foot high wind turbines are creating a nuisance affecting the health of nearby abutters. There are widespread complaints leading to forced curtailments and losses to towns who were misled into investing in these projects.
    This tragic situation is about to repeat in Bourne with the installation of four 2 MW giant wind turbines, just across the border in Plymouth, in violation of Bourne Board of Health by-laws. These are bound to be challenged, and curtailed leading to additional losses.
    Losses that sooner or later will be reflected in our rates.

  • 1barbaradurkin

    SunEdison (SUNE) bought First Wind whose CEO Paul Gaynor was appointed by former Governor Patrick, under the Green Communities Act, to serve as Advisor to then Exec. Energy Secretary Bowles on green jobs and green policies. SunEdison became the World’s largest renewable energy group…

    Within 3 months following this transaction, SUNE value plummeted 71.4%. Investigations and class action lawsuit(s) commenced on behalf of investors.

    Bowles’ Advisor on green jobs and policies in MA, former First Wind CEO Paul Gaynor, is reported to have lost his own EVP green job at SunEdison (SUNE).

    Jan. 26, 2016:

    Jobs: SunEdison Boardroom Bloodletting Begins, Plus More CEO Moves’

    According to UBS, Paul Gaynor (former First Wind CEO) has also departed, although this was not disclosed in the 8K filing. “Given Paul’s former role as CEO of First Wind, we continue to perceive growing risk to execution on guided targets, particularly on wind backlog,” reported UBS.

    Back in the day, Bowle’s Advisor First Wind CEO used $117 million to create “six to ten” green jobs in Hawaii at the Kahuku Wind project according to the DOE. The green job cost borne by taxpayers of the “federally guaranteed loan”? “between $19.5 million and $11.7 million for each job created…”

  • 1barbaradurkin

    One can only wonder if the wind turbine image on Ian Bowles desk above is a copy of the Sinovel wind turbine installed in MA, the subject of the ‘Great Brain Robbery’ that aired on 60 Minutes Jan. 16, 2016 that was hosted by Lesley Stahl. ‘Economic espionage sponsored by the Chinese government is costing U.S. corporations hundreds of billions of dollars and more than two million jobs’

    China’s Sinovel is accused of stealing intellectual property owned by MA company American Superconductor and funded by U.S. citizens.

    From the 60 Minutes’ Clip-

    “…But adding insult to injury, Sinovel is now exporting wind turbines with his stolen technology, including one purchased by the state of Massachusetts using federal stimulus funds.

    Daniel McGahn: So the U.S. government facilitated bringing the stolen goods into the U.S.

    Lesley Stahl: And they’re here now?

    Daniel McGahn: And they’re here now and it’s part of a–

    Lesley Stahl: Up and running?

    Daniel McGahn: Up and running.

    Lesley Stahl: So Sinovel using the stolen source codes has sold wind turbines here in Massachusetts using to–

    Daniel McGahn: –to the government of Massachusetts funded by the federal government of the United States of America.”

    I also note that this image shows Ian Bowles behind A123 Systems plaque. It appears innocuous, but MA company A123 Systems filed for bankruptcy protection after scoring nearly $400 million in government grants, loans and tax incentives; laid off 125 employees; boosted the base salaries of two vice presidents and its chief financial officer as much as 51%; opened factories in Livonia and Romulus; and prompted Florida Republican Cliff Stearns, head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to express concerns about National Security over A123 technology secrets, funded by U.S. citizens, now in the hands of China, “It appears the Department of Energy and the Obama administration have failed to secure sensitive taxpayer funded intellectual property from being transferred to a foreign adversary, which raises serious national security issues,”

  • Penny Gray

    Please don’t use Maine as your door mat. We treasure our landscapes, our wildlife and our environment. If you want to clear cut your own forests and plant a crop of five hundred foot tall steel towers that blink in the night, please do so in your own state.

  • JustinTurco

    I agree with you regarding energy efficiency and big hydro. These things do good. I disagree with you on the RGGI. The impetus for the useless build out of industrial wind turbines on Vermont’s Green Mountains. We hate it. And I really hate that we do it so people in Massachussets can meet their targets. Build your own useless wind turbines and then figure out how you’re going to reliably run the grid with it. Your thirst for “supposed” green energy is killing birds and bats, fragmenting our remote pristine ridge lines, ruining the lives and home values of neighbors and running up the cost of energy for everyone. The RGGI is a great big scam foisted upon us by the renewable energy industry and it is doing no good at all for the environment or the rate payer.

  • Sewall House Yoga

    I agree with penny gray and think wind turbines are useless in the formula for alternative energy sources-

  • Maine Wind Concerns

    In response to With all doe respect Mr. Bowles

  • jaimlb

    Building a 365-day/year giant natural gas pipeline that carries more gas than New England could possibly ever consume and will cost ratepayers billions over 20 years in response to price spikes that are only for several hours – yes, hours – a year is just stupid policy. It’s massive overbuild, and all by design – the gas is intended for export, and for that reason will only serve to increase energy costs for New England. In addition, the author does not take into account the greenhouse gas impacts of extracting natural gas – so we’re not really any better off with natural gas electric generation than we are with coal.

  • cartographer2

    Hydropower certainly is better than nuclear. But let us not forget, rivers bring valuable sediments downstream that help farmers grow their crops. That’s especially the case in a desert such as the mouth of the Nile River. While we don’t have a desert, we must be careful that not all the sediment gets caught behind the dam. Gas is not all it is cracked up to be, or should I say fracked up to be. Fracking, one of the newest forms of gas, presents a problem of increased pollution of ground water, meaning no one can drink the water where it happens, and earthquakes. Not to mention gas presents a fair amount of methane pollution, which is getting to be an especially big problem in a spill near Los Angeles. Wind, one of the biggest projects of Wind that never got fully off the ground was Cape Wind, partly because it had a high polluting fossil fuel based barack like building in the center of Nantucket sound, and partly because of the Native American burial grounds. I sure hope the new project with Block Island is better thought out, and that more emphasis can be put to finding better locations for Cape Wind itself. Lastly, advances in tidal power in shallow shores need to be looked at again. And more needs to be done to shut down and clean up Pilgrim before it becomes a Fukishima that no one on Cape Cod can escape from, especially if it happens during the summer!