Quebec hydropower is ‘shell game’

Quebec hydropower is ‘shell game’

It’s not new clean energy, so benefits are minimal

RON GERWATOWSKI’S OP-ED (“Price shouldn’t be sole focus of clean energy buys”) makes an essential point about clean-energy procurement. In the end, Massachusetts’ historic legislation to harness significantly more renewable energy will involve tradeoffs.

But in highlighting the potential of hydropower, Gerwatowski ignores a crucially important distinction: Not all clean energy procurement is created equal. Fresh generation, rather than redirected existing sources, achieves the true spirit of meeting greenhouse gas reduction goals.

A range of supply options qualify as clean power under the Clean Energy RFP. Still, distinctions should be made in order to make the most meaningful progress possible toward a sustainable energy future.  Getting power from generation that is in or nearing operation – that is, generation whose environmental benefits are already being realized – will do little to reduce emissions in comparison to large-scale Class I generation resources like wind and solar.

Indeed, taking Quebec hydropower currently being delivered to neighboring regions and re-directing it to New England would merely increase greenhouse gas emissions in one place and reduce them in another, constituting a shell game approach to a once-in-a-generation chance to transform the Massachusetts energy portfolio.

Reducing global greenhouse gas emissions is the true intent of the legislation, not creating the illusion of meeting such goals through creative accounting. That means developing new clean generation resources rather than shifting around existing power flows, enhancing competition and increasing supply diversity to the benefit of Commonwealth customers.

The Massachusetts Clean Energy RFP evaluation process should strongly consider these attributes as part of the selection process.

It’s also important to note that large-scale, new Class I resources (primarily wind and solar), coupled with innovatively-designed, locally-supported new transmission lines, offer customers renewable power at prices that are highly competitive with other large-scale supply options.

The bottom line: Power customers deserve the greatest possible environmental benefit at the best price.

At the same time, environmental and customer interests often find themselves at odds with one another. With 50-plus bids responding to the state’s RFP, the industry and the Commonwealth have been afforded a broad range of supply options, offering ample opportunity to ensure that both of these critical interests are met.

Meet the Author

John Flynn

Senior vice president of US development, National Grid
The Commonwealth’s energy future is promising. The Global Warming Solutions Act and the Clean Energy Standard provide the framework to shape the Commonwealth’s and the region’s energy landscape for a generation. Industry leaders and policymakers will only have one shot at this. We owe it to future generations to get it right.

John Flynn is senior vice president of US strategy & business development at National Grid.

  • NortheasternEE

    By excluding nuclear and hydro in the definition of Class I (wind and solar), the Massachusetts Clean Energy RPS has given us a less reliable power grid at ever increasing rates. The law is forcing ISO-NE, who manages the grid, to accept renewable energy sold privately at above market prices before dispatching conventional power to satisfy the daily demand for electricity. This artificial construct reduces the market share for conventional power on the grid. The latest Green Energy bill that adds Quebec Hydro to the list of accepted carbon-free energy, together with new calls for legislation for 100% renewable energy, is forcing the early retirement of dependable coal and nuclear power from the grid. While the elimination of coal reduces carbon emissions, the elimination of nuclear that can only be replaced by dirty natural gas cancels the benefits of eliminating coal.

    There is no need to worry about Quebec Hydro. There are two basic types of power plants on the grid. Baseload power that provides a steady amount of power continuously, and flexible power that can adjust power production as needed. As more and more intermittent and variable power is forced on the grid, more and more natural gas becomes necessary for firming the volatile nature of wind and solar.

    Quebec Hydro is baseload power and is as unnecessary as coal and nuclear for firming wind and solar. Unless policymakers wake up and repeal the mandates, the future grid will be dominated by offshore and onshore wind and solar, with equal amounts of dirty natural gas for firming. This is a combination that avoids little to no carbon, with no diversity of supply (natural gas is king), and skyrocketing rates. Furthermore land based wind turbines are noisy, kill birds and bats, and have a negative ecological impact on mountain ridges.

  • Entremaneur

    The entire “Carbon Meme” is pure sophistry
    Let’s be truthful to the taxpayers and rate payers of MA and all of New England. We live in a place where the climate is tough — winter and summer puts a burden on our energy delivery systems. We also live in an area where everything is expensive from food to land and government. Net Net we can’t afford to play games trading our economy for “feel good” Green-ness.

    Unfortunately, despite bumper sticker science and tech knowledge — Neither Wind nor Solar is dependable. The proposed alternative of importing our baseload over long distance transmission puts us at risk to ice storms and solar storms.

    We need local, reliable and affordable energy. Nukes would be prefered — but those don’t seem to be in the cards for the near-term. So that means in the current Nuke-derangement era — Natural Gas plants located near to the centers of use. The model should be what is being done in Salem — for every traditional thermal plant which is retired — we need to replace it with a new high-effeciency Combined-Cycle Natural Gas fired plant.