Baker pushes regional energy approach
Plans to rely on utilities for purchases of gas, renewables
THE BAKER ADMINISTRATION said on Wednesday it plans to work with utilities in Massachusetts and neighboring states to purchase renewable energy and expand the region’s natural gas pipeline infrastructure.
In a brief, vaguely worded statement, the governor said electric distribution companies operating in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have agreed to put out a request for proposal for clean energy. The statement described the RFP as “a competitive bidding process for wind, solar, and other non-carbon emitting sources.” The latter reference presumably includes hydroelectricity from Canada, although hydro wasn’t mentioned in the press release.
The three states share many of the same utilities (Eversource and National Grid, among them) and have similar mandates for renewable energy development.
With one key difference, the Baker strategy is similar to the approach outlined in legislation filed by Rep. Patricia Haddad of Somerset, one of House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s top lieutenants. Haddad’s bill calls for expansion of natural gas pipeline infrastructure and the importation of hydroelectricity from Canada, but it would also require utilities to purchase a set amount of offshore wind power in a bid to give the industry a boost. Haddad represents a region of the state hoping to provide support services to offshore wind developers. Baker’s statement makes no mention of giving any special preference to offshore wind, which is generally more expensive than other forms of power.
The statement offered no details on the gas capacity contracts, but it comes at a time when many energy analysts are suggesting the best way to finance natural gas pipeline infrastructure is to have electricity ratepayers pay for it. Some environmental groups, meanwhile, are questioning whether additional gas pipeline capacity is even needed.Baker administration officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Officials with the Green Line Infrastructure Alliance, a company seeking to build transmission lines to bring wind power from Maine and hydroelectricity from Canada to southern New England, said Baker’s three-state, competitive RFP process makes sense. Ed Krapels, the CEO of Anbaric Transmission, and Stan Blazewicz, vice president of business development at National Grid, both said they were encouraged by the Baker administration approach even though they were eager to see more details.