Beaton: Hydropower data not yet available

Says analysis will precede any contract awards


ACCUSED BY A NATURAL GAS PIPELINE EXECUTIVE of failing to back up Baker administration policy proposals with numbers or analysis, the state’s energy chief said Monday that detailed analysis is not yet available.

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton said Gov. Charlie Baker’s hydroelectric procurement bill (S 1965) includes a data-driven analysis as part of the process that would precede hydro procurement. The Department of Public Utilities would conduct the analysis.

“How could we analyze and know precisely the effects of something where we don’t have the actual plan in front of us yet? We don’t have a contract to analyze yet,” Beaton told the News Service outside the governor’s office.

Canadian hydropower, which already provides some electricity to New England, has been pitched as a means to avoid carbon-emitting forms of electrical generation in Massachusetts, and the governor’s bill would facilitate new hydro agreements.

At an ISO New England event last week, TransCanada Vice President Mike Hachey, a registered lobbyist, accused Gov. Baker of proposing a “massive government intrusion into the market.” Hachey said that at a recent New England Council meeting Beaton said there wasn’t any data to back up the administration’s policy.

Beaton told the News Service the bill would lay out a process for the Department of Public Utilities to determine whether a hydroelectric procurement is in the best interests of the state.

“If it is deemed not to be in the public interest, we would deny the contracts that come before the DPU,” Beaton said. He said, “Our process is designed for those answers to be answered in the DPU process.”

Baker had reacted with skepticism when Hachey confronted him Thursday on his hydro policy and Beaton’s alleged lack of data at a prior meeting.

“That’s not how he’s built,” Baker said

Hachey represents a multinational pipeline company with projects in Mexico and Canada and a viewpoint that increasing the supply of the relatively cheap, domestically harvested gas would do a better job of lowering energy costs than wiring the region to Canadian hydroelectricity.

Beaton said that while he did not provide Hachey with spreadsheets, he explained that data would be used in the Department of Public Utilities process.

“It was a great, great meeting where he asked very similar questions to what he asked of the governor. I think his questioning and statements to the governor were inaccurate and not appropriately worded,” Beaton said. He said there are “studies and fundamental conceptual-level stuff that has been done, but nothing specific.”