Beaton: More hydro needed in energy bill
Shares House concerns about Cape Wind involvement
THE BAKER ADMINISTRATION’S point person on energy said on Thursday that he would like to see more emphasis on hydroelectricity in the Legislature’s energy bill and indicated he shared House concerns about including Cape Wind in any procurement for offshore wind.
Matthew Beaton, the governor’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs, said he was pleased to see the House unveil its long-awaited energy bill, which called for the state’s utilities to procure roughly 1,200 megawatts of offshore wind and 1,200 megawatts of hydroelectricity, possibly in conjunction with onshore wind.
The House bill calls for procuring half as much hydroelectricity as Baker sought in his energy legislation, and Beaton said he would like to see the amount in the House bill raised to the governor’s level. He also raised a new concern that the House bill guarantees only a solicitation for hydroelectricity, not a definite purchase. “Whereas in the proposal for [offshore] wind, there’s a mandate, regardless of cost and things like that,” he said.
The House bill would also exclude Cape Wind, a proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound, from bidding for the offshore wind procurements, confining the competition for the contracts to companies holding federal leases on the outer continental shelf. Under the legislation, only three companies would currently be able to participate in the solicitations.
Beaton said Cape Wind, given its permits for older-style turbines and siting concerns raised by opponents, would have a hard time competing in any offshore wind procurement process. But he said he would leave the Cape Wind decision to the “wisdom of the Legislature.”
“We’ve always wanted to include competition, but we’ve also got a long story with Cape Wind and we don’t want that to get in the way of what could be a successful development,” he said. “That’s not saying they shouldn’t compete. We just really haven’t weighed in on it.”
Beaton made his comments after a legislative hearing at the State House where he and Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack outlined how the administration was attempting to comply with the Global Warming Solutions Act, which requires a reduction in state greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
Most of the statistics and policies outlined by the two cabinet secretaries had been covered before, but lawmakers on the Globe Warming and Climate Change Committee pressed the two cabinet secretaries on whether they would support a tax on vehicle miles traveled, a fee on carbon, and the South Coast Rail projects to Fall River and New Bedford.
Pollack and Beaton said they wouldn’t rule out any policy approach, but Beaton said “we have reservations about taxes and fees.”
Some analysts have suggested that replacing the state’s gas tax with a tax on vehicle miles traveled (VMT) would offer more stable funding for transportation projects and provide the proper incentives for people to drive less. Pollack said she is watching VMT pilot projects in other states, but cautioned that it wasn’t clear such an approach would provide more stable revenues because people are already driving less.
She also said her biggest challenge isn’t a lack of funding, as many transportation advocates say, but spending the money that is available in an appropriate and wise manner. She also said policymakers shouldn’t impose a VMT tax or a carbon fee without giving people a way to get around without driving a vehicle.
“You can’t just say we’re going to do something and then not figure out a way to pay for it,” he said.