Beaton pushes hydroelectricity and gas
Differs with attorney general on need for pipeline
THE BAKER ADMINISTRATION made clear on Tuesday that its ideal combo platter for energy has two main dishes – hydroelectricity from Canada and a new natural gas pipeline.
Matthew Beaton, the governor’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs, said both options are needed to rein in electricity costs, achieve greenhouse gas reduction targets, and maintain the reliability of the region’s power grid.
For months, the Baker administration’s primary energy focus has been the importation of Canadian hydroelectricity, enough to at least cover a fifth of the state’s power needs. Indeed, administration officials have often tried to win allies among opponents of new natural gas pipelines by saying support for hydroelectricity would reduce the need for new pipelines.
But with the massive Kinder Morgan pipeline proposal now on the ropes, Beaton told four state senators on Tuesday that new natural gas pipeline infrastructure is a Baker priority. “We are in desperate need of more natural gas capacity,” Beaton said. “We can’t rely on the pipes we have presently.”
Sen. Marc Pacheco of Taunton said he was under the impression the administration favored hydroelectricity imports because they would make new natural gas pipelines unnecessary. Beaton said that wasn’t the case. He said hydroelectricity imports mean “less reliance on natural gas, not no natural gas.”
Pacheco and his colleagues Michael Barrett of Lexington, Ben Downing of Pittsfield, and Jamie Eldridge of Acton serve on the Senate’s Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change. They are all opposed to or wary of expanding the region’s gas pipeline infrastructure. They pointed to a study conducted for Attorney General Maura Healey that said additional gas pipelines were unnecessary.
The study found that the region’s power system would remain reliable through 2030 even with no action being taken by policymakers. Under a worst-case scenario, where weather is much colder than expected and the supply of some fuels is disrupted, the study found there could be some modest power shortages for 26 hours over nine very cold days in 2029 and 2030.
The attorney general’s study examined a number of options to address the worst-case scenario, including building new gas pipelines. The study concluded the best approach for ratepayers and the environment was investing in energy efficiency and programs that require customers to reduce usage of electricity during peak-demand periods.Beaton said the attorney general’s study relied on a number of assumptions – including ambitious targets for energy efficiency efforts – that are unrealistic. He noted Massachusetts is already the US leader among states in energy efficiency.
But Rebecca Tepper, deputy chief of Healey’s energy and environment bureau, told the senators the projections are not unrealistic when compared to what countries in Europe are doing. “We’re behind all of Europe,” she said. “We get it that we’re all working really hard on energy efficiency, but what would it look like if we double down?”