National Grid has testified that its contract with Cape Wind is the best way of meeting new state requirements that a portion of electricity come from renewable sources. Yet Cape Wind’s extravagant $2 billion pricetag – yesterday’s revelation added another $66 million to dismantle the structures at the end of their 25-year lifespan – ought to prompt repeal of these absurd requirements.
Attorney General Martha Coakley jawboned the parties into a 10 percent reduction in the initial price for the offshore wind farm’s electricity, now 18.7 cents per kilowatt-hour with an annual 3.5 percent increase if the entire project is built. This is more than twice the typical current cost for electricity (exclusive of transportation charges) in the state.
What is the point of renewables? Avoiding net emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief gas behind alleged global warming.
Other agendas, however, must have been in play when the requirements were set. First, nuclear-generated electricity, which emits no greenhouse gases at all, can’t be counted toward the renewable quota, currently 5 percent of sales. (Nuclear generation is about 11 percent.)
More oddly, emission-free hydroelectric power, available at favorable rates from Canada, cannot count unless it comes from small projects, 50 megawatts or smaller. (Hydro now provides a bit less than 2 percent.) It’s senseless to barricade the cheapest avenue toward your objective, a fact that Vermont realized in dropping its “no hydro” rule recently.
About a quarter of Massachusetts’ electricity comes from coal and more than half from natural gas, which produces half the emissions of coal. Vast new discoveries of natural gas mean low prices for many years. A better low-emissions strategy – that is if one is truly needed – would encourage retirement of old coal plants with replacement by new natural gas plants.
This debate had ceased to be about clean air or greenhouse gases and become an exercise in ideologically driven agendas.
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