August 1, 2013
Editorials, Massachusetts

Editorial : It’s possible to be smart and green

The Martha's Vineyard Times | July 31, 2013 |

The state’s Green Communities Act has increased the cost of electricity to Massachusetts residential and business ratepayers. The political value of electricity produced from the wind and the sun, as Massachusetts legislators and many of their supporters measure it, is greater than the economic value of green solutions to our energy demand that don’t raise the cost of power and may actually reduce it.

Massachusetts residents will pay billions in higher electricity costs, because of the state’s crazily generous subsidies for the creation of large-scale, non-fossil fuel generation and the regulations supporting overpriced electricity generated by solar, but especially wind. And Massachusetts electricity costs, more than $22 billion annually, are already among the highest in the nation.

State law requires electricity distribution companies to increase the amount of expensive renewable energy they must buy in long-term contracts. And this, when natural gas, used increasingly to fuel generating plants, is abundant, relatively cheap, and clean. Also, the law does not allow for the purchase of inexpensive, environmentally friendly hydroelectric power generated out of state, and it demands that power suppliers double the required amount of net-metering juice they accept from customers and credit at retail rather than wholesale prices – an indirect hit on ratepayers.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the environmental lawyer and president of Waterkeeper Alliance, writing in the Wall Street Journal, warned electricity ratepayers in Massachusetts that the real promise of Cape Wind is for enormously high power prices.

“Someone,” Mr. Kennedy argues, “needs to tell the politicians in Boston and Washington that Cape Wind, the long-stalled plan to cover 25 square miles of pristine Nantucket Sound with 130 massive steel windmill-turbine towers, is a rip-off.”

Cape Wind and the brewing effort to install big offshore wind south of the Vineyard are not the subjects of NIMBY opposition, but are really not-in-my-pocketbook issues.

Canadian hydro-power is available to Massachusetts utilities, but state green power rules don’t allow Massachusetts generators to satisfy the green power requirement from out-of-state sources, so cheaper – still green – power is off-limits to Massachusetts electricity companies.

Offshore wind power, whether at Horseshoe Shoals or south of the Vineyard, is an out-and-out fleecing of Massachusetts ratepayers. Wind energy generated on land, in appropriate locations, makes far better sense cost-wise, and it’s just as green. But best of all, looking for economic green energy solutions with significant generating capacity, wherever they may be found, makes the most sense.

For instance, as Bruce Mohl writes in the Summer 2013 edition of CommonWealth magazine, “Northern Pass, one proposed Quebec-New England power link would deliver 1,200 megawatts of electricity into southern New Hampshire, about the same power output as Seabrook Station, the nuclear plant that provides more than eight percent of the region’s electricity and seven times the expected output of Cape Wind.” More power, less expensive power, greener power – a highly desirable combination.

“Massachusetts officials,” Mr. Mohl explains, “say they want to use Canadian hydro to help the state reach its greenhouse gas goals but not its renewable energy targets. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, by contrast, thinks Canadian hydro can be used to do both.

“The policy dispute may sound trivial, but a lot is riding on the outcome. At stake are millions of dollars in ratepayer subsidies used to support a select list of renewable technologies, a list that currently does not include large-scale hydro. Massachusetts wants to make sure those subsidies continue to flow to renewables such as wind and solar that need financial help to get off the ground, and not to big hydro projects owned by foreign governments. Officials in Connecticut are worried that renewable energy subsidies are spiraling too high and think Canadian hydro can be used to reach both renewable and greenhouse gas emission targets at far less cost. As Governor Malloy of Connecticut likes to say, Canadian hydro is part of a ‘cheaper, cleaner, more reliable energy future.'”

Connecticut’s analysis of the prospects for a green energy future balances the pleasure pols take from mugging some taxpayers and awarding the money to other favored parts of their constituencies against smart initiatives that support dependable, clean, and economic future energy supplies. And, this more sensible approach does not convert vast, wild tracts of ocean into factories.

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