Energy bill could help power plant; Haddad files legislation that could encourage Brayton Point to repower to gas
SOMERSET – The energy bill that state Rep. Patricia Haddad (D-Somerset) filed in the Massachusetts House of Representatives last Friday, if passed, could have an impact on the electric industry anywhere in the Commonwealth, but a lot of the language in the legislation could be used to revitalize the future of the Brayton Point power plant in Somerset.
“I described our situation without putting our name,” Rep. Haddad said.
Rep. Haddad said she based the bill on six major points. Those six areas are, expansion of gas pipeline capacity in Massachusetts, long-term development of offshore wind in the state, development of competitively bid transmission lines which can provide hydro and wind to southern New England, streamlining the state siting process, encouragement of repowering existing power generating sites which already have considerable transmission capabilities and encouraging small, Massachusetts hydro-electric to continue to produce reasonably priced energy.
The bill is meant to encourage electric generating plants that formally used fossil fuels to repower with other fuels. Somerset has one side that formally used coal for electric generation, Montaup Electric, and another that still does, the Brayton Point power plant.
Rep. Haddad said the parts of the legislation that could help Brayton Point include getting more gas to the area, giving incentives for coal fired power plant sites to be repowered and new renewable energy tying in with transmission lines from power plants like Brayton Point.
Rep. Haddad said her bill could positively impact the Brayton Point power plant by encouraging the owner to choose to convert to gas or some other type of generation, rather than shutting down.
Under the agreement the town has with the owner of the Brayton Point power plant, Somerset will receive $5.5 million in this fiscal year and will receive $4.25 million next fiscal year. The town had received $7 million in Fiscal Year 2013 from the power plant owner. The year before, the town had received just under $13 million in tax revenue from Brayton Point power plant. At one time, the amount of money that the town received from the two power plants made up about 40 percent of the town’s tax revenue. The town could receive a lot less than $4.25 million from the owner of the power plant property if the power plant shuts down. The diminishing revenues the town has been receiving from the power plant has been used as the reason for making cuts to town services and increasing taxes.
Rep. Haddad said the part of the legislation which she thinks can be accomplished quickest is bringing additional gas to the region so consumers won’t have to deal with another price hike, like this year. The bill would establish a tariff for the purpose of the construction of additional gas pipeline to serve Massachusetts.
The legislation would also infuse wind power into the state’s energy mix, not by using the much talked about Cape Wind project, but by putting off shore wind fields in different locations off the Massachusetts and Rhode Island shores.
The legislation would direct distribution companies to enter into long-term contracts with offshore wind energy developers to facilitate the financing of offshore wind energy generation. The bill would also direct the Department of Public Utilities to adopt guidelines for a regional transmission solution to allow utility companies to submit proposals for the construction of competitively bid electricity transmission lines for the purpose of supplying electricity to the Commonwealth. Rep. Haddad has said that Somerset already has the transmission lines needed for offshore wind power.
“I”m hoping this says to the wind people, let’s go talk to Somerset right away and a get a plug in,” Rep. Haddad said of the legislation.
Rep. Haddad said what businesses liked about the bill is that there would be competition among peers in the different energy industries for the lowest prices.
“Wind would start a new industry in Massachusetts and that, in my opinion, is very important because we represent an area of the Commonwealth where that will come first, and if it takes off here, other parts of the state will benefit,” Rep. Haddad said.
Rep. Haddad said any bill can be changed through the process but she said when such legislation is filed, the representative wants it to evolve into something good before it is approved.
Rep. Haddad said she had been working on the legislation for almost six months before filing it last week. She said she sought assistance from every sector of the energy world as she was developing the bill. She said she talked to people from Denmark, England and Germany about wind power in those countries.
After filing the energy bill last week, Rep. Haddad said she talked to stake holders in the hydropower, offshore wind power, transmission and existing generators industries.
“There was really no negative feedback,” Rep. Haddad said. “They felt it was a good place to start.”
Rep. Haddad said some of the stake holders liked part of the legislation that will create a siting commission to streamline the process for siting power plants or any other energy source.
The bill is also meant to encourage the development of energy security and diversity while promoting economic growth in the Commonwealth. Rep. Haddad said there is a provision in the bill for high capacity electricity users who would get discounts on electricity after the first 10,000 megawatts. She said that could help businesses, hospitals and universities in a part of the country known for having the highest electric rates in the country.
The legislation Rep. Haddad filed last week has been called a “landmark energy bill.”
Rep. Haddad said she has made a presentation about her bill to the state’s new secretary of energy and will keep in touch with that office.
“Hopefully, they like some of my ideas,” Rep. Haddad said.
She said she is waiting for chairs of energy committees to be appointed in the state House of Representatives and Senate.
“I feel good about it,” Rep. Haddad said about the legislation. “I felt the feedback I got from the various stake holders is that it was a good jumping off point for a very important conversation.”
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