The proposed legislation compelling Massachusetts consumers to buy 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2050 represent a triumph of politics over common sense. The “100 percent” proposal is unrealistic and unnecessary and will raise the electric bills of every business and homeowner in the Southeast region.
Here’s the problem: Over the past nine years, we have spent billions of dollars subsidizing renewable energy. Yet just 12 percent of our electricity in Massachusetts comes from wind, solar, and other renewable generation sources.
We are clearly headed in the right direction on renewable energy. Over the next few years, new solar, wind, and even large hydro projects are on tap for Massachusetts. My organization calculates that the clean energy produced will take us to about 50 percent of total electricity used, near the highest in the country.
Already, Massachusetts has nearly the highest retail electricity prices in the country, at about 19 cents per kilowatt hour, even though our wholesale energy prices are at an historic low, or approximately four cents.
In comparison, the effective wholesale cost of renewables is much higher. Solar energy runs around 40 cents per kilowatt hour, according to utility filings. Offshore wind is roughly 16 cents per kilowatt hour, according to an industry report. The cost is lower for onshore wind, but finding land near population areas is getting difficult and there is little public appetite for large transmission lines – even for green power.
To jump from 12 percent to 100 percent renewables is a leap of folly. Data analyzed by my group shows that Massachusetts would have to harness the average output of 10 Hoover dams to generate that amount of electricity.
Even assuming we met the major cost of moving close to 100 percent renewable, we would still need fossil fuel power plants to meet supply needs when the wind was not blowing or the sun shining. The costs of those plants would have a significant impact on your overall electricity bills.
We should continue on our current trajectory and see what it means for cost and feasibility. Then we can talk about where to put those 10 Hoover dams in Massachusetts.
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