Golden: House bill may come in ‘south’ of hydro, wind power requests

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BOSTON — The omnibus House energy bill will likely come in below Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposal for hydropower procurement and below what the offshore wind industry wants to produce and sell to Massachusetts ratepayers, according to a House chairman working on the bill.

After a speech where House Speaker Robert DeLeo touted the House’s efforts to keep down taxes and craft energy legislation that will moderate electricity costs, the co-chairman of the committee drafting the legislation said some decisions remain.

Rep. Thomas Golden, House chairman of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, told the News Service he is still working to determine the size and nature of proposed increases in the state’s share of renewable energy.

Golden noted that Baker’s hydro bill calls for 2,400 megawatts and he said the offshore wind industry is seeking 2,000 megawatts.

“I think it will be south of that number,” Golden said, on both fronts. Golden said it has yet to be determined how hydroelectric generation might be distinguished from wind in the bill.

Speaking to the Associated Industries of Massachusetts’ annual meeting on Friday, DeLeo highlighted competition and low prices, an important consideration for manufacturers whose machines are powered by electricity.

“Given our variety of goals, hydro will not be the only approach. Central to our plans is competition,” DeLeo told the crowd at a hotel ballroom in South Boston’s Seaport. He said, “We believe that competition among developers will keep costs low.”

Cheap supplies of domestic natural gas have driven the New England power plant market toward that fuel and away from the more expensive coal, oil and nuclear material. Limited capacity for bringing natural gas into the region has recently driven up electricity prices on winter days when residential heating units dig deep into the gas supply.

Golden said lawmakers should be cautious as they seek to diversify power generation “with clean options.”

“We should be doing no harm,” Golden said. Concerned about market impacts, Golden said, “We have to watch out for the generators that we have.”
While the bill is not yet complete and the Senate has not yet taken up omnibus energy legislation, Golden said he is “not worried” that the bill might not be completed this year and said it “needs to be done.”

“There’s still a lot of rumors on the street that this is done; this is all wrapped up. That’s not the case,” Golden said. He said, “It seems like we’re always looking in the next couple two to three weeks.”

After protracted negotiations, lawmakers earlier this year reached compromise on legislation to encourage more solar energy development while reducing the value of some solar incentives.

— Written by Andy Metzger

Copyright State House News Service