STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE: Baker: Power drain underscores need for energy plan soon As originally appearing in State House News Service
BY KATIE LANNAN
BOSTON — A day after the House passed a bill calling for historic long-term contracts for hydroelectric and offshore wind power, Gov. Charlie Baker cited the need to plan for the impending retirement of nuclear and fossil fuel power sources as one reason he wants energy legislation to make it to his desk in coming weeks.
New England will need to replace about 10,000 megawatts of power over the next five or six years, Baker said, and he and the region’s other governors hope to find a “proactive strategy to solving this collaboratively.”
“It is probably in some respects one of the biggest looming challenges we’re going to face, and it’s one of those challenges where you can’t just make a decision today about what you’re going to do tomorrow,” Baker said during a New England Council breakfast. “You have to have lead time for any of these solutions to be pursued and that’s why it’s really important that something happen in this legislative session.”
Formal legislative sessions end for the year on July 31, leaving a shrinking window for lawmakers to take up controversial bills. Senate leaders have expressed interest in a more expansive energy bill than the one that cleared the House on Wednesday.
The House bill, which power generators said could dramatically increase consumer costs and derail planned energy investments, seeks to diversify the state’s energy mix by requiring utilities to solicit and enter into 15- to 20-year contracts for 1,200 megawatts of offshore wind and roughly 1,200 megawatts of hydropower.
“I’m actually not exactly sure what’s in it yet,” Baker quipped of the House bill, drawing laughs from the crowd gathered at the Seaport Hotel. “So I’m not going to talk about it in too much detail, but I know they passed something, and I know that at a very high level it involved giving the commonwealth the ability to work with purchasers on a purchasing more hydropower from either Canada or New York and also gave us the opportunity to engage in a conversation about purchasing more offshore and onshore wind.”
An amendment added without debate to the House bill just prior to its passage Wednesday added several policy sections, including proposals dealing with natural gas line leaks.
Baker said the New England states will need to work together to address their coming energy needs, giving the example of a joint request for proposals issued by Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island for renewable power.
“That’s exactly the sort of thing we’re going to need to do more of going forward,” Baker said.
Under the multi-state clean energy RFP, electric distribution companies are expected to enter into contracts between June 23 and Sept. 22, 2016, according to a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce brief, but contracts would still need regulatory approval to move forward.
Baker told reporters after his speech that he believed that timeframe would still be met, but “there are enough cooks in the kitchen on this one” that he would hesitate to commit to an exact date.
“I guess the answer to that is, if all goes according to plan,” Baker said when asked if he expected the RFP to lead to contracts this summer. “But those are hard things to figure out when you have as many players involved as we do there.”
He described the joint RFP as “sort of a toe in the water on the larger issue of states working together to contract or stuff like this.”