Legislation passed in 2008 requires Massachusetts utilities that buy and distribute power to sign contracts with renewable energy suppliers. The goal is to increase clean energy sources and decrease the state’s reliance on greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels. The effects of that legislation are now being felt as several utilities openly seek long-term power purchase agreements for renewable energy.
Four investor-owned utilities, National Grid, NStar, Western Massachusetts Electric Co. and Unitil Corp., have opened bidding for 10- to 15-year contracts with renewable energy suppliers. None of the utilities actually produce their own power; they simply buy and distribute it to their customers.
From legislators to utility companies, it seems that all involved support the move to greener power. However, the utilities warn that the new contracts, given the higher cost of renewable power compared to conventional sources, will mean higher electricity bills for Massachusetts residents.
A counterpoint to that is the fact that greener energy saves in other areas, like environment, health of the state’s occupants, safety for stakeholders and improved homeland security. Contracts for greener energy will also increase demand for green power plants, thus creating high-quality jobs in the state and region. And while renewable energy is more expensive now, prices continue to fall and the green energy contracts will lock in rates that protect against the increasing volatility of fossil fuel prices.
The legislation is part of the state’s plan to power more than 560,000 homes with wind power and home solar by the end of the next decade. Currently, there is enough renewable generation to power only about 6,800 homes. That’s just over one percent of the desired goal. There is definitely a long way to go, but the plan is pleasantly ambitious for renewable energy advocates and a good, long-term step in the right direction.
Renewable energy producers have until February 19th to submit their bids to the four utilities. Only when all is said and done will we know the true impact of the deals, both on electricity prices and renewable energy consumption in Massachusetts. The utilities have committed to producing 750,000 megawatt-hours from renewable resources through the deals, enough to power 100,000 homes.
Source: The Boston Globe
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