Hearing Tuesday on Baker’s hydropower bill comes amid debate over renewable energy
BOSTON – The legislative committee dealing with energy issues will hold a public hearing on Tuesday on several bills relating to clean energy, including a bill on hydroelectric power proposed by Gov. Charlie Baker.
“The question is not if we do something on hydropower, but what’s the best way to take advantage of that,” said state Sen. Ben Downing, D-Pittsfield, Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, in an interview with The Republican/MassLive.com on Friday.
Baker and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton have been pushing hard for the passage of Baker’s bill, which would require utilities to solicit long-term contracts for hydroelectric power. That means that rather than buying electricity daily, the utility could sign a contract with a supplier that would last for months. The legislation would also authorize Massachusetts utilities to buy power together with utilities in Connecticut and Rhode Island. The goal would be to allow Massachusetts utilities to get better rates because the state would be buying in bulk.
But there has been opposition. Some clean energy advocates worry that a focus on hydroelectric power could allow Canadian-generated power to supplant other renewable energy, like wind power, that could be generated in New England.
Baker said he anticipates there will be “a healthy debate” about his hydroelectric power bill and a bill he sponsored related to solar power, which will also have a hearing Tuesday.