Deleo “not at all” concerned over hydro import cost uncertainty

(AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

BOSTON (STATE HOUSE) – House Speaker Robert DeLeo said Tuesday he is “not at all” concerned by a business brief that found the importation of hydroelectricity would have somewhat unclear impacts on electricity costs.

The report from the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce found hydropower has “strengths” in the area of energy reliability and environmental impact while its effects on costs are “less clear.”

DeLeo, at a chamber breakfast in March, outlined the contours of an omnibus energy bill encouraging hydro and offshore wind energy, a broad goal that matches Gov. Charlie Baker’s aim for “combo platter” energy legislation. Baker wants to require state utilities to solicit long-term clean power contracts, which could lead to the importation of hydropower from Canada.

The chamber’s brief warned that depending on the structure of contracts “ratepayers could bear the risk of cost overruns on transmission projects.”

DeLeo said he was not concerned by the chamber’s analysis and said “reports provided by the governor stated otherwise.”

“I think hydro and wind are going to be the way to go,” DeLeo told the News Service after an event held by the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus on Tuesday. He said, “I really want to move that along. I want to make sure that the Senate has sufficient time so that they can take it up.”

Despite the cost concern, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce President James Rooney said he supports importation of hydroelectricity, which he described as “the most cost-effective energy source for Massachusetts to meet the Green House Gas emission reduction goals set forth in the Global Warming Solutions Act.”

The state is required to reduce carbon emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey told the News Service the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy and the committee’s House chairman, Rep. Tom Golden, are working on a draft. Dempsey said his office is also working on that effort and he expects it “hopefully in the next several weeks.”

Asked about the cost concerns raised by the chamber, Dempsey said, “I think all of the studies and comments and input from the business community, other elected officials, all of that is being taken into consideration throughout the process.”

The mix of wind and hydro remains the “general game plan,” according to Dempsey, who said the bill would reflect the “need to diversify” the energy portfolio and be “mindful of the concerns of ratepayers.”

Copyright 2016 State House News Service

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