Massachusetts House passes Canadian hydroelectric power import bill

Massachusetts Capital Building

The Massachusetts House passed a bill by near unanimous vote yesterday that could open the doors for the New England state to import as much as 1,200 MW of Canadian hydroelectric power.

The legislation — An Act to Promote Energy Diversity, or, officially, H.4377 — was approved 154-1, with Rep. James Lyons, R-Andover, presenting the only dissenting vote.

The bill would require Massachusetts utilities to pursue long-term contracts to supply up to 1,200 MW of hydro and 1,200 MW of offshore wind power by 2027.

H.4377 stems in large part to former Gov. Deval Patrick, who in 2008 signed policy designed to reduce the state’s carbon dioxide output by 25% from 1990 levels by 2020, with the ultimate goal of reducing levels 80% by 2050.

Current Gov. Charlie Baker has furthered the effort by being an outspoken proponent of imported Canadian hydropower to help meet those goals, and last year testified before a state legislative committee supporting bills that would encourage cross-border transmission.

The proposal has not been without controversey, however, as a number of groups, including the New England Power Generators Association, have voiced their opposition for it. However, a report released by the Massachussetts Clean Electricity Partnerhsip in April indicates that consumers within the region will see substantial annual savings should the bill be ultimately approved.

The bill now passes to the state’s senate for consideration.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported in September that the region includeing Massachusetts accounted for 60% of the United States’ imports of Canadian hydropower in 2014. Overall, Canadian hydro makes up about 1.6% of all energy purchased in the U.S.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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