Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Is hydropower the right solution for Massachusetts?

Every U.S. state is contemplating its renewable energy future. The demand for more energy continues to grow, and power hungry states are looking for new options on the horizontal, preferably in form of renewable energy sources.

Massachusetts is currently thinking about employing hydropower from Canada. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposal to authorize long-term contracts between utilities and hydropower producers could be one of those decisions that will shape energy future of this region for foreseeable future.

However, there is still no clear plan on how to tap on vast Canadian hydropower resources. The most interesting plans that are waiting final approval include the $1.4 billion Northern Pass project, with the proposed capacity of 1,090 megawatts Hydro-Quebec power coming through New Hampshire into southern New England and a 1,000-megawatt transmission line beneath Lake Champlain in Vermont.

If these plans go through, the question remains will this stall the further development of domestic renewable energy sources, and will this lead to environmental damage by disrupting the water quality in rivers, and thus harm the river ecosystems.

Developing domestic renewable energy industry is certainly the way to go, but until this industry full develops, states have to look for other options. In Massachusetts' case this means that without a hydropower infusion it will be almost impossible to meet its 2020 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels.