Regarding your Sept. 3 editorial “Closure of Salem coal plant is good news, but what next?”, I would like to take a moment to discuss the redevelopment and possible repowering of Salem Harbor Station.
I believe there are reliability benefits that make building a new natural gas plant in Salem essential. Using the existing infrastructure coupled with the natural gas hub line makes repowering Salem cost-effective. The Salem station is located in the Northeastern Massachusetts and Boston “load pocket,” one of the most densely populated in New England. Without a plant, New England ratepayers would pay for expensive transmission upgrades and congestion costs to ensure future reliability.
While the addition of a natural gas plant will bring environmental and ratepayer benefits, I appreciate the concern about the impact of our increased reliance on natural gas in New England; generation capacity fueled by natural gas has increased from 18 percent in 2000 to 43 percent in 2011. To address this lack of diversity in our energy portfolio, the Legislature updated the Green Communities Act of 2008 to increase generation of renewable energy.
What next for Salem? By Sept. 15, a task force chaired by Richard K. Sullivan Jr., state secretary of energy and environmental affairs, will convene with stakeholders to help answer that question. Minimally, the existing plant will be torn down by Dec. 31, 2016, and the site remediated. In addition, the new owner of the site, Footprint, has proposed a power-generating facility that will have quick-start technology that can get up and running in minutes, providing support to intermittent renewable generation. This project will complement the Commonwealth’s continuing leadership in developing a cleaner energy policy.
The writer is chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy.