Governor Charlie Baker signed an energy bill into law on Monday that would make Massachusetts significantly more reliant on hydropower from Canada, as well as wind power.
The bill requires the big utilities — namely Eversource and National Grid — to buy as much as 1,200 megawatts of “clean energy.” Most of this would likely be in the form of hydropower produced by big dams in Canada, but on-shore wind farms in northern New England and upstate New York could also bid for the electricity.
The bill also compels the utilities to sign long-term contracts with offshore wind-farm developers for as much as 1,600 megawatts of power, a priority for House leaders who hope to spur the creation of a new industry in the state.
Baker had pushed for the hydropower purchases, although the Legislature ended up approving half of what Baker initially sought.
These purchases have the potential to drive up costs in the short-term for ratepayers because of new infrastructure costs, although it’s too early to know how big the impact will be.
Advocates argue the bill should help accomplish the following goals: stabilizing rates over the long haul, ensuring the lights stay on during times of peak demand, and enabling the state to reach its aggressive greenhouse-gas reduction goals.
Environmental groups praised the bill. But many of them called it a half-step, saying they were disappointed that solar energy wasn’t addressed and that a Senate-backed measure to block electricity tariffs for natural gas pipelines didn’t make it into the final legislation.
Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.