EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


April 2, 2014

Solar, wind producers fight for piece of state's clean energy plans

BOSTON — Independent solar and wind power providers could be squeezed out of the energy market as Gov. Deval Patrick pursues a plan to reduce the state’s carbon footprint, say environmental groups.

Small solar and wind power businesses have grown from novelties into multimillion-dollar companies in recent years, fueled by federal and state incentives, as well as lower costs for wind turbines, solar panels and transmission lines.

But the Conservation Law Foundation and others say the state’s effort to boost renewable energy is so ambitious, it will force utilities such as National Grid and Northeast Utilities to deal with large, Canadian hydropower companies.

Solar and wind producers can’t create the 2,400 megawatts of additional clean energy that Patrick is calling for, said Sue Reid, director of the Conservation Law Foundation in Massachusetts.

Next week, state lawmakers are scheduled to begin debating a bill backed by Patrick, and co-sponsored by state Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, that would require major electric utilities to begin soliciting proposals from developers of solar, wind and even hydroelectric energy under 20- to 25-year contracts.

“There’s no minimum requirement for wind and solar in this legislation, so it could end up being all big hydro imports from Canada,” said Reid. “It’s like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. There’s no protection for the wind and solar companies.”

Traditional generators – including those using coal, gas and nuclear power – are concerned they also could be pushed out of the market.

“We understand the state is trying to meet its carbon reduction mandates, but this is the wrong way to do it,” said Dan Dolan, president of the New England Power Generators Association. “This will increase costs for consumers and put at risk the tremendous investment that power generators across New England have made at their facilities to provide some of the lowest prices in a decade.”

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