Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee is looking to burnish his environmental bona fides these days by reworking Rhode Island’s existing energy goals, specifically by allowing large-scale hydroelectric power to be included as part of the state’s allotment of renewable energy.
The law as currently written requires the state get at least 16 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2019. Excluded from that total has been large-scale hydropower, something Gov. Chafee hopes to change.
He has his eyes on electricity generated by large hydroelectric facilities in Quebec, and his argument is difficult to counter. Water is a renewable resource. All that hydropower does is capture some of the potential energy as it flows downhill to the sea.
Long-standing objections included cultural ones, in which the flooding that comes with such power infringed on native peoples in the area. Others have come from the environmental movement, which saw large-scale environmental changes wrought by big dams counter-productive to the goals of a healthier ecosystem.
With those points of contention seemingly settled, the governor is on solid footing to add large-scale hydropower to the Ocean State’s renewable electricity mix. •