Chafee says hydropower key to low-cost, green energy
TAKING CHARGE: Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee said that “misconceptions” derailed the Energy Reform Act of 2013. The governor said his team hopes to have an entirely revamped bill submitted in the 2014 session.
PBN PHOTO/TRACY JENKINS
TREADING WATER: Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee says that a variety of issues make small-scale hydropower projects unfeasible. “We’re taking out dams in New England,” he said.
Lincoln D. Chafee has been a Republican, an independent and, for the past few months, a Democrat, along the winding political trail that’s taken him from mayor of Warwick to U.S. senator and, for the last three years, governor.
Now entering his final year as governor, Chafee is taking steps to ensure his legacy is defined by more than just the aftermath of the 38 Studios debacle and local infrastructure issues.
Chafee is preparing new energy legislation for the 2014 session of the General Assembly to designate large-scale hydropower as a source to meet state renewable-energy goals. That’s important, Chafee says, because it would add a low-cost option to the state’s renewable-energy mix. He said the state needs a diverse plan for renewable energy “because hydropower is even better than solar or wind. … We don’t know if the wind’s going to blow or the sun is going to shine, but water is going to run downhill.”
PBN: The Energy Reform Act of 2013 was submitted to the General Assembly last year on your behalf and met with quite a bit of opposition, including from National Grid and the Conservation Law Foundation. Some of that was related to the possible purchase of hydropower from Canada. Are you planning to resubmit that legislation to the 2014 session of the General Assembly?
CHAFEE: No. We’re starting over. Somehow we got off track last year with misconceptions of what we were trying to accomplish. The simple goal is to designate large-scale hydro as renewable. We’ll have a new bill. The plan is to have it ready for the new session.
PBN: Have you structured or devised the new bill yet?
CHAFEE: No. We’re working on it. On this one we’re working closely with National Grid. National Grid came out last time in opposition to our bill. It was a misunderstanding. We all have the same goal. Who can be opposed to low-cost, clean energy?
PBN: Wasn’t National Grid concerned about contracts they would have to have with Canadian hydropower companies?
CHAFEE: Yes, that’s what they were alleging. That certainly wasn’t the goal.
PBN: What’s some of the background that’s led to this suggestion of using Canadian hydropower?
CHAFEE: The six New England governors for 30 years have been meeting with the premiers of the five Eastern Canadian provinces – Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec. There’s been more of a focus on a regional energy strategy. When we met in Burlington, Vt., in the summer of 2012, Premier Charest of Quebec said we have the chance to be the low-cost, green-energy capital of North America. He said, “What you New England governors have to do is designate large-scale hydro as a renewable.”