By George Harvey
Our move toward renewable energy and sustainable living seems to be proceeding at an every-increasing pace. Evidence of this is clear in a series of news articles that appeared in a single seven-day period in the Northeast.
- On Friday, September 20, Connecticut’s Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced that his state had signed two contracts for renewable power. One will take power from a 250 MW wind farm in Aroostook County, Maine. The other is for power from a 20 MW solar farm in Sprague and Lisbon, Connecticut.
The power will be supplied at a price that averages slightly less than 8 cents per kWh. The price for the power is competitive with other power sources, such as natural gas, coal, and nuclear, even without taking into account federal incentives for renewable power. The power covered by these two contracts will supply about 3.5% of the state’s needs.
- On Monday, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center released its report, the “2013 Massachusetts Clean Energy Industry Report.” The state had added 5,557 green jobs in the previous year, bringing the total to 79,994, a growth rate of 11.8% per year. The clean energy industries provided about 1.9% of all jobs in Massachusetts.
The clean jobs in Massachusetts include 30,537 in green energy, 46,613 in energy efficiency, 5,338 in transportation, 11,807 in carbon management, and 8,467 others. Of the jobs in renewable energy, something more than half are in solar power generation.
Employers are bullish on the future of renewable jobs in the Bay State, with 27% saying they expected to hire more employees in the renewable energy field in the near future.
The report is taken as clear evidence that Massachusetts policies on renewable energy are paying off economically.
- On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that the largest utilities in Massachusetts had signed contracts to buy power from six planned wind farms in New Hampshire and Maine. The wind farms have a combined capacity of 565 MW, and will provide the state with enough power for 170,000 homes.
The price of the power is slightly less than 8 cents per kWh, which is lower than the projected price of power from coal or nuclear. It is estimated that the customers will save between $0.75 and $1.00 per month on their electricity bills because of the reduced costs. In addition, because there is no fuel involved in wind power, the cost can be locked in, providing a more stable price than could be had from fossil fuel plants, which are dependent on much more variable prices.
- Also on Wednesday, we got word that the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released its scores on efficiency of the nation’s cities. An earlier report had said that Massachusetts was the most energy-efficient state, and that made it at least slightly unsurprising that Boston is listed as the most energy-efficient city.
- Boston’s score is 76.75 out of 100 possible. Portland, Oregon, which came in second, has a score of 70.0. This is followed closely by New York City and San Francisco, which are tied at 69.75.
Scores reflect achievement in a number of categories, including buildings, community initiatives, energy and water utility programs, and transportation. Boston had the highest scores on all categories. The ACEEE said it found the Renew Boston program particularly impressive.
- On Thursday, news came out that the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), one of the largest municipal utilities, is increasing the amount of renewable power it is providing to its customers. The effect, in terms of cost to the customers, is that they will save $84 million over the next seven years. The source of the power is solar PVs located throughout the LIPA service area.
One thing that is particularly interesting about the situation on Long Island is that it seems to fly in the face of conventional wisdom. Many renewable power detractors have dwelt on a supposed problem with the intermittent nature of solar PVs. They say that in order to make use of the power, it is necessary to have a very robust power grid, and improvements to the grid will be necessary in most cases.
The situation on Long Island seems to be that LIPA is saving money precisely because the addition of solar power is distributed on a grid that needs improvement. Since solar power is typically delivered during peak demand periods, LIPA is using it to reduce the need for grid improvements. In this case, using solar power reduces grid costs and saves money.
We might as well admit that it was at least a somewhat unusual week. That, however, is because of the amount of news, not the nature of its content. The move to renewable power is gaining powerful momentum.