White Paper Examines Clean Energy Policy Options For Massachusetts


Economists at The Brattle Group have released a new white paper examining the clean energy resources available for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and key policy considerations to help meet the Global Warming Solutions Act’s (GWSA) greenhouse-gas (GHG) reduction requirements, which call for a carbon footprint reduction of 80% by 2050.

The white paper, entitled “Clean Energy Resource Options for Massachusetts to Meet GHG Reduction Goals under the Global Warming Solutions Act: A Synthesis of Relevant Studies,” provides a set of recommendations for policies that minimize customer cost and risk while ensuring electricity reliability.

The main resource options examined in the studies reviewed include large-scale Canadian hydro, offshore wind and onshore wind. The authors find that all of these resources can be part of the solution, but the pathways differ with respect to the portfolio mix, cost and timing of achieving the GHG reduction requirements of the GWSA – factors that still need to be evaluated in a more systematic fashion.

“To meet both near- and long-term GHG reduction objectives cost-effectively while maintaining reliability and other economic goals, Massachusetts will need to consider a range of policy mechanisms to attract a broad set of clean energy resources,” says Judy Chang, a Brattle principal and co-author of the study.

“If procurements and long-term contracts are used, mechanisms to ensure competition are essential and the procurement requirement should be sufficiently flexible to allow for increases and decreases in the magnitude and timing of the tranches. This would ensure that ratepayers would reap the benefits of future costs reductions,” adds Chang.

The authors recommend that Massachusetts consider developing an ongoing comprehensive energy planning process that would help the state in identifying the proportion and timing of resources to reduce GHG emissions while balancing trade-offs to achieve other objectives. Such a planning process would improve coordination between electricity, thermal, transportation and other energy sectors to take advantage of the available synergies.

The Brattle white paper also addresses how the 80% carbon reduction objective creates significant challenges, including transmission constraints. To meet the state’s energy and climate objectives, the authors highlight that each resource will likely be an important part of the future electricity generation mix.

The authors note that they have not analyzed the costs and benefits across different portfolios and timing of obtaining the least-cost combination of additional carbon-free resources to meet state goals, but they assert that the procurements suggested in various reports and pieces of legislation for hydropower and wind seem consistent with the state’s goals if purchased using the efficient, risk-balancing mechanisms recommended. The white paper says that maintaining the current programs on solar and energy efficiency, and continuing to support research and development in storage technologies, will also be critical.

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