Massachusetts Can’t Rely on the Northern Pass Proposal as a Short-Term Climate Solution

May 4, 2012 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Amid new scrutiny, it’s time for Massachusetts to reckon with the elephant in its climate plan (photo credit: flickr/David Blackwell)

The 5 million ton elephant in Massachusetts’s nation-leading climate action plan – the oversold and overstated greenhouse gas emissions reductions from new imports of Canadian hydropower comprising more than 20% of the state’s goal – is too big to ignore. That’s why it’s encouraging that the plan’s misplaced reliance on the Northern Pass transmission project is receiving new scrutiny.

Last December, CLF identified a significant problem with Massachusetts’s “Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020”: it adopted and relied on Northern Pass’s sales pitch that the project will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 5 million tons annually and then claimed all those emissions reductions for Massachusetts. After examining the basis for the 5 million ton figure, we concluded that – no way around it – the figure was just wrong; it was calculated on the false assumption – belied by Hydro-Québec’s own data – that imported hydropower has no greenhouse gas emissions.  The way Massachusetts was relying on Northern Pass was dubious for other reasons, including the unfairness of Massachusetts claiming all the benefits of a project that will not be located in the state and the fact that there is no concrete commitment regarding how much Northern Pass power Massachusetts electric customers will actually receive.

In February, the problem was confirmed in a technical report (PDF) commissioned by CLF and authored by Synapse Energy Economics, which found that hydropower facilities, especially new projects being built in Québec to supply new imports into New England, have substantial greenhouse emissions – emissions that for several years after construction can be comparable to the natural gas power that Northern Pass would replace.

Last month, Massachusetts think-tank MassINC released an independent analysis (PDF) of Massachusetts’s progress in meeting its ambitious emissions reduction goal – 25% below 1990 levels by the year 2020. The conclusion: Massachusetts is making great strides in some areas, but needs to redouble its efforts if it intends to achieve the goal. One of the biggest uncertainties: the Massachusetts climate plan’s reliance on new imports of Canadian hydropower through Northern Pass.

MassINC’s new report signals, as CLF has argued, that Massachusetts must look elsewhere to secure sufficient emissions reductions by 2020. The MassINC report makes the critical point that it is not up to Massachusetts whether the Northern Pass project is built – and there are many reasons to doubt that it ever will be – not the least of which are the extensive permitting processes and the committed and well-founded community opposition that the project must overcome. Citing Synapse’s findings on the greenhouse gas emissions of hydropower and the higher emissions associated with new hydropower facilities, the MassINC report suggests that any reliance on new imports as an emissions reduction strategy requires a credible, scientifically sound accounting of the targeted reductions, including whether and to what extent the power will come from new hydropower projects. Massachusetts needs to temper its enthusiasm for additional hydropower imports with the same scientific rigor and attention to detail reflected in the Patrick administration’s proposed regulations for biomass power.

The MassINC report is making waves, earning the lead, front page story recently in the Boston Sunday Globe and media coverage throughout the state. Consistent with the MassINC report, CLF does not rule out the possibility that new hydropower imports – if they have minimal environmental and community impacts on both sides of the border, avoid undermining local renewable and energy efficiency, displace our dirtiest power, and provide verifiable emissions reductions – could play a constructive role in a cleaner energy future for the region, particularly when considered over the long term.

But it’s time for the Patrick administration to reconsider its unfounded confidence that Northern Pass is some kind of clean energy panacea that will deliver a fifth of all needed emissions reductions by 2020. The science is clear: it’s not.

For more information about Northern Pass, sign-up for our monthly newsletter Northern Pass Wire, visit CLF’s Northern Pass Information Center (http://www.clf.org/northern-pass), and take a look at our prior Northern Pass posts on CLF Scoop.

Patrick Administration Proposes Nation-Leading Biomass Regulations

May 1, 2012 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

The Patrick Administration recently released new rules on biomass energy that will do more to protect critical forest resources. Photo credit: Lizard10979 @ flickr.

Last week, the Patrick Administration released new proposed final rules and guidance on the state’s incentives for biomass energy. It is a big win for our forests, for the role of science in policy making, for efficiency, and for environmental advocates across Massachusetts. I’m proud of the Patrick administration for their tireless work on this issue.

So, what exactly IS biomass? Generally speaking, in the energy context, “biomass” refers to a class of fuels derived from trees and plants. Other types of biomass fuel are organic wastes such as livestock manure, spoiled food, and even sewage. These fuels are, in turn, converted into various forms of useful energy (electricity, heat, transportation fuels) by a very broad spectrum of established and emerging technologies.

When we hear about biomass energy, most often the focus is on large electric power plants. There are many such biomass power plant proposals pending throughout New England, including several in Massachusetts. We hear about them in the news, but rarely is there much talk about why so many biomass power plants are in the permitting pipeline right now. Although not often noted, the reality is that these projects are responding to state and federal economic incentives.

One might assume that state and federal biomass incentives are specifically designed to promote projects consistent with our clean energy and climate objectives, right? Unfortunately, that has not been the case.

Understanding of the substantial potential climate and environmental impacts of biomass power plants has lagged behind the incentive programs. When the incentive programs were created, no one was focused on the potential climate impacts of building power plants that burn whole trees to produce electricity, for example. The thinking was that if a tree were used as fuel, it simply needed to be replaced with a newly planted tree and – voila! – some of our energy needs would be met with a “renewable” fuel.

To the contrary, as we now understand, burning whole trees as fuel results in a climate “double whammy”:

  1. Instantaneously releasing all the carbon stored in each tree into the atmosphere; while also
  2. Taking whole trees out of commission as carbon “sinks,” no longer capturing and storing new carbon emissions.

Thankfully, the last few years have provided a huge wake-up call. We’ve seen an increasing body of peer-reviewed science about the potential climate impacts of irresponsible use of biomass energy. The forward-looking Patrick Administration itself commissioned a groundbreaking study, culminating in the 2010 “Manomet Report,” to bring that science home to Massachusetts in the context of a hard look at better-designed state incentives for biomass. And now, just last week, the Patrick Administration released new proposed final rules and guidance that infuse this science into the state’s biomass incentives. You can read a copy of CLF’s official statement here.

From a preliminary review, we are delighted to see that the newly proposed Massachusetts rules embrace the three key pillars of responsible policy governing biomass incentives:

  1. Adopting science-based standards to seriously account for the climate impacts of eligible biomass facilities and the fuels they use, and ensuring that incentives no longer will be directed toward projects that can seriously undermine our climate objectives;
  2. Curbing wasteful use of limited biomass resources by requiring most eligible facilities to meet a minimum efficiency standard of 50-60% (as compared to many existing facilities that are in the range of only 25% efficient);
  3. Protecting forests against over harvesting of biomass fuels, for example by prohibiting the harvest of fuels from old growth forests or steep slopes that are vulnerable to erosion, requiring minimum amounts of tree tops and limbs to be retained on the forest floor to replenish nutrients and provide habitat, etc.

Hats off to the Patrick Administration and the team of policymakers who worked tirelessly to infuse the science into such an important policy! They appear to have done a remarkable job balancing many competing interests and considerations, setting a standard that we hope other states and the nation will follow.

Massachusetts and Federal Government Team Up to Tap Abundant Offshore Wind Energy Resource

Feb 3, 2012 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

From left: Barbara Kates-Garnick, Carl Horstmann, Tommy Beaudreau, and Sue Reid. Credit: Meg Colclough.

Earlier today my colleague Sue Reid, VP & Director of CLF Massachusetts, joined state and federal officials to announce the latest milestone for obtaining plentiful and clean renewable wind energy from the Outer Continental Shelf offshore of Massachusetts. Specifically, they initiated the process for developers to begin leasing and site assessment, and for data gathering and public input, to facilitate off shore wind deployment in an area approximately 12 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and 13 nautical miles southwest of Nantucket. (The federal press release can be found here.) The “Call Area” as it is termed, was identified following consultation with ocean users, such as fishermen and other stakeholders, through an intergovernmental renewable energy task force led by Massachusetts officials.

Today’s announcement follows President Obama’s State of the Union address, in which he expressed the compelling need to develop alternative sources of energy. CLF agrees: the environmental imperative and ongoing energy transformation replacing obsolete uneconomic fossil fuel power plants requires deployment of the full range of available renewable energy resources. Because offshore wind is strong and persistent, it is among our most robust emissions-free renewable energy sources. We also support the laudable efforts of the Commonwealth and federal government, who share jurisdiction over marine resources, to join initiatives to expand our clean energy resources with efforts to engage in thoughtful ocean planning, both of which have been major themes in Massachusetts. Massachusetts has been a leader in both coastal marine spatial planning and in offshore wind deployment. Those experiences are now being replicated by other states and the federal government – something CLF welcomes.

In speaking alongside Tommy P. Beaudreau, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director, and Barbara Kates-Garnick, Massachusetts Under Secretary of Energy, on the steps of the Wind Technology Testing Center, Sue said:

“One might think it’s unusual for environmental advocates to be championing efforts to develop energy resources; after all, CLF led the charge successfully fighting off all oil and gas drilling in New England waters. That’s because we recognize that, while we need to pursue a portfolio of clean energy alternatives, there is NO other resource that has the sheer magnitude of clean energy potential as offshore wind. Offshore wind holds promise for displacing many gigawatts of fossil fuel-fired generation, keeping the lights on and homes and businesses thriving while we shut down old, dirty, inefficient coal and oil-fired plants.”

She also underscored how important this work is. She said:

“While most local eyes are trained on a different Tommy, out in Indianapolis for a certain small-stakes football game, we’re thrilled that this Tommy, the new quarterback of the Obama Administration’s offshore renewable energy team, is in Massachusetts, focused on moving the clean energy ball rapidly down the field here, in concert with the Patrick Administration and a host of other stakeholders. This is a battle that we must win. Success is our only option.”

Sue is right – milestones like this help us to realize the potential for a new clean energy future—one that is being fostered in Massachusetts through some of the strongest state renewable energy policies in the nation. Our challenge is to advance from salutary policies to new renewable energy deployment that benefits Massachusetts with jobs, economic activity, cleaner air and a healthier environment. Today’s development was one step on a path just begun.

Northern Pass: The 5 million ton elephant in Massachusetts’s climate plan

Dec 1, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

photo credit: flickr/OpenThreads

The Northern Pass transmission project is being pitched by its developers as a clean energy proposal for New Hampshire. As I’ve pointed out before, Northern Pass is a regional proposal with dubious benefits in the Granite State. Unfortunately, the developers’ hollow promises have found an audience further south, in Massachusetts.

From the public discussion as well as the developers’ PR blitz, you might think that the Northern Pass – a high voltage transmission line that would extend 180 miles from the New Hampshire-Canada border, through the White Mountains, to Deerfield, New Hampshire – is just a New Hampshire issue. It’s not: the ramifications of this project extend well beyond New Hampshire.  The implications are both regional and enduring, as they will shape the energy future of New England for decades to come.

Given this context, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) should be leading a pro-active, regional assessment of the options for additional imports of hydroelectric power from Canada. So far, DOE has squandered its opportunity to lead such an assessment while the Northern Pass permitting process remains on indefinite hold. Since April of this year, CLF has been urging the DOE to use this delay to deliver a fair, big picture review of the Northern Pass. It’s what New England deserves, and what DOE owes the public.

Although you wouldn’t know it from the media or the developers’ “MyNewHampshire” advertising campaign, Northern Pass also is a Massachusetts issue. Why? As if hidden in plain view, it’s at the center of Massachusetts’s plan to combat climate change. You might say it’s the elephant in the room.

Massachusetts’s 2010 “Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020” (the Plan) seeks to reduce Massachusetts’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) 25% below 1990 levels by 2020. CLF has applauded the Plan as an aggressive, nation-leading effort. However, we long have been dubious of the Plan’s reliance on potential imports of Canadian hydropower.

Regrettably, the final Plan (at pp. 45-46) uncritically bought the Northern Pass developers’ line that Northern Pass will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5.1 million metric tons annually by 2020. Where does the Plan get that figure? The figure was never publicly vetted or discussed during the public planning process in which CLF was an active participant. The only citations are to the developers’ website and to a 2010 report by an energy consulting firm hired by the developers. That’s it. Massachusetts is taking the developers’ sales pitch at face value.

The Plan goes on to claim that Massachusetts can take credit for the entire reduction, even though the current Northern Pass proposal, by design, does not guarantee that Massachusetts customers will purchase any hydropower from Hydro-Québec through Northern Pass or otherwise. So, just how much of Massachusetts’s ambitious GHG reduction goal does Northern Pass’s supposed 5 million tons represent? More than 70% of the Plan’s reduction goal for the electric sector and more than 20% of the Plan’s goal overall. Of the Plan’s “portfolio” of initiatives, the Plan credits Northern Pass with achieving the single highest amount of emissions reductions.

Northern Pass is a highly questionable element of the Plan for a number of reasons. First, it’s not clear how much power Massachusetts will actually get from Northern Pass. Second, the project faces myriad permitting hurdles and isn’t anywhere close to a done deal. Third, Massachusetts has no direct role in the project’s development.

But it’s worse than that. The report by the developers’ consultant – and its 5.1 million ton estimate of Northern Pass’s reductions of GHG emissions – is simply wrong. The report’s error is a contagion that directly undermines the Plan’s ambitious GHG reduction goal.

To make a long story short, the report assumes that Canadian hydropower results in no GHG emissions. That assumption is contradicted by Hydro-Québec’s own field research on the GHG emissions from the recently constructed Eastmain reservoir – the very reservoir where, according to testimony by a developer executive, Northern Pass’s power will be generated.  Together with other scientific literature, the research demonstrates that reservoirs have long-term, non-zero net GHG emissions (in part because they permanently eliminate important carbon “sinks” that absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, such as boreal forests). That makes the  5 million tons, at a minimum, blatantly inflated.

But even more importantly for Northern Pass and Massachusetts’s GHG reduction goal, the same research suggests that Northern Pass may not reduce GHG emissions at all before 2020, if ever. According to Hydro-Québec, a newly inundated reservoir has GHG emissions comparable to a modern natural gas power plant in the decade following flooding.  This chart from a Hydro-Québec paper, which itself likely underestimates reservoir emissions over time, tells the tale:

Natural gas plant and reservoir (Eastmain 1) emissions are similar in first decade of reservoir operation

And according to the developers’ projections, Northern Pass would overwhelmingly displace natural gas-fired generation (itself a missed opportunity to displace the output of coal-fired power plants).  If Northern Pass relies on new hydroelectric facilities in Canada for its power (as the developers and their consultant are assuming), Northern Pass as proposed will have no net effect on emissions in its early years and may never result in meaningful reductions, let alone 5 million tons per year.

Without the claimed reductions from Northern Pass, the Plan cannot come close to achieving the bold 25% reduction in GHG emissions that made headlines, even if every element of the Plan is implemented. In other words, there is a 5 million ton hole in the Plan that Massachusetts needs to fill with real and verifiable reductions.

CLF has been making this case during Massachusetts regulators’ review of the proposed merger of Northeast Utilities and NSTAR – the same companies behind Northern Pass – that week approval to form the largest electric utility in New England. Piggybacking on the Plan, Northern Pass’s developers are citing the emissions reductions from the project as the premier “climate” benefit that Massachusetts will supposedly get from the merger. That benefit appears right now to be a zero; particularly in light of the merger’s negative impacts, Massachusetts deserves a lot more to satisfy the “net benefit” standard that the merger must achieve to gain approval.

In the months ahead, we also will be pushing back against Hydro-Québec and its corporate allies in Massachusetts, who are now urging radical changes to Massachusetts’s clean energy laws that would subsidize large-scale hydropower imports, at the expense of local renewable energy projects that provide jobs and economic benefits in Massachusetts and throughout New England. The Plan itself explains the reason this is a bad idea – large hydro is a mature technology that is economic and cost-competitive without any additional public support; large hydro also has caused dramatic environmental damage and major disruptions to native communities in Canada. If imports secure little or no reduction in GHG emissions, the case for new subsidies disappears altogether.

Some may be hoping that no one is looking seriously at what Northern Pass would mean for the climate and that the Northern Pass debate will remain within New Hampshire’s borders. CLF, however, is committed to securing real scrutiny of Northern Pass’s misleading claims, ridding Massachusetts’s climate plan of its faulty reliance on Northern Pass, and advancing clean energy solutions that will, in fact, meaningfully reduce our region’s carbon footprint while enabling Massachusetts to achieve its full 25% reduction in GHG emissions by 2020.

Do the math, Senator Brown

Aug 6, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Thursday, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown sent a letter to Governor Patrick criticizing  the Governor’s mention of a potential state gas tax increase as one of the ways to provide additional revenue for the state’s dangerously underfunded transportation system. Yesterday, in response, 23 individuals and organizations throughout the State, including CLF, sent letters to Senator Brown and Governor Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Murray to urge an open and frank dialogue about what it will take to build and maintain the safe, reliable and affordable 21st century transportation system Massachusetts needs. The letters also pointed out that, contrary to Senator’s Brown’s statement that “Massachusetts motorists already pay a higher gas tax than the national average,” Massachusetts drivers actually pay 41.9 cents per gallon in combined local, state and federal taxes—about 15 percent lower than the national average of 48.1 cents per gallon.

Getting to the heart of the matter, let’s do the math.  In FY11, the State raised about $2.2 billion for transportation. Those funds came from registry fees ($500 million), motor fuel taxes ($662 million), and the general state sales tax ($1.1 billion). Another $313 million in tolls was collected and more than $451 million in transit fares. Local governments contributed about $150-200 million as local assessments supporting transit (low compared to the national average). Massachusetts qualified for $294 million n federal transit funds and about $600 million in federal highway funds in FY11.

Yet, highway capital needs for the next five years ($6.16 billion) are more than twice the available resources ($2.5 billion). The 2009 D’Alessandro report, requested by Governor Patrick, estimated that the MBTA state of good repair backlog is $3 billion and will require an annual expenditure of nearly $700 million simply to prevent system deterioration. And, we all know when we put off needed repairs, things only get more expensive to fix later on down the road.  The MBTA carries a debt of $5.5 billion (not including interest), and debt service—interest payments—constitute nearly 22% of the MBTA’s FY12 budget—the agency’s second single largest expense. The bottom line? Massachusetts’ transportation system is broke—and that’s about to get worse, as Washington is poised to cut dramatically transportation funding to states.

What do the numbers add up to? A threat to the State’s—and the region’s—economic competitiveness, quality of life, and environment. It’s a lose-lose-lose situation, and the obvious answer is that we need to increase transportation funding for roads, bridges, transit and pedestrian and bike ways. But that’s not enough. We’ve also got to get much smarter about how we spent those funds.

The people of Massachusetts need better ways to get around, including options that will help reduce global warming pollution, consistent with the States’ own Global Warming Solutions Act mandate. CLF is working to find a solution. Yesterday, CLF joined with more than 20 other organizations throughout the State to formally launch Transportation for Massachusetts (T4MA), a coalition dedicated to advocating for alternative financing and improved accountability in building a modern transportation system that works for Massachusetts. T4MA brings together a broad cross-section of groups, from transportation and regional planning interests to affordable housing, public health, environmental justice and smart growth organizations, that all have a stake in reforming transportation in Massachusetts. Learn more about T4MA here.

Patrick Administration wants to throw in the towel on Red Line/Blue Line Connector

Aug 5, 2011 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (“MBTA”) spider-map has been praised and replicated in countries around the world, but it only takes one short look at the transit map to realize one obvious missing link: the Red Line and the Blue Line are the only two of Boston’s rapid transit lines that do not intersect. Six governors, over more than two decades, have legally committed the Commonwealth to fix this obvious problem. Earlier this week, however, the Patrick Administration decided to buck this trend by seeking permission to permanently and completely remove the legal obligation to finish the final design of the Red/Blue Line Connector, without proposing to substitute any other project for it.

The Red/Blue Line Connector was originally supposed to be completed by December 31 of this year. Less than five years ago, the Commonwealth had reaffirmed that it would at least design the connector by the same date. Part way through the design, the Commonwealth is throwing in the towel, stating that it is unrealistic to expect that construction of this project will be funded, although it has never really asked the state legislature or the federal government to fund this critical transit project and has not considered any more affordable options to accomplish the same goal. This is a symptom of the chronic underfunding of our transportation system. Instead of pushing forward and advocating for increased revenue, the State is now entering a dangerous trajectory of just giving up on beneficial projects.

As a result of this missing link, transit riders traveling from points along the Blue Line to the Red Line, or the other way round, must transfer twice by using either the Green or Orange Line, reducing ridership and unnecessarily increasing congestion at downtown Boston stations including Government Center, Park Street, State and Downtown Crossing. The need to transfer twice restricts access to jobs, such as those at the academic and medical institutions along the Red Line, particularly for residents of East Boston, Revere, Winthrop and Lynn, for whom the Blue Line is the only accessible subway route. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) projected that the Red/Blue Line Connector would more than double daily boardings, from 10,050 to 22,390, at the Charles/MGH Station alone.

The absence of a direct connection between the Red and Blue Lines makes travel far more difficult than necessary and often discourages the use of public transit. For example, coming home from Cambridge, an East Boston resident has to wait on three different platforms for three trains. This can take particularly long for people who work at night, as many do, since the MBTA Rapid Transit lines’ arrival and departure times at Park Street, Government Center, Downtown Crossing and State Street are not coordinated and the trains are frequently delayed.  Even if on schedule, at 9:00 p.m. on a weekday, a trip from Harvard Square to Maverick Station involves 28 minutes of waiting time alone. By contrast, the route can be driven in only 16 minutes, resulting in a clear disincentive to use public transportation and contravening the State’s policy, articulated in the Global Warming Solutions Act and elsewhere, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

Many people, however, do not have the choice between driving and taking public transportation. The Blue Line, more than any other MBTA rapid transit line, serves almost exclusively communities where a large percentage of residents depend on mass transit. At the same time, residents of these communities are also in need of greater access to jobs. Likewise, many Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) patients need to travel from Revere, where MGH has a satellite clinic, to the hospital’s main campus in Boston’s West End. Taking public transportation under the current circumstances is not a simple trek for the infirm.

The Department of Environmental Protection now gets to decide whether the Commonwealth can proceed to request a revision of the State Implementation Plan under the Clean Air Act from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Let’s hope that someone in the process that lies ahead has the vision to create not only a praiseworthy map but a good underlying public transportation system.

CLF applauds new biomass regulations for MA

May 3, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

CLF praised the Patrick Administration today for announcing its new regulations on biomass energy for Massachusetts. CLF has been instrumentally involved in the state’s  debate over biomass, helping to bridge the gap between environmental interests, forest advocates and policymakers in the state. CLF and others have fought for science-based rulemaking that would allow certain biomass projects to receive state subsidies only if they contribute to the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals while ensuring protection of its valuable forestry resources. Read the proposed regulations in their entirety here.

“We are encouraged that the state has looked to the latest science and public input to craft these nation-leading regulations and to identify more responsible policies for biomass energy in Massachusetts,” said CLF Massachusetts Director Sue Reid. More >

Milestone for Cape Wind: Statement from Conservation Law Foundation

Dec 2, 2009 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

capewind_smallContact: Sue Reid, CLF Senior Attorney (617) 850-1740, sreid@clf.org
Karen Wood, Director of Communications (617) 850-1722, kwood@clf.org

Today marks a critical milestone for the 130-turbine Cape Wind offshore wind energy project as the project has reached an agreement with electric utility National Grid, in consultation with the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, to negotiate a long-term commitment for the purchase of the project’s power. Cape Wind is one of New England’s most promising solutions for addressing climate change and reducing the region’s dependence on polluting fossil fuels.

“By committing to ensure that Cape Wind’s emissions-free energy will be delivered to tens of thousands of Massachusetts homes and businesses, Cape Wind, National Grid and the Patrick Administration are leading the way to a clean energy future,” said CLF President John Kassel.

CLF has been working across New England for more than fifteen years to promote long-term commitments for the purchase of renewable energy, like the one that is now expected for Cape Wind. Such agreements often provide critical support for the financing of renewable energy projects while also providing stable energy prices to electric customers for years to come, taking energy bills off the fossil fuel roller coaster.