Massachusetts Updates Its Climate Song: I Can Get By With A Little Help From My (Canadian) Friends

Earlier this week, Massachusetts released its updated Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020.  The headline for the press release was “Massachusetts on Track to Meet 25% Greenhouse Gas Reduction Target for 2020”.  The slightly more nuanced version is that we can do it, but only with a large dose of Canadian hydropower.

While that’s the main take-away, it really is a useful report, with a lot of important information.  Here are some highlights:

  • The “dominant source of emissions reductions [to date] came from the electric sector.”
  • Emissions from transportation have barely budged, because vehicle miles traveled have gone up, even as mileage has improved. As a result, the mobile combustion percentage share of GHG emissions has risen from 32.3% to 41%.  It’s going to be a slog to move those numbers significantly.
  • Going forward, the Report states that the two most significant sources of further reductions up through the 2020 target are “additional clean electricity”, which EOEEA Secretary Beaton’s cover letter makes clear largely means imported hydroelectric power, and vehicle GHG emissions standards.

What I find most interesting is that there isn’t anything in the report that looks like cost-effectiveness analysis, comparing what types of controls would allow the Commonwealth to reach to 2020 target at minimum cost.  At a certain level, that’s what the import of hydropower is about.  However, as I noted a few months ago, it’s not totally clear that the all-in cost of hydropower is as low as it seems.  At the very least, there has been no really hard look at the most cost-effective way of attaining the GWSA goals.

The absence of cost-effectiveness analysis points in another direction.  If we had an economy-wide cap-and-trade system, we wouldn’t need cost-effectiveness analysis, because the market would do that analysis for us.

Markets have their uses.

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