By: Michael P. Norton |
Energy prices in the Boston area are down from a year ago, but remain well above national averages, contributing to the area’s high cost of living.
According to data released Wednesday, Boston households paid an average 20.3 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity in February, down from 22.5 cents in February 2015. But compared to the national average of 13.4 cents per kilowatt hour, electricity prices in Boston were about 52 percent higher.
Similarly, according to the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, natural gas prices paid by Boston area consumers in February were more than 30 percent higher than the national average – $1.167 per therm compared to $0.895 per therm. Households in the area have paid between 25.8 and 30.4 percent more than the national average for natural gas in February in each of the last five years.
Gasoline prices averaged $1.79 per gallon in the Boston area in February 2016, or 46 cents less than the average price in the area in February 2015. AAA reported Monday that its weekly price survey showed prices in Massachusetts had spiked 9 cents a gallon over last week.
Massachusetts lawmakers are trying to craft an omnibus energy bill to address the region’s loss of coal-fired power sources and the planned closure of a nuclear plant in Plymouth. Lawmakers appear poised to give the offshore wind and hydropower industries an opportunity to establish a footprint here, but are treading carefully, mindful of cost impacts associated with growing new energy industries.
Wind power costs will be lowered by as much as 55 percent over the next decade if Massachusetts commits to develop 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy, according to a study released this week by the University of Delaware’s Special Initiative on Offshore Wind.
In a statement, the study’s lead author Dr. Willett Kempton said, “The key is making a firm commitment to scale so the market can do its work. By providing market visibility – the state’s commitment to a pipeline of projects over a set period – the offshore wind industry in the U.S. can deliver energy costs on the kind of downward trajectory seen in Europe.”
Land-based wind energy costs in the center of the United States has expanded to the point where it competes on cost with all energy sources, according to the report, but “the U.S. has lagged in offshore wind power, with its first demonstration-size project beginning only last summer in Rhode Island.”
In 2010, legislation aimed at overhauling siting laws to reduce barriers to land-based wind energy projects cleared both branches of the Legislature but lawmakers were unable to move that bill to Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk. The bill died and the issue has been placed on the legislative backburner.
University of Massachusetts professor James Manwell of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering called the University of Delaware study a “thorough analysis of what offshore wind off the coast of Massachusetts is likely to cost in the near future.”
House Speaker Robert DeLeo says he expects an energy bill could reach the House floor in April.