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Massachusetts Passes Compromise Energy Bill: “An Act to Promote Energy Diversity”

EmmamHowe MA, United States 0 Ratings 33 Discussions 1 Group posts

Posted by: EmmamHowe // Marketing/Green Policy Development

The Massachusetts State Legislature has devised a compromise energy bill to be sent Gov. Charlie Baker. Though significantly less specific than the original Senate draft bill, it still requires the state to purchase a great deal more energy from offshore wind and other renewable sources. The bill requires Massachusetts’ utilities to seek out and establish long-term contracts to procure 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power--a number halfway between the 1,200 megawatts proposed by the House and the 2,000 megawatts proposed by the Senate. The bill would also require Massachusetts to seek out and establish long-term contracts for 1,200 megawatts of hydropower or other renewable resources, such as land-based wind or solar.

Entitled “An Act to Promote Energy Diversity,” the bill is designed to address Massachusetts’ growing energy needs through increased efficiency measures; grid modernization; and a shift to more renewable sources of energy. Though some are praising the bill as a monumental success, many are disappointed that the bill has done away with key provisions included in the previous versions. In a statement made Monday morning, State Sen. Ben Downing, D-Pittsfield, Senate chairman of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy said “I don’t that where we ended up is nearly as strong as where the Senate was. But both the administration and the House had a far narrower view, and that made for a rather difficult negotiation." Still there are others who believe that though the bill has been watered down, it should still be seen as an important victory for renewable energy in MA. State Rep. Thomas Golden, D-Lowell, House chairman of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, believes the bill can be built on in future years. "Energy is not a one-shot deal," Golden said. "I really, truly believe next year we'll be doing another energy bill, and the year after that we'll be doing another energy bill.

What The Bill Includes:

- The bill includes Senate language requiring the state to develop a plan to repair gas leaks, previously ignored by the utilities
- The bill allows Massachusetts to secure the largest amount of offshore wind in the United States at 1600 MW. MA will now have the largest commercial offshore wind farm in the country
- The legislation includes energy storage targets for the electric utilities
- The bill forms a committee to oversee the safe decommissioning of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth

The Bill Does Not Include:

- The bill does not include a Senate amendment that would have barred utilities from charging customers fees to cover the cost of building new natural gas pipelines. As it stands now, the DPU can, in theory, move forward with charging electric customers for new gas pipeline capacity
- The bill failed to increase the amount of energy that the state requires utilities to buy from renewable sources, the so-called renewable portfolio standards (RPS).
- The bill includes provisions favored by the Senate to increase the use of energy storage technology. And small in-state hydropower projects would receive a slight increase in a tariff that is paid by ratepayers.
- The bill does not include provisions requiring home energy audits.
- The bill does not include further information or regulations about solar energy or the solar industry
- The 1,200 MW of hydropower, although an initial environmental success, will most likely be sourced by Canadian hydropower, which doesn’t provide local jobs and doesn’t keep energy dollars here in Massachusetts.

What clean energy and environmental advocates had to say:

The environmental advocacy group Clean Water Action praised the bill in its commitment to offshore wind power and its focus on repairing gas leaks, but the group criticized lawmakers for not including any provisions regarding the “pipeline tax.” Joel Wool, a spokesman for Clean Water Action, believes "it is disappointing to see the legislature fail to enact pertinent consumer and environmental protections.”

The National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) Northeast Regional Center believes that the legislature has made a critical and historic down payment in wind energy that will reduce pollution, create jobs and “position the Bay State as the hub of a new American industry. Massachusetts should be really proud of our legislators today.” According to the NWF, that with over 8,000 MW of clean power available in areas designated for development far from shore, the passage of this bill is just the beginning of MA’s next energy chapter. Also, according to a September 2015 TargetSmart survey, the NWF reveals that Massachusetts residents strongly support adding offshore wind power to the state’s energy portfolio, with 78% of voters supporting offshore wind turbines at least 10 miles from the coast and a majority (52%) strongly supporting it.

All in all, the bill is a major milestone when it comes to clean energy in Massachusetts. Though it is still important to recognize that our work to further Massachusetts’s renewable energy future is not done. There are still many issues that will need to be addressed during the next legislative session, including concerns regarding the “pipeline tax” and solar energy. Many citizens and advocates stand against natural gas pipeline projects, which stand to significantly increase the amount of fracked gas delivered to the eastern part of MA. Pipeline opponents believe the added capacity is not necessary and would rely on increases in consumer utility rates, locking the state into future dependence on fossil fuels. Advocates also criticize the bill for not adequately including any provisions regarding the solar industry.

Solar is a crucial part of Massachusetts’s clean energy economy, and it could provide citizens with thousands of jobs as well as grow the economy if given a more level playing field. Governor Baker should prioritize the solar industry and and the “pipeline” tax as these are major components of the business environment as well as the clean energy economy. As renewable energy advocates, we must continue to push for more solar projects, greater RPS standards and an end to the building of new gas pipelines.

For more information and the full version of the bill see:
http://nawindpower.com/mass-bill-calls-for-1600-mw-of-offshore-wind-opens-commercial-market
http://www.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/08/massachusetts_legislature_vote_1.html
https://malegislature.gov/Bills/189/House/H4568

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