Enviros hail ‘a landmark moment’ for Mass. clean energy

Source: Daniel Cusick, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, August 4, 2016

Clean energy advocates yesterday hailed Massachusetts’ adoption of the nation’s most ambitious offshore wind energy law, one requiring utilities to contract for 1,600 megawatts of power from offshore turbines by 2027.

“The Massachusetts Legislature hit a home run tonight,” Catherine Bowes, senior manager for climate and energy at National Wildlife Federation’s Northeast Regional Center, said in a statement following the Sunday passage of the long-negotiated energy measure, which also calls for significant increases in Canadian hydropower imports.

“With momentum building for offshore wind power along the coast, the Legislature has made a critical and historic down payment that will reduce pollution, create jobs, and position the Bay State as the hub of a new American industry,” Bowes added.

The clean energy measure’s emergence from a conference committee came as the minutes ticked down on House and Senate lawmakers to complete work before yesterday’s midnight deadline on the 2015-16 legislative session. The bill now moves to Gov. Charlie Baker (R).

Officials made clear the energy measures are necessary for Massachusetts to comply with the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008, which set the commonwealth on an aggressive schedule to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, increasing to 80 percent by 2050.

House and Senate negotiators had for months tried to reconcile different visions for the energy bill, including questions over how much offshore wind Massachusetts should procure.

A House version of the legislation passed earlier this summer called on the commonwealth’s utilities to contract for 1,200 MW of offshore wind energy, while the Senate adopted language calling for 2,000 MW. Negotiators essentially split the difference, settling on 1,600 MW of offshore wind.

“A larger procurement would have been preferable, but I think there is recognition that as part of the compromise the final figure was going to end up between what the House and Senate put forward,” Peter Shattuck, Massachusetts director of the nonprofit Acadia Center and co-leader of the Boston-based Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions, said in an email.

Winning the offshore wind race?

Another key point of contention between House and Senate negotiators was a proposal to strengthen the commonwealth’s renewable portfolio standard.

Senate sponsors sought to effectively change an annual 1 percent increase in the RPS requirement to 2 percent. But the measure was scrapped from the final conference committee report, which passed by a 157-1 vote. The Senate approved the measure on a voice vote.

While the compromise was a disappointment to some lawmakers, especially members of the Senate who fought for much more aggressive clean energy targets, observers noted that business-sector opposition to the RPS measure was strong enough to keep it from moving forward.

Among other things, the bill includes provisions strengthening standards for natural gas leak detection and repair, and provides support for the development of energy storage technologies.

It also encourages “bundled procurements” of renewable energy such as onshore wind and hydropower “in order to drive in-region development and maximize efficient use of transmission for clean energy,” ACES noted.

But the bill is likely to be remembered for its offshore wind energy procurement standard, setting Massachusetts well ahead of Atlantic Coast neighbors New York and New Jersey in the race to build the United States’ first utility-scale offshore wind sector.

“The adoption of this legislation is a landmark moment for Massachusetts’ clean energy future and a victory for the commonwealth’s residents and businesses,” said Thomas Brostrøm, general manager of DONG Energy Wind Power’s North America office in Boston.

DONG, one of Europe’s largest wind power developers, has committed to build up to 1,000 MW of offshore wind capacity at its planned Bay State Wind project roughly 15 miles off Martha’s Vineyard. DONG has said that winds off Massachusetts and its neighboring states are among the best in the world for producing large-scale wind energy.

“With world-class wind speeds and ideal water depths of between 130-165 feet, Massachusetts will be able to garner the economic benefits and supply chain development of being the first mover to site utility scale offshore wind energy on the East Coast of the United States,” the company said.

N.Y. adopts major clean energy program

New York also made news yesterday with the New York Public Service Commission’s adoption of key provisions of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s clean energy program. They include a robust expansion of wind and solar energy to meet a 50 percent state RPS by 2030 and a commitment to keep the state’s three nuclear power plants operating for decades longer (EnergyWire, Aug. 2).

Peter Iwanowicz, executive director at Environmental Advocates of New York, said in a statement that New York should follow Massachusetts’ example to achieve its climate objectives.

“On a program of this size and complexity, the devil is always in the details,” Iwanowicz said. “Clearly defining mandates for offshore wind and enhanced energy efficiency must be immediate priorities. Additionally, New York still needs a statewide and economy-wide climate action plan that extends beyond the power sector in order to achieve Governor Cuomo’s full climate and clean energy commitments.”