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Massachusetts Legislature Passes Sweeping Clean Energy Bill

By Caroline Gordon 

The Massachusetts Legislature recently passed a sweeping clean energy bill, an act furthering the development of clean energy and offshore wind. 

The legislation aids green transportation, green buildings, and clean power production, including offshore wind, solar, storage and networked geothermal, while also creating thousands of new jobs and economic profits.

This bill includes the utilization of the offshore wind industry in Massachusetts. 

This legislation creates a Massachusetts Offshore Wind Industry Investment Program, administered by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), which consists of annual tax incentives, grants, loans, and other investments through the fund, and assistance from MassCEC in accessing other state or federal economic investment programs. 

Additionally, this bill creates the Massachusetts Offshore Wind Industry Investment Trust Fund, which can be used to further the manufacture, fabrication, and assembly of domestic supply chain components of the offshore wind industry, increase financing for permanent manufacturing facilities, advance clean energy research and innovation, and prepare people for offshore wind careers. 

Furthermore, the legislation modifies the price cap in order to set clear standards to allow for offshore wind project proposals that are cost-effective and promote economic development in Massachusetts and make the state’s offshore wind bidding process more competitive. 

Under this legislation, the price cap, which is a kind of economic regulation that sets a limit on the prices that a utility provider can charge, will be removed if three or more offshore wind developers submit bids, and if less than three companies bid, a modified price cap would remain in place.

The legislation also establishes a commercial fisheries commission to voice feedback on optimal practices for lowering the amount of and mitigating impacts to the wildlife near offshore energy generation and transmission.

It also confiscated control over awarding offshore wind energy contracts away from companies like Eversource and National Grid and instead, offered it to the state Department of Energy Resources. 

This bill adds to the Next Generation Climate Roadmap bill, which was passed earlier this legislative session and serviced the state’s climate laws by putting Massachusetts on track to reach net-zero limit on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

State Representative of the 10th Norfolk District Jeff Roy shared his thoughts on the state reaching the net-zero limit goal. 

“We will need a lot of clean energy to reach that ambitious goal. As such, Massachusetts must develop a source of affordable and abundant clean energy on our own shores — or rather, off it,” he said. 

Roy continued, “Offshore wind is a huge opportunity for Massachusetts. It is a large and growing source of clean energy around the world and is poised for rapid growth.” 

Roy noted Massachusetts waters have the largest technical offshore wind potential of any state in the contiguous U.S. He said the Commonwealth is “uniquely prepared to capitalize” on the nation’s budding offshore wind industry and become the “Saudi Arabia of offshore wind.”

He touched on the importance of clean energy, noting the negative impact climate changes have had on the Earth. 

“Clean energy is important because in February, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report showing that climate change is rapidly reshaping the world, including New England. It noted that we are on the front lines of the climate crisis and reminded us that if we are to minimize irreversible impacts, we must make unparalleled changes, including the creation of clean energy,” said Roy. 

Roy highlighted how, last November, voters in Maine approved a ballot measure that interfered with plans to develop a transmission line to deliver hydroelectric power from Canada to Massachusetts and the rest of the region, halting a strong supply of clean energy.

He touched on current world events, such as the War in Ukraine and how Russia is making threats to gas supplies, which alerted the legislatures of the critical need for energy independence. 

Roy added, “Our clean energy and offshore wind bill is carefully calibrated to provide robust clean energy, attract world-class manufacturing facilities, foster intensive workforce training initiatives, and provide the investments necessary to prepare our electric distribution system for the energy needs of the future. It builds on the power of wind not only to supply clean energy, but to provide robust economic development as well.”

State Representative Michael Soter, R-Bellingham, voted in favor of the measure. 

Representative Soter noted that the conference committee report removes a controversial gas fee proposal contained in an earlier version of the bill that would have implemented a charge of 14.65 mill per therm on gas customers until 2032 to support the Renewable Energy Trust Fund. He had spoken out against the fee since it was first proposed, calling it unfair to the state’s ratepayers. 

 Representative Soter was also happy to see changes were made to a provision establishing a pilot program that would allow up to 10 communities to require the use of fossil free fuel in all new construction projects. House Bill 5060 would limit participating communities to those who have already achieved a 10% affordable housing target and would also provide an exemption for health care facilities and life science labs. 

 According to Representative Soter, House Bill 5060 also makes changes to the state’s procurement cap on offshore wind, which currently requires each successive wind proposal to be less expensive than the previously selected bid. The conference committee report amends the statute by allowing a modified cap to remain in place if only two bids are received but removes the cap if three or more bids are submitted.