|Through a series of laws passed over the last several sessions, the Legislature took major steps to develop a thriving offshore wind energy sector. We put in place many of the key policy elements necessary to maximize our opportunity to harness this affordable, renewable energy source. For instance, the 2050 Roadmap bill signed into law last year, increases authorized offshore wind procurements by 2,400 megawatts, for a total of 5,600 megawatts. That is enough energy to power 3.2 million homes. Another example of our work in this policy arena is reflected in expenditures made pursuant to the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. In that spending bill, we allocated $100 million for the necessary port infrastructure development and revitalization to support the offshore wind industry. In addition, the ARPA bill authorizes the state Department of Energy Resources to require distribution companies, like Eversource and other utility companies, to promote cost-effective offshore wind energy transmission. In a previous op-ed, I detailed many of the ongoing wind projects in New England, including Vineyard Wind.
Despite the progress detailed above, we need to do more to meet the requirements established in the Roadmap bill. And now we have done so. Last month, the House passed An Act Advancing Offshore Wind and Clean Energy. The legislation has the power to change dramatically how the state acquires wind energy, creates incentives for offshore wind companies, requires the modernization of our electrical grid and energy storage capacity, and advances training programs for offshore wind jobs.
This bill will:remove the current price cap that requires bids to be less expensive than previous procurements. This provision — now eliminated — has deterred companies from participating in the procurement process. Future procurements would include economic development, employment, and environmental and fisheries mitigation benefits. designate funding over the next decade to wind energy infrastructure, innovation, job training, and supply chain capacity.require utility companies to upgrade the transmission and distribution grid to improve reliability and resilience.provide investments to expand long-term energy storage.call for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE) to implement high school offshore wind credential training pilot programs. DESE would then reimburse school districts for each student that obtains the credential. establish an Offshore Wind Industry Investment Fund within the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, intended to promote and develop offshore wind facilities, provide incentives for companies, and fund workforce training and research.impose a charge on the use of natural gas, funneling the revenue generated to clean energy.This legislation is estimated to raise $23 million a year over the next ten years for offshore wind investment. However, consumers will only see a little over $1 a month in additional charges; virtually no cost is passed on to consumers. These provisions will reduce Massachusetts’s dependency on natural gas, which has proven to be vulnerable to price spikes, ultimately stabilizing ratepayer bills in the long term.
The legislative push to kickstart an offshore wind sector is not about fostering innovation for its own sake; it is an absolute necessity. To meet the Commonwealth’s ambitious climate goals (see the tracker in the section below), we must decrease our use of fossil fuels and replace them with clean, low-cost, and sustainable energy. Between 4000 and 9000 megawatts of older fossil fuel and nuclear power plants in New England are expected to close in the coming years. In addition to allowing us to meet our climate goals, the development of a robust offshore wind industry in Massachusetts will create thousands of new jobs – providing a substantial boost to our economy – while also providing a much-needed modernization of our energy infrastructure.
The passage of An Act Advancing Offshore Wind and Clean Energy is essential and another major milestone in the portfolio of clean energy bills advanced in recent years. This legislation now goes to the Senate for its consideration.
Tracking our Progress Towards Net Zero
The Roadmap bill puts us on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050. To get there, we will need to track our progress carefully and the Environmental League of Massachusetts developed an online tool intended to follow targets set in the law. You can see if the state is on track to meeting our net-zero goals here: https://netzeroma.org/
For more general information, I wrote an op-ed describing the new Roadmap Climate and Clean Energy law and you can read it on the Belmont Citizens Forum.