By Katherine Hapgood
Boston University Statehouse Program
BOSTON — Local legislators say the recent overwhelming passage of a clean energy bill is “vital” for the energy independence of the state, could increase jobs, improve the economy, and advance the state’s goals of zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The bill, passed by the House and sent to the Senate on March 3, would create a $50 million tax incentive program for investments and employment in the wind sector.
Other components include directing electric utilities to develop plans for grid modernization, making the offshore wind bidding process more competitive, and investing several million dollars over the next decade in several categories, but primarily infrastructure.
The bill allows the state “to be able to take advantage of that great product and turn it into the energy we badly need,” said state Rep. Jeff Roy, D-Franklin, House chair of the Legislature’s Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy.
The offshore wind turbines would be located 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, where “some of the most robust winds in the entire continuous United States” are located, Roy said.
According to an analysis by Oceana, a nonprofit focused on ocean conservation through policy, Massachusetts could potentially supply 130% of the state’s electric generation with offshore wind, which could save the state $2.1 billion yearly.
“It shows the power of wind not only to be able to produce clean energy, but it also has the ability to produce tremendous and robust economic development at the same time,” Roy said.
The bill “makes vital investments in our commonwealth’s offshore wind potential,” added state Rep. Jack Lewis, D-Framingham.
While Roy, Lewis, and state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, each gave credit to House Speaker Ron Mariano, D-Quincy, for initiating the legislation, other factors were involved in the timeliness of the bill.
“With our current geopolitical realities, both economic and environmental, it is more vital than ever that we seek additional clean energy resources closer to home,” Lewis said.
The current Ukrainian crisis and the steep increase in gasoline prices from Russian oil make the bill “even more timely,” Roy said. Also, voters in Maine rejected the Hydro-Québec powerline construction last September, eliminating a supply of “substantial amount of clean energy.”
“We have to move further to develop energy independence in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Roy said.
Eldridge said he “suspects the Senate bill will have some other components” than the House version, including electrifying public transportation,” along with “modernizing the grid” and “solar energy.”
State Rep. Maria Robinson, D-Framingham, and Eldridge co-sponsored the bill, which passed in a vote of 144-12.
The “substantial margin” of passage shows the “overwhelming support and bipartisan support for all of the ideas incorporated into the bill,” Roy said.
This article originally appeared in the MetroWest Daily News.