By Joyce Doherty
Boston University Statehouse Program
BOSTON — SouthCoast lawmakers say a bill proposed by Gov. Charlie Baker would establish Massachusetts as a leader in the wind energy sector and would be the largest investment in clean energy ever made by the commonwealth.
The offshore wind price cap will be removed and Massachusetts will invest $750 million from the American Rescue Plan Act into the commonwealth’s clean energy industry, according to Baker’s recent proposal.
The wind price cap debate has been going on since 2016, and while it was recognized that wind energy was the way to go, the governor wanted to do so with the stipulation of a specified price, according to Rep. Chris Hendricks, D-New Bedford.
“It was a short-sighted thing to be concerned about,” Hendricks said. “There wasn’t much demand for it so the price wasn’t going to be low, but over time the price did go down.”
Massachusetts clung to low energy prices at the expense of missing out on invested economic development from wind companies, according to Rep. Patricia Haddad, D-Somerset. Other states such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island took to higher prices to get companies to invest.
“Yes, the developers have offices in Boston, but the real job-creating parts of offshore wind have gone to New York and New Jersey,” Haddad said. “New York has made it clear that [investment] is part of the process. They’ve all realized that regardless they are going to get a low price because wind is just getting cheap, though wind itself is free.”
Even with the price cap, Massachusetts has the largest offshore wind project in the country and has brought a unique opportunity to the Southcoast and New Bedford area, according to Hendricks.
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity down here, the biggest opportunity in the area in a generation or more,” Hendricks said. “We are focused on training a new workforce down here and there are going to be workers ready for work.”
The National Offshore Wind Institute training facility in New Bedford is still under development and once opened will serve as a place to train wind workers and includes safety and technical training. The facility is a partnership between Bristol Community College — which currently offers courses in wind engineering — and the Denmark-based Maersk Training.
Another main provision of the bill includes a change in bid choosing power. Previously held by utility companies, it would now be in the authority of the Department of Energy Resources and utility companies would still remain part of the evaluation and selection process.
“The less they pay for the power, the more they can charge for the distribution,” Haddad said. “Now, four years later [from the original bill] the governor is realizing that this was not a good thing and that in order to get economic development, you have to bring in the secretary of economic development.”Your stories live here. Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.
By removing the price cap, the hope is that future bid selections will favor those that have additional benefits such as incorporating energy storage into proposed projects, according to the bill.
The new bill pushes Massachusetts forward as a leader in clean energy and continues to support development along the Bay State’s coast, even if the push is later than some expected.
“So it was funny as I’m reading [about the bill] I’m laughing because it’s like four years behind the rest of us,” Haddad said. “I guess the governor is seeing the writing on the wall and knows that it is time to get on board, and that is a big deal.”
This article originally appeared in SouthCoast Today.