This spring, clean energy is sprouting up all over Massachusetts. The Commonwealth is now in a terrific position to further solidify its promising trajectory and show the nation how it’s done – so long as we take a few critical actions.
By necessity, CLF and others continue to play serious defense. This includes directly confronting the region’s dirty and uneconomic coal plants, and partnering with local advocates to fend off new power generation facilities that would increase air pollution. This work continues to be an essential part of what we do.
But equally important is our work to advance clean energy solutions. This work is about “keeping the lights on” while reducing the pollution that contributes to climate change and worsens asthma attacks and other health impacts. In the wake of some energizing recent events, let’s take a moment to reflect on the progress we’re making in Massachusetts on the clean energy solutions side of the equation and what we need to do to keep it up.
Governor Patrick Fires Up the Troops
In a rousing and inspired clean energy address before over 200 clean energy leaders last week, Governor Patrick touted Massachusetts’s long list of recent clean energy achievements. It’s an impressive list, including a suite of forward-looking clean energy laws enacted in 2008: the aptly named MA Green Communities Act, Global Warming Solutions Act, and Green Jobs Act. These policies not only are reducing power plant pollution, they also helped spur the clean energy sector to become one of the few bright spots in the recent recession – with more than 60,000 new clean energy jobs in MA alone. At a time when families are struggling, this is indisputably good news.
Particularly inspiring was the Governor’s connecting of clean energy dots: as he noted, we can replace all of Massachusetts’ remaining dirty and uneconomic coal-fired power plants with clean offshore wind. This isn’t pie-in-the-sky futuristic thinking. We already have the tools we need to get the job done. With further contributions from other renewable energy resources, we can redirect the billions of dirty fossil fuel dollars Massachusetts currently sends out of state and instead re-power the Commonwealth with clean alternatives that promote local jobs and improve public health.
Reinforcing that everyone can and should be part of the solution, Boston Bruin Andrew Ference joined the Governor in touting the Massachusetts green revolution. Ference leads by example: he conserves energy by riding a bike, walking or taking the “T” to get around, recycling and composting. All of these simple and healthy alternatives reduce energy waste and associated energy impacts. And the Commonwealth must continue to bring the same dedication and ferocity to the fight for clean energy as Ference does to the rink.
Cape Wind Hearings Reflect Major Shift
Further evidence of the clean energy revolution in Massachusetts came through a series of Department of Public Utilities (DPU) public hearings in May. The hearings provided opportunities for the public to comment on a 15-year contract for the sale of some of the Cape Wind offshore wind energy project’s output to NSTAR electric. Even at the hearing on Cape Cod, where some opposition long has simmered, Cape Wind supporters vastly outnumbered opponents. The shift more strongly in favor of clean energy was palpable. Dozens of people lined up, often waiting for hours to say that they are willing to pay a modest premium for clean energy from Cape Wind.
One notable dynamic that was not reflected in media reports: an overwhelming number of young people and parents spoke in support of purchasing Cape Wind’s clean power. It’s about choosing a thriving future.
Massachusetts is on a roll. But we cannot afford to stall out just as we’re on the crest of the clean energy wave. Here’s what we need to do now:
• Enact MA Green Communities Act Part II. The 2008 MA Green Communities Act has been a resounding success, propelling Massachusetts to the head of the nation with respect to reducing energy waste, saving Massachusetts hundreds of millions of dollars (and counting), and giving a much-needed boost to the deployment of clean, locally available renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. But some of the Act’s modest programs soon will be maxed out. Fortunately, the MA Senate recently took action through Senate Bill 2214 to build upon the 2008 Act’s key renewable energy programs. Now, we look to the MA House of Representatives to take action to advance these key clean energy measures to the Governor’s desk by July 31.
• Fully implement the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act, including the adoption of regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act requires Massachusetts DEP to adopt regulations to keep Massachusetts on track to meet its clean energy and climate objectives. Among other advantages, such regulations will provide clear signals to the burgeoning market for clean energy alternatives, and will ensure that global warming pollution is reduced gradually over time. Despite the law’s clear mandate, DEP blew the January 1, 2012 deadline for adopting these critically important regulations. To ensure MA stays on track to meet its 2020 target, it’s essential that DEP take action to adopt smart, effective regulations without further delay.
• Get Cape Wind over the finish wire. More than a decade in the permitting and environmental review process, this project is primed to go forward and begin delivering huge amounts of clean power. CLF will continue to advocate before the Massachusetts DPU for approval of a 15-year contract for Cape Wind to deliver 27.5% of its output to NSTAR Electric customers.
There’s no question that Massachusetts has made tremendous progress on clean energy in the past few years. But as the Governor wisely noted in his clean energy address last week, “winners don’t stand still.” So, Massachusetts, let’s keep moving!