The Codcast: Are we doing enough on clean energy?

Massachusetts is in the midst of procuring vast amounts of clean energy, but on Beacon Hill clean energy advocates say the state isn’t doing nearly enough.

The Senate approved legislation that would triple the annual increase in renewable energy purchases. The House last week took up a bill that would have doubled the annual increase, but then, under pressure from some in the business community, watered it down when the legislation came up for a final vote. The House and Senate will now have to decide whether they can come to agreement on a final bill.

It’s become one of the hottest issues on Beacon Hill, but few understand it well. Three chamber of commerce CEOs, in an op-ed in CommonWealth, insisted Massachusetts was falling behind its neighboring states in pursuing renewables. The CEOs even suggested the state’s bid to build an offshore wind power industry was in jeopardy if much higher renewable purchases were not mandated. “We cannot afford to lose this competition to other states,” they said.

Today’s Codcast takes a closer look at the complex issue and the big takeaway is that the debate over renewables is really a debate about which renewables we should promote.

First, a little background. Massachusetts runs a system to subsidize the development of renewable energy. The state requires companies selling electricity to residents in Massachusetts to purchase a minimum amount of renewable energy each year, and certify those purchases by acquiring renewable energy credits from the suppliers. The renewable energy credits, or RECs, represent the subsidy ratepayers are providing to support the development of the renewable energy.

Electricity sellers this year are required to purchase RECs equal to 13 percent of their sales, a percentage that increases 1 percentage point a year. The Senate bill would boost the annual increase to three percentage points; the House bill would boost the increase to 2 percentage points for 10 years before dropping it back to 1 percentage point.

The catch is that only certain types of renewable energy are eligible for RECs. Solar and wind power, both of which are emerging technologies, are eligible, while large-scale hydroelectricity, a mature technology, is not. The current debate is primarily about which type of renewable energy we should encourage.

Deborah Donovan, the Massachusetts director of the Acadia Center, which advocates for clean energy, said in an op-ed (co-authored with Eugenia Gibbons of the Mass Energy Consumers Alliance) and on the Codcast that the increase in the renewable mandate is really about creating the right incentives for home-grown solar and wind projects, which yield greater benefits in terms of jobs and economic development. A higher mandate will offer more incentives to these types of projects, she said.

Robert Rio, a senior vice president at Associated Industries of Massachusetts, said the focus should be on clean energy and not any particular type of clean energy. “You can only get to 100 percent [clean energy,]” he said. “How you get there is what this discussion is about.”

Rio said increasing the renewable energy mandate beyond its current level will steer the market toward solar and wind power and away from hydroelectricity from Canada. “Here we are turning our backs on hydro and now we’re saying this zero carbon energy is not the same as that zero carbon energy,” he said. “You’ve basically put all your eggs in the solar and offshore wind basket.”

Donovan said the state needs all the clean energy it can get. “It’s not necessary to pit one low carbon energy source against another. What’s important is to use the right tool for the job,” she said. “It’s not an either-or. That’s just a false dichotomy.”

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

The state agreed to take over the Essex County Regional 911 Center, which means participating municipalities will no longer have to chip in operating funds. (Salem News)

A Herald editorial pans a Senate bill that would automatically register people to vote when they have interactions with the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo promised a response to the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling, but other states are moving faster to make it harder for public employees to leave unions. (Governing)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Gateway Cities discover the value of food. (CommonWealth)

Mayor Marty Walsh insists that Boston is not “at war with Quincy” over his wish to rebuild Long Island Bridge, something Quincy leaders strongly oppose, and says he’s had “conversations” with Quincy Mayor Tom Koch over the standoff. (Boston Herald).

Developer Sal Lupoli is talking up another major project in Lawrence, this one including a 20-story apartment tower, a 70-room hotel, a parking garage with an athletic field on top, and a row of restaurants and stores. (Eagle-Tribune)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

A Globe editorial says President Trump’s trip to Europe has featured “one embarrassment and misstep after another” — and this was before today’s meeting with Vladimir Putin. Regardless of the outcome, Putin comes out ahead just by meeting with Trump. (New York Times)

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera threatens to sue Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his remarks suggesting the city harbors drug dealers. (Eagle-Tribune)

Joe Fitzgerald says Alan Dershowitz has liberals to thank for making him great again — or at least putting him in the news — as the retired law professor draws publicity for the shunning he said he’s experienced by the beautiful people of Martha’s Vineyard because of his views on the investigation of President Trump. (Boston Herald)

While the Trump administration focuses on the Mexican border to try to tamp down immigration, the Mexican government has its own immigration crisis at the border with Guatemala as refugees flee criminal violence and political upheaval in Central and South America. (U.S. News & World Report)

Israel released a trove of documents it says were found in a raid in Iran that shows the extent of the Iranian secret nuclear weapons testings sites. (Washington Post)

ELECTIONS

Secretary of State William Galvin says a citizenship question doesn’t belong on the US Census forms, and warns that if it survives it could be costly for Massachusetts. (CommonWealth)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is very much laying the groundwork for 2020, but so are a handful of other Democrats. (New York Times)

The conservative Trump wing of the state Republican party is flexing its muscles in the three-way primary for US Senate. (Boston Globe)

Speaker Robert DeLeo, in an op-ed, urges voters to retain the state transgender rights law when a question that would repeal it appears on the November ballot. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Marcy Reed, the Massachusetts director of National Grid, explains why the company is locking out its employees. (CommonWealth)

Point-counterpoint on competitive electricity suppliers between Daniel Stevens and Tom Matzzie. (CommonWealth)

Like his union counterpart, Massachusetts Retail Association president Jon Hurst is “not completely happy” with the so-called Beacon Hill grand bargain, saying labor got much more than they gave up. (Keller@Large)

Unemployment is low, but wages are not rising as would be expected. (Boston Globe)

The owner of a Truro campground, already in a court fight with the town over the owner’s actions to clear 11 acres of topsoil, vegetation, and trees without permission, is proposing a 56-unit Chapter 40B housing development on the site. The proposal comes as the lower Cape struggles with an affordable housing crisis. (Cape Cod Times)

A 21-year-old MIT dropout is the brain behind a startup aiming to develop a “smart gun” that can only be fired by its owner. (Boston Herald)

Bank of America reported a 33 percent increase in earnings from interest rate increases and expects even higher profits with the new corporate tax cuts. (Wall Street Journal)

EDUCATION

Worcester is preparing to launch middle school sports programs in the coming year, and is now looking for private funding to help sustain the effort. (Telegram & Gazette)

Laura Perille brings an unorthodox background — with no teaching or school administration experience — to her new post of interim school superintendent in Boston. (Boston Globe)

UMass trustees vote to raise the average tuition 2.5 percent, or $351. (MassLive)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A Salem woman is alleging that high-profile psychiatrist Keith Ablow engaged in sexual contact and other boundary violations while treating her in 2015 and 2016. (Salem News)

TRANSPORTATION

East Bridgewater residents near a busy intersection on Route 106 are demanding officials do something about the potential “death trap” that has seen a spate of serious accidents. (The Enterprise)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter has asked the Department of the Interior to issue a final decision on its land-in-trust ruling for the Mashpee Wampanoag for its casino in Taunton. Carpenter says his administration’s plans for developing the Fairgrounds are “in limbo” while a group pursues a second chance at a Brockton casino license with the Taunton facility on hold. (The Enterprise)

Swansea voters will be asked a special Town Meeting to decide on zoning changes to allow a 50-acre family farm to grow recreational marijuana. (Herald News)

A Methuen woman is moving forward with a lawsuit alleging she was unfairly fired after using marijuana when not at work. (Eagle-Tribune)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A Weymouth police officer and a woman sitting in her home were shot and killed Sunday allegedly by a man who wrested the officer’s gun from him during a struggle following a car accident the officer was investigating. (Patriot Ledger) Emanuel Lopes, the man who was arrested, has a history with the police department. (MassLive)

The Supreme Judicial Court overturned a first-degree murder conviction in a 1994 Worcester homicide. (Telegram & Gazette)