Senate bill would ramp up clean energy development

Business groups fret about cost, say some provisions unwise

THE SENATE IS PREPARING to take up legislation that would dramatically ramp up the state’s development of clean energy, but many of the provisions in the bill have been derided as costly or unwise by the business community.

The bill, which is expected to come up for a vote in the Senate next week, would sharply increase the amount of renewable energy electricity sellers must purchase every year on behalf of their customers. Under current law, the requirement for 2018 is 13 percent and that amount increases by 1 percentage point every year. The Senate bill would increase the annual increase to 3 percentage points a year.

Sen. Marc Pacheco of Taunton said strong measures are needed if the state is to meet its targets for greenhouse gas reduction. “We are just not moving fast enough,” he said.

The bill directs the Baker administration to establish “market-based compliance mechanisms” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation and commercial-industrial-residential building sectors and to deploy 2,000 megawatts of energy storage by 2025.

The legislation would also allow the Baker administration to procure a lot more offshore wind power. Current law authorizes the procurement of up to 1,600 megawatts; the Senate bill would permit the purchase of up to 5,000 megawatts. The bill also allows the purchase of more hydro-electricity.

Bob Rio, the senior vice president for government affairs at Associated Industries of Massachusetts, has been critical of legislative proposals that would increase the amount of renewable energy sellers of electricity much purchase on behalf of their customers, saying the measures could end up being counterproductive.

In a blog post on the business group’s website, Rio pointed out that hydro-electricity does not qualify as renewable energy under the statute requiring greater and greater purchases of renewables. As a result, he said, hydro power at some point will become ineligible to be sold in Massachusetts as the mandate for renewables increases. He said the tipping point could come before the end of the proposed 20-year contract the state is currently negotiating for hydro-electricity.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

“The result is that Massachusetts business and residential consumers will end up paying for hydro power they can’t use,” Rio said. “That conundrum could significantly impact the cost-effectiveness determination of the proposed hydro power contract.”

Rio also said it makes no sense to crowd out hydro and put all of the state’s energy needs in the basket of wind power.