Two soundings from Somerset

Hydro vs. wind bet; $10b investment in Mass

IT WAS FITTING that Rep. Patricia Haddad would take a bow at a gathering on Thursday in Somerset celebrating the purchase of 47 acres at Brayton Point by an Italian company seeking to sell subsea cable to the East Coast’s emerging offshore wind industry.

Haddad, after all, got the ball rolling on offshore wind in Massachusetts. She put a hold on an energy bill pushed by former governor Deval Patrick in 2014 because it didn’t include offshore wind. Then she called offshore wind stakeholders to the public library in Somerset for a series of meetings where they hashed out a framework for offshore wind legislation.

Haddad is no starry-eyed environmentalist. She would tell you she would still be pushing coal if the coal-fired power plant at Brayton Point was still in business. But she knew in 2014 that it would be shutting down three years later and she knew the town needed something to replace the municipality’s largest taxpayer.

She settled on offshore wind as the replacement, and scored a major victory in 2016 when Gov. Charlie Baker signed an energy bill that required the state’s utilities to procure hydroelectric power from Canada and offshore wind.

Six years later, Haddad is still waiting for Vineyard Wind, the nation’s first industrial-scale offshore wind farm, to come online. But construction has started and now manufacturing is coming to Brayton Point.

“To say this has been a long-time coming is a massive understatement,” she told the assembled crowd at Brayton Point on Thursday. “The last several years have been extremely challenging. It’s my hope that this is the beginning of real change for our community.”

She also took a little dig at Gov. Charlie Baker. “Do I remember, governor, that you wanted to make a bet that hydro would be here before wind?” she asked.

Even as Vineyard Wind finally appears to be on track, a Massachusetts bid to import hydroelectricity from Quebec is floundering. Voters in Maine in November rejected a transmission line that would have brought hydro into New England. That was the second setback for hydro imports — the first came when New Hampshire regulators shot down a transmission line from Quebec.

US Rep. Jake Auchincloss said he regards Haddad as a partner, a mentor, and a role model. “You’re a role model for what it means for a public servant to fight for their district, to see a vision, sometimes years in the future, and, despite the dips and troughs and the roller coaster, to stay at it, to corral people, to knock heads together and sometimes that head has been mine.”

$10 billion in investments

Meet the Author

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.

Kathleen Theoharides, the secretary of energy and environmental affairs, said energy companies are starting to spend big in Massachusetts.

Theoharides said she met on Tuesday with José Ignacio Sánchez Galán, the chairman and CEO of Iberdrola, a multinational company based in Spain that is heavily invested in utilities and renewable energy. It is the corporate parent of Avangrid Renewables, which is building the Vineyard Wind and Commonwealth Wind offshore wind farms off the coast of Massachusetts.

Theoharides said Galán told her his company has invested a total of $10 billion in Massachusetts so far. She offered no details.