Next steps on offshore wind
Three priorities for expanding wind energy production
AFTER PICKING Mayflower Wind to develop 800 megawatts of offshore wind energy, Massachusetts reached the second major milestone of Section 83C, the pioneering provision in state’s offshore wind legislation in 2016. But our legislative efforts with offshore wind are just getting started.
Two key trends help explain why. One is the rapidly declining price for wind energy, brought about in part by advances in technology. The other is the economic promise of offshore wind around the world. Wind energy (both offshore and onshore) already meets 10.4 percent of the European Union’s power demand and is considered the most competitive source of new power generation. As technology costs dwindle, Europe has already installed 18,000 megawatts with many thousands more on the way. We see our neighbors in New York targeting 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind. New Jersey is planning on 3,500 megawatts. Why not us?
As we look ahead, we need to take steps now to position the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a national leader making the most of our ocean resource. To stop now would squander great environmental and economic potential. Legislation I and my colleagues have filed this session seeks to move the offshore wind industry forward. Key provisions include:
- Double our offshore wind procurement. The Department of Energy Resources (DOER) pointed the way earlier this year in its report on the benefits of adding an additional 1,600 megawatts. It promises to be cost-effective, makes critical progress toward Massachusetts’ greenhouse emission goals, and it would set the Commonwealth on a path toward building an onshore supply chain for offshore wind that would bolster our blue economy while creating a new industry of renewable energy here in Massachusetts. With such low risk and high reward, it is important we leave the door open for further procurements down the road.
- Improve the selection process. Our incumbent utilities promise to play an important role in the growth of offshore wind, but they shouldn’t be a part of the selection process for projects they are bidding on. There’s no need to maintain an inherent conflict in the selection process, impartial as utility executives may attempt to be. This legislation would mandate that the selection committee consist of the secretary of energy and environmental affairs; the attorney general; the secretary of the executive office of housing and economic development; and the House and Senate chairs of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy.
- Make independent transmission a priority. Under 83c, developers must bundle wind farm development and the transmission system that brings the energy to shore into one bid. A separate bidding process for transmission would maximize competition and set the stage for a multi-user ocean grid that would allow wind farm developers to plug into rational, planned transmission rather than build their own individual transmission lines. If we’re going to reach real scale in wind energy, like they have in Europe (and domestically in Texas), we need open access transmission that serves multiple wind farms and reduces environmental and fishing industry impacts.
Patricia Haddad, a state representative from Somerset, is the speaker pro tempore of the House.