Raise the Renewable Portfolio Standard II

Boost is needed to keep up with other states

WIND HAS POWERED Massachusetts’ economic prosperity before, and it is poised to do so again.

Two hundred years ago, whalers harnessed wind off the coasts of New Bedford, Cape Cod, and Cape Ann, charting a course for whale oil to light up our region and economy. Today, our communities are again racing into the wind as we compete with neighboring states to ensure the Commonwealth is at the forefront of a fast-growing clean energy industry.

Recently, we joined a group of 10 Chambers of Commerce from across Eastern Massachusetts on a letter urging the Legislature to strengthen key policies such as the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and ensure the long-term viability of our clean energy economy. The letter follows the announcement that Vineyard Wind has been selected to develop the Commonwealth’s first offshore wind farm, which will develop 800 megawatts of clean energy beginning in 2021, roughly enough to electrify 450,000 homes.

This development off our southeastern coast is the first half of a Massachusetts commitment to build 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind, with the second procurement expected next year. The economic impacts for our region will be significant. New Bedford is positioned to become the operations center for staging and launching offshore wind turbines, which would bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investment.

All along the Massachusetts coastline, shore-side businesses that make products or provide services required for offshore wind manufacturing, construction, and maintenance will be propelled forward by this development. Bay State residents on the waterfront also stand to benefit from workforce training programs that will enhance year-round career options.

Last month, more than 120 Chamber of Commerce executives, business leaders, and clean energy experts toured offshore wind turbines off the coast of Block Island. The success of this project is a small sample of the enormous potential for the Massachusetts economy as our wind farms develop. But it also illustrated why we can’t just sit back and hope these projects succeed.

Neighboring states in our region have embraced RPS increases to support renewable energy growth. New York and New Jersey both aim for 50 percent energy supplies by 2030 and Connecticut is on track for 40 percent in that time frame. All of these states have passed more aggressive RPS goals than Massachusetts and committed to procurement mechanisms to compete for clean energy leadership in driving our region’s economic future. Meanwhile, on the same day that Massachusetts announced the Vineyard Wind project, Rhode Island announced new plans for a 400 megawatt wind farm in its own waters.

As chamber leaders committed to seeing our local economies succeed, we cannot afford to lose this competition to other states. We have seen clean energy projects deliver significant economic benefits that are good for our businesses, schools, communities, and economy. According to the Mass Clean Energy Center, this sector has already delivered $11.4 billion worth of investments and more than 109,000 jobs to our state, and we have plenty of room to grow.

In addition to continuing a competitive and accelerated offshore wind-bidding process, Massachusetts needs to ensure it can support the full potential offshore wind and other renewable energy development, such as onshore wind and solar.

Accelerating the RPS to put Massachusetts on track to achieve a 50 percent renewable energy supply by 2030 will allow offshore wind, solar, and other renewables to flourish in the most economical way. It will also create up to 43,000 additional jobs in the region and put Massachusetts in a better position to achieve its targets for reducing carbon emissions. Businesses will become more resilient to extreme weather and less vulnerable to electricity price hikes as well, thanks to the diversified energy mix that comes with an increased supply of renewables.

Meet the Author

Rick Kidder

President and CEO, SouthCoast Chamber of Commerce
Meet the Author

Ken Riehl

CEO, Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce
Accelerating the RPS will not only ensure that future developers investing in our waters can help us realize the full economic and environmental benefits that come out of these projects; it will also send a clear signal to renewable energy companies around the world that Massachusetts is the place to invest.

The potential for Massachusetts to become the next offshore hub is breathing new life into our coastal communities as we enter a new era for energy innovation. But to stay ahead of our neighboring states, the Legislature must provide the leadership and support that will truly allow us to thrive. The same cities that helped light our 19th Century economy are ready to lead us through the 21st; all we need is Beacon Hill to provide the spark.

Rick Kidder is president and CEO of the SouthCoast Chamber of Commerce, Wendy Northcross is CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, and Ken Riehl is CEO of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce.