How to build an industry to support offshore wind

Baker prioritizes federal investment, Mariano says state must pony up

AFTER SIGNING the climate change bill into law on Friday, Gov. Charlie Baker and House Speaker Ron Mariano began an interesting discussion about how the state should go about building an onshore industry to support the development of offshore wind.

The climate change law authorizes the purchase of 5,600 megawatts of offshore wind, but it doesn’t say much about building an industry around this new source of electricity. Baker to date has focused his attention on securing the power at the lowest possible price, while other governors have put a stronger emphasis on building a supply chain to support the industry.

Now that Vineyard Wind is nearing its final approvals from the Biden administration, Baker was asked his plan for making southeastern Massachusetts a mecca for offshore wind businesses.

The governor indicated the federal government will probably play a leading role, either through an expected infrastructure bill or possibly the latest federal stimulus law. “It’s quite likely we could also do something here in Massachusetts, but generally speaking the federal resources are so much more significant they may be a better place for us to go. But I look forward to discussing that with the speaker,” Baker said.

Mariano on Thursday in a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce said he didn’t want the state to miss out on the coming offshore wind boom. He said he supports training for workers and borrowing money to make investments in the industry. He likened the effort to what the state did with life sciences in 2008, authorizing the expenditure of $1 billion over 10 years, which was followed by a law authorizing the expenditure of another $623 million in 2018.

Mariano on Friday said the state needs to invest in the industry, both for the training of workers and to help ancillary businesses get off the ground. “We’re going to need money if we want to be serious about being a hub and create an industry that looks like our biotech industry. We’re  going to have to be serious about putting some money into it,” he said.