Energy Bill Proposed in Massachusetts Contains Unprecedented Commitment to Offshore Wind Power

Offshore wind turbines in the North Sea (Photo credit: London Array)

Offshore wind turbines in the North Sea (Photo credit: London Array)

2015 is gearing up to be a major turning point in America’s offshore wind power story. For years, debate, misinformation, and fossil-fuel funded opposition have kept America from hosting a single one of the more than 2,000 offshore wind turbines creating clean energy and quality jobs worldwide. That will finally change this year, when the fully permitted Block Island Wind Farm begins construction on its five turbine demonstration project far off the coast of mainland Rhode Island.

Creating Opportunities for Economic Development

Massachusetts was an early leader in pursuit of offshore wind power.With the foresight to develop the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, the Commonwealth is well positioned to launch the robust offshore wind industry New England needs to ensure a diverse energy portfolio that can buffer ratepayers from expensive fossil fuel market spikes, create massive economic development opportunities across the state, and protect our communities and wildlife from the dangers of climate change.

In order for Massachusetts to reap the many economic and environmental benefits offshore wind power can deliver, the state needs to make a strong commitment to including this massive, local clean energy source into its energy portfolio. Just last week, Speaker Pro Tempore Pat Haddad of Somerset introduced an energy bill that includes a state offshore wind policy of nationally unprecedented scale. The proposed legislation, An act to promote energy diversity (HD 3217), outlines a range of suggestions for where the Commonwealth should get its power in the coming years. Much of the bill includes provisions that are fundamentally inconsistent with meeting the Commonwealth’s Global Warming Solutions Act and ensuring a strong market for local, job creating clean energy industries, and we are committed to advocating for substantial revisions. The offshore wind power provision is a shining exception – a clear example of the type of policy that is critically needed to launch the nation toward the clean energy frontier waiting over our horizon.

A strong and effective state offshore wind policy in Massachusetts can provide long-term market certainty needed for this new industry to take off. A commitment to offshore wind power of the scale that Rep. Haddad has outlined – more than 2,000 megawatts (MW) by 2030 – is currently the missing puzzle piece. It creates the market stability needed to attract confident investors, and  guarantees the long-term protection for ratepayers from the price volatility we are experiencing as a result of our current over-reliance  on imported natural gas. It presents values that could position Massachusetts and the region to welcome thousands of megawatts of clean, homegrown power – and finally start catching up with our neighbors across the Atlantic.

Massachusetts Leads in the Development of Offshore Wind Power

Massachusetts Wind Energy Area (BOEM)

Massachusetts Wind Energy Area (BOEM)

Massachusetts is regarded as a leader in the pursuit of offshore wind power, and next week will again take the national stage in America’s offshore wind story. On January 29th the federal Department of the Interior will hold an auction for the 742,000 acre Massachusetts Wind Energy Area positioned 12 miles south of Nantucket. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that the area could power 1.6 million homes. Combined with the adjacent Wind Energy Area that was leased to Deepwater Wind in 2013, Massachusetts has direct access to over 8,000 MW of clean energy far off our shores – a staggering amount of reliable power. And thanks to over two decades of development in Europe, the advanced technology needed to harness this abundant wind resource is commercially available, affordable, and offers pivotal economic development opportunities along the South Coast and across the Commonwealth.

The Baker Administration has indicated firm intentions to maintain the state’s reputation of clean energy leadership while protecting ratepayers from the costly roller coaster of our heavy reliance on natural gas that Northeasterners know all too well. Now is the moment to embrace an energy solution that makes sense for Massachusetts: one that is right where we need it, and has the ability to produce the most power at our energy grid’s most strained moments. Offshore wind power will pour energy into the electric grid at rates we can predict and plan for, making those crippling price spikes with each cold snap a burden of the past. And, it will create long-term, high-quality jobs in the Commonwealth and throughout the region.

Our wildlife, coastal communities, and future generations are counting on a strong reduction in carbon emissions to curb the dangers of climate change. Responsibly developed offshore wind power has a major role to play in the clean energy future we are reaching for, and we have no time to waste. 2015 is off to a confident start – let’s make sure Governor Baker and Massachusetts’ legislative leaders lead us forward with a strong offshore wind commitment.

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