News & Press
Energy bill will energize state
Worcester Telegram Gazette
AS I SEE IT
June 27, 2012
This week, the state House of Representatives has a chance to do something good for the whole commonwealth: update the state’s pioneering energy policies so Massachusetts’ economy and its clean-energy leadership can continue to grow.
The House will take up an energy bill â€” a version of which already passed the state Senate unanimously â€” that tweaks existing energy programs to ensure continuing investment in efficiency and growing deployment of renewables. The bill would allow Massachusetts’ successful energy measures to keep scaling up â€” and keep energy costs coming down.
Massachusetts’ energy programs have advanced to the point where the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy has named Massachusetts the number-one state in the country for energy efficiency. Massachusetts companies such as Conservation Services Group provide energy-efficiency programs for businesses like National Grid and Berkshire Gas, and Next Step Living helps residential energy users increase their energy efficiency.
Efficiency and renewable energy investments create the kinds of jobs that cannot be outsourced, but that must be performed on-site. So it’s no surprise that Massachusetts’ clean-energy sector grew by more than 6 percent in 2011, despite the rocky economy. Some 64,000 of your Massachusetts neighbors work in the clean-energy economy, and that number is growing each year.
And that didn’t happen by accident. Leadership from the Deval Patrick administration and the Legislature â€” through measures like the Green Communities Act â€” have shortened the payback period for renewable and energy efficiency projects, making it possible for businesses, other organizations, and families to embrace clean-energy projects. Across the state, they are saving energy and money, deploying renewables, and keeping the air cleaner, while lessening pressure on the power grid and making rate hikes less likely.
But the target market for many of Massachusetts’ clean-energy companies is much broader. Around the world, clean-energy investment grew 5 percent in 2011 to hit a record $260 billion, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Clean-energy companies can set up shop anywhere. But in part because of the commonwealth’s strong research community, innovation economy and forward-looking policies, they are coming to Massachusetts, bringing jobs and economic development with them.
The bill on the House’s agenda this week will keep the momentum going. It would expand the cap under the popular net metering program, allowing more businesses, organizations, and homeowners who generate their own power to sell excess energy back to the grid. It would allow solar companies such as Nexamp and Borrego Solar to help municipalities and customers lower their energy costs.
Nexamp’s solar customers include General Mills in Methuen and EBSCO Publishing in Ipswich. Borrego Solar installed a system on the roof of the building that houses both the middle and high schools in Mashpee. These companies and towns are saving money and helping to create jobs in Massachusetts.
It would also allow long-term contracting â€” up to 20 years â€” for renewable energy customers, which would reduce the cost of borrowing money to build new wind installations and other clean-energy projects. Long-term contracting allows wind developers like Boston-based First Wind, which installs turbines in towns across the country, to save money for their New England customers. And it would standardize the property tax treatment of rooftop solar arrays, clearing what has been a roadblock for some new installations. This helps businesses get the best return on investment for solar adoption.
These fixes will ensure that Massachusetts keeps its leading edge, clean-energy economy growing. And it will help the state reach its renewable energy goal of 20 percent by 2020.
Beacon Hill’s energy policies are driving industry innovations that are delivering real benefits to Massachusetts’ economy and its environment. Don’t stop now. For continued economic growth and a more sustainable future, we urge the House to pass the energy bill.
Peter Rothstein is president of the New England Clean Energy Council.
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