Searching for Energy in Massachusetts

Lawmakers on Beacon Hill are looking for energy sources to power Massachusetts into the future. With the news that Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant will be closed by May 2019 and the rejection of Kinder Morgan’s $3.3 billion natural gas pipeline into Massachusetts, the Commonwealth must find additional energy sources. Experts estimate that 8,000 megawatts will be lost in the next four years.

At this critical juncture, advocates see an opportunity to push investment in renewable energy. In 2015 alone, two dozen renewable energy companies spent over $1.5 million pushing for greater diversification of energy sources. This push has already seen some results.

In April, Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill raising the net metering cap on solar energy in the state. This after SolarCity spent $220,000 lobbying state lawmakers last year. However, solar power alone will not fill the need for energy in the Northeast. That’s why the Governor has been pushing for legislation to encourage utilities to purchase as much as 2,400 megawatts from Canadian hydropower plants.

windmillIn addition, lawmakers, including Rep. Thomas Golden (D-Lowell), see a new opening for the development of offshore wind power. Failed projects such as Cape Wind have provided lessons learned for a new crop of developers. Most now plan to build further out to sea where the turbines would not be visible from land. Detractors who have questioned the cost of wind power were also rebuffed by a University of Delaware study which concluded that the prohibitive factor in wind power was the initial installment of the transmission cables, but that once these investments were made, the cost of offshore wind would decline by 55% thereafter.

While lawmakers work on a new state energy plan, developers are pushing to require utilities to sell 2,000 megawatts of wind power over the next decade. At that scale, project costs are estimated at $10 billion. Smaller scale projects in Rhode Island have included union members from laborers, carpenters, electrical workers, ironworkers, elevator constructors, plumbers, pipe fitters, cement masons, operating engineers and stevedores.

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