Massachusetts state senate votes today to give governor unprecedented powers under comprehensive energy bill
Brimfield, MA, March 29, 2012 – This afternoon, the Massachusetts state senate intends to vote on a bill that gives the governor unprecedented control over the New England electricity market. It is S.2200, An Act Relative to Competitively Priced Electricity in the Commonwealth.
S.2200 is a far-reaching bill that empowers the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center – with almost all board members appointed by the governor and answerable to no one else – to enter the electricity and transmission markets by signing long-term contracts for renewable energy and new transmission anywhere in New England. It will then sell the electricity into the wholesale market and sell the credits and transmission rights through competitive bidding.
The new authority for MassCEC kicks in after an independent determination that there is not enough renewable energy in New England to satisfy the state’s escalating annual mandates. Since all six states are competing for the same scarce resources, regional supplies are already forecasted to be inadequate.
With unilateral power to decide how many renewable energy contracts to sign and how much electricity to sell into the market, the governor’s decisions will dictate the market actions of conventional power suppliers, and could drive up electricity costs for all consumers.
Massachusetts ratepayers will be liable for the 20-year and 30-year contracts signed by MassCEC even if state policy changes once legislators realize its renewable energy mandates are too costly.
S.2200 was written by the governor’s staff and sponsored by Senator Ben Downing, co-chair of the Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy Committee. It is a complex bill that has been rushed through the senate. It was announced on Tuesday morning; by the end of the day it had been reported out of two committees. By yesterday afternoon, there were 75 pages of amendments, and the floor vote is expected today.
“This is yet another power grab by the governor who is intent on achieving his aggressive renewable energy agenda, no matter what the consequences are to communities or our pocketbooks,” said Eleanor Tillinghast, a member of the Wind Wise ~ Massachusetts steering committee.
S.2200 also strips communities of the right to fully tax industrial renewable energy projects as real estate. This right was affirmed recently by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.
Instead, communities will be entitled to no more than 5 percent of the value of the annual electricity output of the projects as a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT).
S.2200 has a provision to double net-metering, from a 3 percent to a 6 percent cap, whereby renewable energy facility owners sell electricity to the grid at retail instead of wholesale prices by using town governments as the conduit. The towns get paid for this service, but that revenue is discounted against the 5 percent PILOT, and is far less than what the towns would get under full taxation.
“The renewable energy industry gets lavish subsidies from the federal and state governments, and now they want towns that are already hurting financially to subsidize them, as well,” said Viginia Irvine, a Wind Wise ~ Massachusetts steering committee member.
“The governor claims renewable energy costs will decline under this bill. That’s simply not true. Paying for new transmission will cost billions, and no one has calculated the cost of all the contracts MassCEC could sign,” explained Barry Cosgrove of Wind Wise ~ Massachusetts. “The bill contains other subsidies, too, but no one has studied the long-term cumulative costs to the ratepayer,” he added.
In its 2012 strategic plan, the American Wind Energy Association writes that “The Patrick administration wants to drive regional procurement plus a higher wind target (30%) for the state and the NE region.”
“Clearly, the governor and the wind industry are collaborating to push hundreds of new wind turbines and untold miles of new transmission into our tiny state, but no one is disclosing where they will put all that new infrastructure,” concluded Eleanor Tillinghast.
Wind Wise ~ Massachusetts is a statewide alliance of groups and individuals who support the responsible siting of renewable energy projects and are concerned about the negative health, environmental, and economic impacts of poorly-sited wind turbines. The alliance members are all volunteers.
For more information, please visit our website, <www.windwisema.org>.
A copy of S.2200 is available at the following website:
A copy of the AWEA 2012 Strategic Plan (see p. 149 of 259 for the quote about the governor) is available at the following website:
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