Pacheco's mission to Denmark earlier this month was paid for by the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind, a University of Delaware program meant to advance the development of offshore wind, and by private philanthropic funds including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The handful of Massachusetts lawmakers who participated also included Rep. Thomas Golden, D-Lowell, who co-chairs the Legislature's Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy; House Majority Leader Ron Mariano, D-Quincy; Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad, D-Somerset, and state Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, who chairs the Committee on Ways and Means.
BOSTON – With energy prices rising, solar projects stalling and discussions of how to reduce fossil fuel consumption happening on Beacon Hill, state Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, sees a part of the solution, and it is all around him: wind.
“We’re always used to saying that we have no natural resources here. But we do. We’ve got wind. And it’s a natural resource that we should capture and utilize to expand and embrace a whole new clean energy future,” Pacheco said.
Pacheco added that wind power is cheap. “Once you pay for the capital investment, the fuel is free,” Pacheco said.
Pacheco, who founded and chairs a Senate committee on global warming and climate change and is vice chair of the Senate committee that deals with energy, recently returned from a trip to Denmark and Iceland, where he and other Massachusetts lawmakers toured offshore wind facilities and met with officials to talk about clean energy issues. On Friday, Pacheco and Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, were to travel to meetings in Quebec focused on energy.
The focus on clean energy comes as lawmakers plan to consider several major pieces of energy-related legislation this session. The most pressing issue is whether to lift a cap on net metering, a financial incentive for developers of solar energy projects. The cap has stalled projects in some parts of the state. The Senate and Gov. Charlie Baker have laid out different plans for lifting the net metering cap, an issue that pits utility companies against solar developers.
Baker also proposed legislation to increase the amount of hydroelectric power used by Massachusetts utilities.
At the same time, debate is ongoing about multiple proposals to build new natural gas pipelines through Massachusetts. The plans are controversial, and an environmental group recently sued to block Kinder Morgan’s plan to build a natural gas pipeline, part of which will go through Western Massachusetts.
Pacheco’s mission to Denmark earlier this month was paid for by the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind, a University of Delaware program meant to advance the development of offshore wind, and by private philanthropic funds including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The handful of Massachusetts lawmakers who participated also included Rep. Thomas Golden, D-Lowell, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy; House Majority Leader Ron Mariano, D-Quincy; Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad, D-Somerset, and state Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, who chairs the Committee on Ways and Means.
The delegation visited a manufacturing facility that makes components for wind turbines and an offshore wind farm and met with energy officials.
Pacheco, in an interview at the Statehouse, said he thinks Massachusetts can learn from Denmark’s progress. Denmark has set a target of becoming independent from fossil fuels by 2050, and is on track to generate one-third of its power from clean energy – such as wind and biomass – by 2020. According to the Danish government, the use of renewable energy rose from 3 percent in 1980 to 19 percent in 2010. The use of wind power in particular has grown astronomically.
In Massachusetts, the most notable recent wind project was Cape Wind, a project off Cape Cod that fell through, primarily due to objections from neighbors. Now, three companies have acquired rights to 500,000 acres of federal water off Martha’s Vineyard, in order to attempt to build a wind farm there.
“We have a huge potential,” Pacheco said, arguing that wind can be part of a mix that includes solar, geothermal and other clean energy. He believes the state must also focus on energy efficiency.
“The only difference between them and us is they actually move forward and… put in place the political will to get it done,” Pacheco said.
Pacheco said building wind power capacity in Massachusetts will mean the money paid for energy will stay in Massachusetts, instead of being sent out of state or out of the country. “We can shift billions of dollars of growth and investment here into the Massachusetts economy,” Pacheco said.
Pacheco and Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, also attended meetings in Iceland, meeting with the U.S. ambassador to Iceland and the embassy’s environmental and energy officer. They discussed issues relating to clean energy policy and ways to make industries sustainable.
For example, Pacheco pointed to Iceland’s fishing industry, which found ways to make goods out of the waste produced from fish. They met with a company that figured out how to recycle fuel – producing a type of fuel called renewable methanol from carbon dioxide.
Pacheco also recently led a mission to Switzerland, which is currently phasing out its nuclear power plants and replacing it with renewable power.
Meanwhile, Rosenberg this weekend is leading a delegation that also includes Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, for meetings between Massachusetts lawmakers and lawmakers from Quebec. Rosenberg said the group will talk about regional solutions to problems related to energy, economic development and tourism.
“Climate change and access to clean renewable energy doesn’t stop at an international border,” Rosenberg said.
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