House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Wednesday made official what his lieutenants have been saying, that the omnibus energy bill scheduled to come up for a vote in April will include provisions to encourage the development of offshore wind power.
“We have the opportunity to launch a new industry that is successful in other parts of the world, right here at home,” said DeLeo in a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. After the speech, the Speaker told reporters he had visited with offshore wind developers from around the world at a two-day conference in Boston this week.
DeLeo said the House legislation would create a competitive procurement process for offshore wind, hydroelectricity, and other renewable forms of energy. He offered no details on how the procurement process would work.
“Project developers will have to demonstrate cost benefits, feasibility, and a guarantee that their power will be delivered during critical times like the terrible winter we experienced last year,” he said.
DeLeo’s announcement rekindles a debate about offshore wind power that took center stage when Deval Patrick was governor. Patrick championed Cape Wind and helped the Nantucket Sound project secure power purchase contracts with the state’s two major utilities. The project nevertheless foundered early last year when Cape Wind was unable to meet deadlines for securing financing for the project.
House officials are pushing for a special set-aside for offshore wind, requiring the state to purchase a set amount of the power. Instead of negotiated power purchase agreements, a handful of developers who have secured rights to tracts far offshore from Martha’s Vineyard would compete against each for the right to fill the set-aside requirement. Cape Wind, once given up for dead, is also angling to compete for the contracts.
The Baker administration’s top priority in the energy legislation is hydroelectricity from Canada, which the Speaker indicated he supported. The governor has shown interest in offshore wind, but aides say any commitment to that power source would hinge on whether the electricity is competitively priced.
DeLeo also said the House will craft legislation dealing with non-compete agreements, which are often used by employers to prevent departing employees from taking inside knowledge to competitors.
“Our goal will be to protect businesses here and improve Massachusetts’s reputation as the premier incubator for talent,” he said. “Our legislation will strike an appropriate balance on non-competes, and create a more desirable environment for both employers and employees.”
DeLeo promised the legislation will limit non-compete agreements to 12 months, require notification of the agreements to employees before they are hired, and not apply to “low-wage workers and those without a voice.”
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