SOMERSET – Bringing an offshore wind industry to the state and SouthCoast is moving full-steam ahead.
And state Rep. Patricia Haddad, the Somerset legislator who initiated that portion of the “act to promote energy diversity,” couldn’t be more thrilled as the bill was shifting out of committee Monday.
Bill H-2881 calls for production of 1,200 megawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2027.
The Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Energy and Utilities, after nearly eight months of holding hearings and reviewing proposals, set 11 a.m. Tuesday for members to act favorably via email and move forward on a bill that includes Gov. Charlie’s Baker’s initiative to also negotiate long-term contracts for hydroelectricity.
“I’m very happy,” said Haddad.
Hadded – a House Democrat and the speaker pro tem – said this “is one of the few times in my life” of politics she feels certain the committee will support H-2881 for review and action by the House Ways & Means Committee before the House, then the Senate on its version, can act on it in the upcoming weeks.
Touting its significance, Haddad said in a phone interview, “I’m just very excited we’re going to have real significant wind power coming to the United States and it’s going to be right here in Massachusetts.”
“We owe Rep. Haddad a great debt of gratitude for her vision and persistence in supporting this industry,” OffShoreWind Massachusetts’ Managing Director Matthew Morrissey said in a press statement while also thanking other legislative leaders.
The coalition group, working with three national and international wind manufacturing companies, said it would “continue to work with the House and Senate to fashion a final bill that will enable Massachusetts to make use of one of its greatest resources – abundant and reliable wind that will power a new industry and benefit our citizens for the rest of this century and beyond.”
“It’s a process. There’s still a couple of steps for it to go through,” an optimistic Haddad said.
She explained that this streamlined version sets up the process to procure 1,200 megawatts of offshore wind – slightly less than Brayton Point’s 1,500 megawatts driven mostly by coal – and a similar 1,200 megawatts of hydroelectricity.
The latter could also partner in some combination with onshore wind power from Maine, she said.
Haddad’s bill had proposed 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind power, while Baker’s had sought 2,400 megawatts for hydroelectric power.
“The committee,” Haddad said the joint telecommunications panel, “wanted to go for fairness.”
The legislation directs utility companies to enter long-term contracts, and the first 15- to 20-year contract for 400 megawatts would go out by January with the hydroelectric manufacturers and by July 2017 with the three offshore wind companies: Deepwater Wind, the leader of America’s development, which began building the first wind farm off Block Island, Rhode Island; DONG Energy headquartered in Denmark and working in Northern Europe; and OffshoreMW, part of the Blackstone Group in Germany.
Haddad said the bill’s procurement contracts contain “flexibility,” and could go out as two, three or four requests. “We were looking for flexibility to make sure prices would be advantageous to consumers,” she said.
Paul Vigeant, vice president for Workforce Development at Bristol Community College in Fall River, and director of the New Bedford Wind Energy Center, praised the legislation as holding “great promise” for “coastal cities that have not shared in the same prosperity enjoyed by Boston and its suburbs.”
“… We have a skilled, experienced marine workforce, along with governmental, educational and business leadership that will be ready to serve this new industry from Day One,” Vigeant said.
Haddad said offshore wind competition in this country is being aggressively pursued in New York and Maryland, with New Jersey and Great Lakes states also pursuing the industry.
After she traveled with legislators and business leaders last fall to Denmark for a week to explore where the renewable energy sector began about 25 years ago, Haddad said creation of offshore wind farms seemed to be an 18- to 24-month process.
Haddad is hopeful that, after the House Ways and Means issues its recommendation, the House will act quickly and approve the bill so it can go to the Senate by the first week in June.
“It’s really imperative that we get this out there,” she said.
She said there would be local support to expedite the bill in the Senate. Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, is vice chair of the telecommunications committee and Sen. Michael Rodrigues, D-Westport, also is a member.
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