BOSTON – Massachusetts would run on 100-percent renewable power by 2047 under comprehensive energy legislation passed by the state Senate Thursday night.
The idealistic goal would be reached by increasing the state’s renewable portfolio standard by 3 percent every year, instead of the current 1 percent. The RPS dictates how much renewable energy electrical utilities such as Eversource and National Grid must buy.
The ambitious Senate bill not just lifts – but removes – caps on non-governmental solar net metering. It sets new 2030 and 2040 emission targets under the Global Warming Solutions Act; creates the framework for a revenue-neutral, market-based carbon fee; sets a 2,000-megawatt energy storage target, and opens the door to large renewable energy procurements in the offshore wind sector.
Environmental and clean tech groups heaped praise upon the Senate bill, sponsored by Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton) and Michael Barrett (D-Lexington). The climate change and clean jobs legislation now heads to the House of Representatives.
“This bill sets the Commonwealth on a path to a clean energy future for all. Now it is time for the House to stand up and do its part,” said Eric Wilkinson, general counsel and director of energy policy at the Environmental League of Massachusetts.
Wilkinson praised “bold new tools,” and referenced the carbon-pricing mechanism, which would place a fee on fossil fuel use. The money would be returned to people and businesses in the form of rebates, and the government would not keep the money.
“We have had great success reducing carbon from the electricity sector with market-based tools,” Wilkinson said. “Now we can do the same with transportation and buildings.”
Leaders of the Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions, a statewide coalition, said increasing the renewable standard, lifting solar net metering caps, and investing in energy storage will create thousands of jobs, lower wholesale electricity prices, and put the state on track to meet its emission reduction goals.
Sean Gallagher, president of the Solar Energy Industry Association, said the state lost 3,000 solar jobs from 2016 to 2017 because of net metering caps which stalled commercial projects and “caused companies to shift their capital elsewhere in the Northeast.”
He called upon the House to “help bring thousands of solar jobs back to the Bay State, unlock millions of dollars of investment currently in limbo, and prevent solar consumers from being charged discriminatory fees.”
The Senate bill would get rid of a “demand charge” that Eversource plans to impose upon new residential solar adopters. The charge was approved by state utility regulators. Eversource had said the charge is fair, because solar customers, with their low electricity bills, still make use of the power grid.
Western Massachusetts lawmakers chimed in, saying the bill would enact needed programs and reforms.
“This legislation prepares Massachusetts for the inevitable obstacles that will come with climate change,” said Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, who put forth an amendment to reform Department of Public Utility proceedings regarding gas pipeline contracts, and another to protect energy-intensive industries in Gateway Cities.
“We’re really making strides here in the Commonwealth to mitigate our carbon footprint and do our part to curb climate change,” said Sen. James T. Welch, D-West Springfield, who introduced an amendment to to increase consumer protections in the electric competitive supply market.
If the bill survives debate in the House of Representatives, it will be among the most progressive in the nation.
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