Offshore Wind Bill, Economic Development Plan for debate in House of Representatives

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Colin A Jung

The bill is intended to spur greater interest in and investment from the Bay State’s burgeoning offshore wind industry, but House Speaker Ron Mariano said March 1 that the legislation, which the House of Representatives plans to debate March 3, is more of a comprehensive economic development plan.

“This is not just a climate law,” Mariano told the news service. “This is a comprehensive economic and human resources development package. We think it’s addressing a lot of issues in the industry itself, not just building offshore windmills, but it’s starting to attack the delivery system and it’s starting to attack the problems we have with transmission.”

The Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives released its revised version (H 4515) of priority House legislation, Ron Mariano, on March 1, formulating the bill that would change the way the state procures an increasingly important resource , new offshore wind tax credits and incentives create businesses, impose new environmental and fisheries-related requirements on offshore wind projects, encourage modernization of the power grid and boost training programs for offshore wind jobs.

Mariano has made promoting the offshore wind industry a central part of his agenda here, repeatedly pointing to the legislation that he and Rep. Jeff Roy conceptually announced during a boat tour to Rhode Island’s Block Island wind farm in September as one of his top Priorities.

“What we are trying to do now is to follow up on the ambitious climate goals in our roadmap calculation from last year, which we adopted twice. I felt like we had an early lead in offshore wind. We were identified early on as one of the primary locations for windmills,” the speaker said, noting the favorable wind conditions and continental shelf locations off the coast of Massachusetts. “And now we have a president who has a goal of 30 gigawatts that he’s building by 2030 wants to generate offshore wind. All of these things contribute to the development of a huge industry here in our state… so we think there’s a lot of valuable things we can do in this bill.”

Much of the bill revolves around the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and a proposed offshore wind industry investment fund, which Roy says will encourage the growth of offshore wind in Massachusetts, incentivize companies to locate there, and help developers who are developing Covering the costs of connecting their cleaner energy to the grid and providing funds for port infrastructure and workforce training.

“We’ve done this with the life sciences industry and have had tremendous success, and there’s no reason we can’t do it again with this particular industry,” said Roy, chairman of the Telecoms, Utilities and Energy Committee. “We in Massachusetts know how to do it, and I would like nothing better than to become the nation’s leader in offshore wind.”

In the Ways and Means Committee’s recast – which the committee passed by 25 votes in favour, none against and six reserving their rights – House leadership backed down from a proposal to triple an existing per-kilowatt-hour fee for electricity consumers, to fund a new offshore wind industry trust fund. That increase, which would have cost the average electrician $7.20 a year, was included in the version Roy and the TUE Committee published about six weeks ago, but was dropped in Ways and Means.

“There was a sense … that this bill is doing a lot of good things. But one of the criticisms we had heard was the potential impact it would have on the consumer’s electricity bill each month, and we were very concerned that this would be an impediment to some of the significant changes and the far-reaching changes we are considering in this bill initiate,” Mariano said. “So we thought it best to dispel that criticism up front.”

The House Ways and Means Committee draft also includes a new fee for all natural gas customers, one that adds an estimated $9.73 annually to the average gas customer’s bill and generates $23 million in annual revenue for the existing Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust Fund. This fund is currently funded with the existing fee of 0.5 million per kilowatt hour that all electricity customers pay.

But under the House of Representatives’ latest draft offshore wind bill, proceeds from the existing fee for electricity tariff payers would instead go to the newly proposed Offshore Wind Industry Investment Trust Fund until July 31, 2032.

The Ways and Means rewrite also increased the maximum allowable amount in annual incentives that the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which under the bill would become the center of the state’s wind energy efforts, could distribute from the $30 million that the TUE Committee had approved $50 million.

“So we’re going to look at other bills and there will be other revenue streams that we can add to this bill,” Mariano said on March 1. that this bill addresses many of the concerns of stakeholders about the development of a new industry.”

The House bill is also expected to require utility companies to proactively upgrade the transmission and distribution grid to improve reliability and resilience and accommodate more renewable resources like wind and solar.

“We’ve already approved 5,600 megawatts of offshore wind, and if that offshore wind was ready to produce all that energy tomorrow, frankly, our grid wouldn’t be able to handle it,” Roy said. “We know it will be several years before this wind begins to produce robust amounts of energy, so planning must begin now for how we will get this power from the turbines located 14 miles offshore from Martha’s Vineyard in.” the sockets in people’s homes.”

The House of Representatives’ offshore wind bill would also soften the government’s project price cap without removing it under any circumstances. Mariano said in September he was disappointed that only two developers bid when Massachusetts caught up with the latest offshore wind proposals, and pointed to the price cap as something that discouraged others from bidding.

The House may have an ally in Governor Charlie Baker when it comes to the price cap. Baker proposed in his own offshore wind law last year to remove the cap and invest $750 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to create a clean energy investment fund, which his office says is “the largest single investment in the clean energy economy.” Energy” would represent Massachusetts to this day.”

Senator Michael Barrett, chair of the Senate TUE Committee, has raised concerns about removing the price cap. He said he’s concerned that removing consumer protections at a time when the state and federal government are aiming to electrify more aspects of society could turn ratepayers against clean energy projects, especially in a state like Massachusetts with some of the highest electricity prices in the nation .

Some opposition to the House bill has also emerged from the commercial fishing industry.

Tensions between the commercial fishing industry and offshore wind energy development are a constant thread for the industry’s growth here. Concerns over fishing interests were one of the reasons the Trump administration slammed the brakes on the Vineyard Wind I project in 2019, and concerns that wind turbines could make shipping more difficult prompted developers, who own nearby leases, to agree Arrangement agree projects.

“We’ve received a lot of feedback on this and we’ve tried to address their concerns,” Roy said of the concerns of the fishing industry in general. He added: “This legislation is designed to prevent further global warming and putting these windmills in place is there to cut emissions and create an environment where the fisheries can thrive. Raise some money by requiring it to be part of a bid.” is for an initial fisheries mitigation plan, but look at the bigger picture: To the extent that we’re able to prevent further warming of the waters, that will really go a long way to protecting Massachusetts fishermen.”

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