Offshore wind and clean energy act

M. Speaker, I rise in favor of H4515, An Act advancing offshore wind and clean energy.

Three days ago, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report showing that climate change is rapidly reshaping the world, including New England. It noted that we are on the front lines of the climate crisis and reminded us that if we are to minimize irreversible impacts, we must make unparalleled changes, including the creation of clean energy.

Last November, voters in Maine approved a ballot measure that blocked plans to develop a transmission line to deliver hydroelectric power from Canada to Massachusetts and the rest of the region. That shut off a robust supply of clean energy.

And the recent events in Ukraine, with Russia making threats to gas supplies, reminded us of the urgency and dire need for energy independence.

This is the context in which we take up this most important piece of legislation.

Let me begin by thanking you, Mr. Speaker, for bringing this bill to the floor today. Your timing and your leadership on this issue going back several years is a testament to your continued support and commitment to robust climate policy. And with this bill, as you well know, Massachusetts is poised to restore its position as the national leader on offshore wind.

And special thanks to the gentleman from Boston, our Ways & Means Chair, for considering and incorporating the stakeholder feedback which provided substantial improvements to this legislation. It has been an honor to work with you, Mr. Speaker, and the Ways & Means Chair, to get this bill to the floor.

I also thank the many members who contributed to making this bill what it is today and for reaching out over the last few months. These include my predecessor, the gentleman from Lowell, the gentleman from Falmouth, the gentlelady from Somerset, the gentlelady from Northampton, the gentlelady from Framingham, the gentleman from Brookline, the gentlelady from Holliston, the gentlelady from Boston, the gentleman from North Reading,

And special thanks to the TUE staff, particularly Caleb, Magda, and Cobi, a dynamic and energetic team who worked tirelessly to get the job done. And much thanks to Joe, Whitney, Ana, and Michele from your office, Mr. Speaker. They are remarkable and knowledgeable people who are tremendous assets to this institution.

OSW is a huge opportunity for MA. It is a large and growing source of clean energy around the world and is poised for rapid growth. Global offshore wind capacity topped 27 GW by early 2020, but currently, the US. represents less than two-tenths of 1 percent of that capacity.

Last year, the Biden administration announced a national goal of generating 30 gigawatts of electricity from offshore wind by 2030 as part of efforts to curb greenhouse emissions. Massachusetts is uniquely prepared to capitalize on the nation’s emerging offshore wind industry and become the “Saudi Arabia of offshore wind.”

According to DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Massachusetts waters have the largest technical offshore wind potential of any state in the contiguous U.S. and has the technical potential to produce more than a third of the President’s goal.
And OSW has enjoyed dramatic technological advances and cost declines. The technology has improved dramatically, with larger turbines generating much more power and turbines successfully being put much farther from shore.

On top of that, the price of wind energy has become competitive with other energy-producing sources.

Last year, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a landmark climate bill to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. We will need a lot of clean energy to reach that ambitious goal. As such, Massachusetts must develop a source of affordable and abundant clean energy on our own shores — or rather, off it.
The development necessary to establish an industry capable of taking advantage of this natural capacity doesn’t happen by accident, and certainly not overnight.

Under your leadership Mr. Speaker, Massachusetts embraced offshore wind in 2016 by passing clean energy legislation that ultimately resulted in the nation’s first utility-scale offshore wind farm. That Vineyard Wind project, when it’s connected to New England’s power grid in 2023, will power 400,000 homes, create 3,600 jobs, and save the emissions equivalent of taking 325,000 cars off the road for a year.

And that project represents just one-seventh of the total offshore wind procurement requirement the Legislature has set for 2027.

The bill before us today is the next step. It is carefully calibrated to attract world-class manufacturing facilities, intensive workforce training initiatives, and the investment necessary to prepare our electric distribution system for the energy needs of the future. And we will do it all by building an industry that minimizes potential impacts on our maritime industries and coastal environment, while maximizing the benefits for our environmental justice communities. And it builds on the power of wind not only to supply clean energy, but to provide robust economic development as well.

What’s included in bill?

First, this bill establishes a MA Offshore Wind Industry Investment Program, to be administered by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to develop offshore wind employment opportunities and promote renewable energy innovation and economic development in the commonwealth.

It establishes a MA Offshore Wind Industry Investment Fund within MassCEC to provide the center with the resources necessary for driving increased financing for the local offshore wind industry, promoting manufacturing, advancing innovation, and funding workforce training and educational programs.

The bill makes certain changes to the OSW 83C statute that authorized our OSW procurements in 2016. It removes the price cap, which was put in place through the 2016 legislation when we were just about to embark on our journey with state procurements for OSW. That was a smart and appropriate measure to include as we were stepping into something completely new and wanted to protect our constituents from high energy costs. But six years and three OSW solicitations later, we’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons that empower us to evolve so that we can keep growing this industry and our clean energy capacity.

Indeed, our careful focus on price in the early years made the per megawatt cost of electricity provided by OSW contracts much lower than what we had initially expected. But it also means that compared to our neighboring states, Massachusetts lags behind in terms of investments into economic development in the OSW industry.

Removing the price cap will allow our future procurements to give us more value per dollar so that we can build out the necessary supports and attract and retain local offshore wind jobs, thriving supply chains and local businesses, and training and educational opportunities for our constituents.

Removal of the price cap does not mean that we will be stuck with costly contracts. The Department of Public Utilities will have the power to reject OSW bids if they’re too expensive.

Beyond these measures, this legislation also takes certain steps to push us towards more wholistic thinking about transmission planning, so that our electricity grid is planned in an efficient, cost-effective, and thoughtful manner.

The bill creates an OSW Transmission Working Group to analyze costs for transmission infrastructure upgrades necessary to support our offshore wind goals.
It requires the Department of Energy Resources to solicit proposals for independent transmission solutions to deliver the OSW to shore, and allows it to do so in coordination with ISO New England, the DPU, the utility companies, and other New England States.

This bill also creates a Grid Modernization Advisory Council and requires utility companies to proactively upgrade the transmission and distribution grid to improve its reliability, resilience, and the interconnection of the renewable energy sources that we so desperate need

We also make some changes to the MassCEC board to further its mission as a quasi governmental authority. And we also charge the center with serving as a focal point and providing state-wide coordination for offshore wind initiatives to bring more continuity to our state efforts

We also create a very small surcharge on natural gas bills, which will be deposited into the MA Renewable Energy Trust Fund to make necessary investments in clean energy technology, so that we can meet our 2050 carbon emissions goals. While some say no increases, let me remind folks that the recent spikes in energy costs are attributable to an over-reliance on natural gas and other imports. With more wind and energy independence, there is far less risk of price spikes.

The tax incentives, grants and investments called for in this bill are crucial to the success of our clean energy transition, and will help us avoid the disastrous – and extremely expensive – consequences of climate change. They will help us avoid disastrous weather events and bring economic development benefits to our communities.

To ensure that our constituents can reap the benefits of this new industry, as part of our workforce development efforts, we create a new high school offshore wind credential training pilot program, through which the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would reimburse school districts for each student that obtains industry recognized credentials.
Lastly, this bill requires the DOER, in consultation with MassCEC, to study the deployment and utilization of long-duration and mutli-day energy storage systems, and if said study shows benefits to the Commonwealth, it requires DOER to issue procurements for long-duration storage. It would also require energy storage benchmarks to be incorporated into the 2025-2050 Roadmap plans that our Roadmap legislation established just last year.

As you can see, through these provisions, the bill puts us on the path to achieve the goals the Commonwealth set with the roadmap bill. Our 2050 Decarbonization plan calls for the installation of between 15 – 20 gigawatts of offshore wind and 15 – 20 gigawatts of solar between 2030 and 2050 in order to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. This bill provides the tools that allow us to do that.

And the bill helps us avoid the worst effects of climate inaction, The hotter temperatures, heat waves, droughts, extreme weather events, all of which affect our own backyards, will intensify if climate change progresses. But we can stop it by taking action today.

We capitalize on the benefits that OSW can bring onshore, including thousands of quality, high-paying jobs to our most vulnerable communities. Indeed, the recent announcements of the opening of a manufacturing facility at Brayton Point and the redevelopment of the port in Salem with Crowley Maritime demonstrate the power of wind not only to supply clean energy, but to provide robust economic development as well.

The opportunity Massachusetts has with offshore wind comes once in a lifetime and the House can meet the moment by harnessing existing and future clean energy technologies to decarbonize our economy and create a cleaner future for everyone.

You have before you an incredibly comprehensive and groundbreaking piece of legislation. Every one of you should be proud and no doubt will look back at this moment as one of strength and resolve.

With that, I urge you all to support H4515 and restore Massachusetts as a national leader on climate policy. It’s ironic that color of our voting buttons fit the path we are about to take: green to promote clean energy and fight climate change, while red symbolizes the heat of global warming that threatens our planet.

M. Speaker, I ask that when a vote is taken, that it be taken by a call of the yeas and neighs.

Thank you very much.