After eight years of trail-blazing clean energy leadership, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick will soon pass his torch to Governor-elect Charlie Baker. We are at a pivotal moment in New England’s energy story, and regional eyes will certainly watch this transition closely. Fortunately, there are ample reasons for optimism that Governor-elect Baker will continue the state’s outstanding leadership in charting a visionary course toward a clean energy future that can truly and significantly help protect wildlife and future generations from climate change.
With 8,000 megawatts of old, dirty energy plants retiring now and in the near future, the Northeast region urgently needs to ramp up its commitment to energy efficiency, while working to fill the anticipated gap with the most clean and responsible new energy endeavors available. In meeting this challenge, NWF is looking to Massachusetts legislative leaders and Governor-elect Baker to prioritize long-term solutions that will diversify our energy portfolio with local, renewable energy that can protect ratepayers from the volatility of an overreliance on natural gas, create jobs in-state and throughout the region, and reduce harmful pollution. A pillar of our energy future needs to be a bold realization of our massive, untapped offshore wind power potential in order to address the key energy and economic challenges facing the Commonwealth that candidate Baker identified:
Many of the region’s coal and oil-fired power plants are no longer viable. As they retire in the coming years, we will be forced to reshape our energy mix for the future. This represents both an opportunity and a challenge: We must encourage greater use of clean, renewable energy sources, while protecting homeowners and businesses from high energy costs and extreme price fluctuations…
The clean energy sector in Massachusetts has a clear opportunity to leverage the extensive innovation assets of the Commonwealth and emerge as a leading provider of clean energy solutions to the global marketplace. As Governor, Charlie will strongly encourage this sector, using programs and market signals to remove obstacles and drive accelerated growth.
As a coastal state, Massachusetts has no choice but to prepare for the immediate threats of climate change, and plan for a stronger, more resilient future. Coastal communities and wildlife habitats depend on a new and transformative energy strategy – one that matches the scale of our challenges. Offshore wind power presents the largest-scale clean energy opportunity Massachusetts has to offer – and can and must be developed in a manner that protects wildlife and their habitats throughout all stages of the process. It is an answer we are lucky to have in such close proximity to our largest electricity markets, and one we are well-positioned to finally embrace.
Candidate Baker pledged to pursue clean energy innovation as a key part of his strategy as Governor to realize lasting economic strength and rate stability across the Commonwealth. This weekend brought the second major announcement of a dramatic rate increase from a major Northeast utility, this time from NStar, projecting a 29% hike in electricity prices this winter. Smart energy policy can offset these expensive consequences of being hinged to a limited fuel that is not our own, and help spur economic growth in cities and towns statewide. There is no doubt that is among Governor-elect Baker’s top priorities. He has already recognized New Bedford’s first-in-the-nation port terminal equipped to deploy offshore wind power infrastructure as a new source of prosperity as the industry makes its way to U.S. waters: “I’ll advocate with the folks from New Bedford to include New Bedford as a staging area and assembly area for those projects as they move forward … and make sure we get a good deal for the rate payers associated with those projects.” We have a critical role to play in keeping this connection, between economic and environmental well-being, at the center of all energy policy he moves forward.
Massachusetts has made tremendous progress in leading America’s pursuit of transformative offshore wind power, and we have no time to lose any of that ground. Governor Baker will oversee the ultimate installation of one of the nation’s first offshore wind power projects, with Cape Wind scheduled to begin construction next year. Now is the time to double down on this success. Our new Governor and Massachusetts’s legislative leaders must take swift action to ensure that offshore wind power plays a major role in the Commonwealth’s energy future. We look forward to working with Governor-elect Baker to celebrate the seamless continuation of a job-creating clean energy legacy that Massachusetts can forever be proud of.