As the Massachusetts Legislature races towards a Wednesday night deadline to adjourn, energy issues are dominating the final hours: Where will Massachusetts get its energy? What will it cost the environment – and ratepayers?
The state House passed a complicated measure aimed at temporarily breaking a logjam in deployment of large-scale commercial and municipal solar projects, but activists denounced it as inadequate. A bipartisan phalanx of legislators including state Senator Dan Wolf, a Harwich Democrat, and Senator Vinnie DeMacedo, a Plymouth Republican, urged passage of legislation aimed at speeding the shutdown and cleanup of the Pilgrim nuclear station in Plymouth and ensuring ratepayers and taxpayers don’t get tabbed for any costs.
Meanwhile, as utilities push for billions of dollars’ worth of new natural gas pipelines, several dozen activists rallied outside the State House Tuesday backing legislation aimed at forcing National Grid, Eversource, and other companies to repair an estimated 20,000 leaks in gas pipes much sooner. Methane from leaky gas pipes is an especially powerful greenhouse gas that can exacerbate climate change.
“Before we start bringing in new gas to Massachusetts, we're leaking so much gas, why do we need new pipelines?’’ said Ania Camargo of Boston.
The state House late Tuesday passed a bill aimed at raising the “solar net metering cap,” or volume of solar projects eligible for utility connections and subsidies. Hannah Masterjohn, director of policy and new markets for Clean Energy Collective, a “community solar” business developing solar farms in Adams, Uxbridge, and other communities, said, “The House bill would put Massachusetts behind about forty other states with respect to solar net metering policy. This is not the time for Massachusetts to go backwards on clean energy.’’
Business groups like Associated Industries of Massachusetts contend the state massively over-subsidizes solar, which AIM said gets 46 percent of the renewable energy subsidies in the state but produces just 7 percent of the renewably generated electricity. But Masterjohn said, “You have to look at the costs and the benefits, so what you don't hear coming from our opponents are what are the benefits of solar?’’
House Speaker Robert DeLeo reiterated Tuesday that he hopes to have the chamber pass “omnibus energy legislation” early next year. But in numerous areas – solar subsidies, hydroelectric power from Canada, offshore wind, natural gas policy, and more – deep gulfs need to be compromised between the House, Senate, and Governor Charlie Baker.