Governor Patrick signs energy bill

BOSTON – August 3, 2012 – Governor Deval Patrick today joined legislators and advocates to sign S. 2395, “An Act Relative to Competitively Priced Electricity in the Commonwealth.” The law aims to protect Massachusetts ratepayers while providing greater reliability and energy independence for all residents of the Commonwealth.

“Producing clean energy locally not only frees us from the volatile pricing of conventional generation but also helps the environment,” said Governor Patrick. “We can do that at a reasonable cost and this law helps.”

Earlier this year, Governor Patrick called for legislation to expand support for renewable and clean energy in an address at FastCap Systems in Boston’s Innovation District.

The bill includes the extension of long-term contracts between the utilities and renewable energy companies, which will keep the supply of renewable energy credits in balance with the growing demand and ultimately lead to significant cost savings for ratepayers. The extension helps reduce the Commonwealth’s dependence on foreign sources of energy, keeping investment dollars right here in Massachusetts.

The legislation also raises the cap on net metering, a valuable incentive to customers who install renewable energy technologies. It allows customers to run their meters backwards and sell power back to the distribution company for credits. The cap will rise to three percent for both public and private projects. Anaerobic digestion is also added to the list of eligible technologies able to net meter; the amount of hydroelectric power was also increased. Raising the net metering cap grows the clean energy industry, creates jobs and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

“This legislation will improve the reliability of our grid, create more competition for energy contracts and address some of the cost-drivers for electricity without compromising our commitment to developing renewable energy resources,” said Senate President Therese Murray. “We have streamlined our economic development model, lowered corporate tax rates, and provided tools for businesses to negotiate affordable health insurance, but the high cost of electricity continues to be a burden. This legislation will help to lift that burden and eliminate the drag these costs are putting on our economic recovery.”

“I commend Governor Patrick for his signing of this important piece of legislation that will benefit our state for years to come,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “This legislation, while cutting the costs of energy and improving public safety, also works to create and maintain green jobs in the Commonwealth, a constant priority of ours on Beacon Hill.”

“This legislation builds on Massachusetts’ nation-leading clean energy policies and ensures that those policies are advanced in the most cost effective way,” said Senator Benjamin B. Downing, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. “It will enhance the job growth we have seen in clean energy and energy efficiency, while ensuring rate payer dollars are being used effectively.”

“I am grateful to Governor Patrick and Secretary Sullivan for their leadership in driving the Commonwealth’s clean energy agenda and for their support of the city of Salem,” said Representative John D. Keenan,  House Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. “This legislation addresses the high cost of electricity, requires more transparency in rate design, and increases the net metering cap.  At the same time, it ensures our commitment to grow and maintain green jobs and support a healthy business environment. And a special thank you to Majority Leader Fred Berry for his counsel and skillful leadership – without his help this bill would not have happened.”

“This legislation continues Massachusetts’ clean energy revolution,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Rick Sullivan. “These investments in clean energy keep our energy dollars in Massachusetts, and that means jobs. There are now more clean energy companies and clean energy jobs in Massachusetts than ever before.”

“The New England Clean Energy Council congratulates Governor Patrick and the Legislature for a bill that will expand jobs, economic development and clean energy in the Commonwealth,” said New England Clean Energy Council President Peter Rothstein. “Their leadership will that the clean energy sector in Massachusetts continues to grow while stabilizing and lowering energy costs to consumers.”

The legislation also allows for long term contracts as an incentive for companies that purchase coal-fired power plants, and transition them to gas-fired generators, so long as they agree to completely remediate the site. It also creates a task force to help the city of Salem address decommissioning and deconstruction of the Salem Harbor Power Plant; instructs the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to open a docket to look at the need for additional capacity; and further extends the commitment of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) money to help communities address the tax shortfall from decommissioned power plants.

Other highlights include:

  • Enabling more municipalities to install solar panels on community landfills.
  • Requiring electric companies to file for rate cases every five years and gas companies to file every ten years.
  • Requiring EEA’s agencies to complete a number of studies to analyze further steps in energy efficiency as well as the exploration of other renewable energy sources.
  • Establishing a three-year energy efficiency rebate pilot program for the five largest gas and electric users in each service territory.
  • Adding new members to the Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee.

Today’s signing is another mile marker in Governor Patrick’s ambitious clean energy agenda. As a result of policy initiatives like the Green Communities Act, the Green Jobs Act and the Global Warming Solutions Act, Massachusetts is now the undisputed leader in the clean energy revolution. Massachusetts leads the nation in energy efficiency and has seen the number of renewable energy projects – like solar and wind – soar. There are now more clean energy companies and clean energy jobs in Massachusetts than ever before.