Green Communities Act needs an overhaul, or perhaps extinction


The appearance of a wind turbine on the rolling, and beloved, geography of the Allen Farm in Chilmark has occasioned a vigorous debate over the wisdom of such installations. Predecessor wind turbines in other areas have done the same.

Appearance is one issue. Familiar, cherished landscapes change, and observers like it, tolerate it, or find themselves repelled by it. All understandable.

Understandable also is the heat such debates generate. After all taxpayers state- and nationwide are helping to pay the bill. They can have a say, if they like.

More important — much more important — is the forecast of billions in higher electricity costs for homeowners and businesses in Massachusetts because of the state’s crazily generous subsidies for the creation of large scale, non-fossil fuel generation and the regulations hiking the pricing of electricity generated by wind and solar.

Martha Coakley, the state’s attorney general, testified at a hearing before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. The hearing examined the 2008 Green Communities Act that set goals and provided incentives for clean energy production and consumption. The State House News Service reported recently that, “Despite helping to stimulate job growth in the clean energy sector and reduce carbon emissions, the state’s 2008 Green Communities Act has come at a cost to consumers, which is expected to grow by up to $4 billion over the next four years …” That was General Coakley’s testimony at the hearing.

Ms. Coakley said the cost of implementing the program over the next four years will cause delivery costs for electricity to rise seven percent by 2015. And Massachusetts electricity costs, more than $22 billion annually, are already among the highest in the nation.

Among the suggestions Ms. Coakley made was a recommendation that “long-term renewable energy contracts be competitively bid.”

Gov. Deval Patrick, his administration, and the state’s top utility regulator, disagree, arguing that competitive bidding could discourage offshore wind and solar power development.

The Green Communities Act, a pet of House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi’s reign, set ambitious goals for Massachusetts, including the installation of 250 megawatts of solar energy by 2017, 2,000 megawatts of wind power by 2020, and significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Mr. DiMasi, off to jail this week, is the third successive Massachusetts Speaker of the House to be indicted and convicted for financial impropriety. He ought to have been charged with poorly thought out energy generation legislation.

The boondoggle that is Cape Wind is a DiMasi/Patrick legacy. Cape Wind, a decade in the permitting phase of its development, remains without financing and without a contract to sell at least half of the power it will produce, if it ever produces any. The National Grid contract with Cape Wind for half of the future power prices the Cape Wind product as the highest-priced electricity ever in the Commonwealth.

The 2008 act was a misguided legislative enthusiasm. The world of energy creation has moved on, particularly with regard to enterprises that will really produce cleaner energy at useful scale. What may have been regarded as an avant-garde move by the Commonwealth in 2008 is old news and cripplingly expensive today.