The Massachusetts House recently passed legislation that will enable municipalities and companies to buy electricity generated from offshore wind. The same bill would create a new Offshore Wind Energy Investment Trust Fund, promote workforce development, and improve the state’s electric grid.
“This fits in directly with the Island’s plans for renewable energy, and can help us get there more quickly than relying on the state’s grid standards,” Rob Hannemann, chair of Chilmark’s energy committee and of the Vineyard sustainable energy committee, said.
The legislation is a package of six different bills sponsored by state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth.
“This is huge for the Islands and the Cape,” Fernandes told The Times. He said offshore wind energy will be able to be purchased through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.
Robert Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, said the specifics of how the procurement will work are still being worked out.
The new trust fund will be run through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and is expected to “promote innovation and technological research, encourage offshore wind manufacturing facilities, and provide funding for port revitalization and workforce development,” according to a press release. The trust fund would also provide financing for school programs on offshore wind jobs.
“To maintain the trust fund, the bill redirects revenue streams from the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust Fund, derived from the existing 0.5 mill per kilowatt-hour charge on electricity customers, to the Offshore Wind Industry Investment Trust Fund until 2032,” a release states. “It also establishes a 14.65 mill per therm on natural gas customers, to level the playing field among ratepayers, which will be directed towards the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust Fund.”
The act also requires utilities to upgrade the grid. “It requires utilities to put together plans to proactively upgrade the transmission and distribution grid, and creates the Grid Modernization and Planning Council to oversee these plans,” a release states.
Fernandes said the committee won’t just be an advisory body, but “will have teeth.” Fernandes said, “Basically, our grid is old,” and “the whole grid is going to have to adapt to clean energy.”
Hannemann said the grid needs “a bunch of improvements as we move forward.”
The bill also calls for a Offshore Wind Transmission Working Group to help prepare the grid for offshore wind projects, to empower the fishing community more in wind projects, and to put more focus on minimizing impacts to right whales.
“The House bill passed today represents a milestone for advancing opportunities for more local community participation in the development of offshore wind,” Vineyard Power CEO Richard Andre said through a release. “At a time when action on climate change is urgent, it is important to ensure that towns are given the ability to do more to provide clean energy and cost savings to their residents. Vineyard Power Cooperative has been advocating and working with stakeholders on this important issue since 2015, and we are thankful for Representative Fernandes’ active leadership that empowers our local communities, from the Berkshires and greater Boston to the Cape and Islands, enabling us to participate in the advancement of increased offshore wind capacity while benefiting from cost-effective, clean energy associated with these projects.”