HOUSE UNANIMOUSLY PASSES NATION-LEADING ENERGY REFORM PACKAGE
Bold reform will reduce dependence on foreign oil, increase use and production of clean energy
State Representatives Paul J. Donato (D-Medford) Carl M. Sciortino, Jr. (D-Medford) and Sean Garballey (D-Arlington, West Medford) announced that the Massachusetts House of Representatives has unanimously approved a comprehensive, best in the nation energy reform bill that will reduce the Commonwealth’s use of foreign oil, increase use and production of cleaner, more renewable energy and help save costs at a critical time for consumers.
“As a member of his leadership team, I am pleased to support Speaker DiMasi in this courageous energy reform legislation,” said Representative Donato. “This comprehensive legislation puts the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the forefront on the most important issue.”
“I have long made energy conservation a priority,” said Representative Sciortino. “This bill takes important steps towards easing the cost of energy for all of us while promoting environmentally responsible alternatives.”
“The energy crisis impacts every home, every business, and every person in the Commonwealth. We have taken a major step toward energy reform in Massachusetts” said Representative Sean Garballey of Arlington. “I am delighted to be part of this collaboration.”
The bill’s lead author, House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi said, “Bold energy reform was my top priority this session and we have produced a nation-leading law that will reduce our reliance on foreign oil and encourage the production and use of more sustainable, renewable energy that can save us all money in the years to come. I am very pleased to have worked with such a broad coalition of stakeholders to make my original bill far stronger and I thank them, particularly the members of the House, Senate President Murray, Governor Patrick and his energy Secretary Ian Bowles, for their hard work.”
“With the cost of energy skyrocketing, this legislation comes at a critical time and puts Massachusetts at the forefront of clean energy policies and the development of alternative fuel sources,” said Senate President Therese Murray. “With this landmark legislation, the Commonwealth will tip the scales away from fossil fuels in favor of more efficient and affordable energy alternatives. Emerging technologies and conservation are major parts of this effort, and Massachusetts will lead the way.”
Ian Bowles, Governor Patrick’s Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs added, “I congratulate the Legislature for bringing this landmark piece of legislation to fruition. I commend particularly Speaker DiMasi for his early leadership, and Senate President Murray for working with him, Governor Patrick, and myself to move Massachusetts toward a clean energy future. This bill makes sweeping changes to the electricity marketplace. It will provide a huge boost to renewable power generation, give consumers major new tools to reduce their energy costs, cut our greenhouse gas emissions and launch a new wave of clean energy technologies. We look forward to implementing it.”
The bill originally unveiled by Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi in December 2006 was redrafted over several months with Senate President Murray, Governor Patrick, the energy industry, environmentalists and other key stakeholders.
The Green Communities Act will place a renewed focus on cost-saving energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the Commonwealth. The bill retains many important provisions in the final legislation passed in the House in November and Senate in January after months of work by legislators, the administration and coalitions of environmental, business and energy industry leaders.
The bill places a focus on “Efficiency First Energy Procurement,” and requires distribution companies to consider all available energy resources when purchasing power. It also mandates that the state’s electric companies purchase the most cost-effective and stable resources, with the goal of procuring all cost-effective energy efficiency and conservation, prior to the acquisition of more expensive supply from traditional sources.
On a local level, the bill charges the new Division of Green Communities, under the newly-elevated Department of Energy Resources, to establish a green communities program to give cities and towns the opportunity to take advantage of loans and grants provided by the state to finance the cost of energy efficiency improvements and renewable and alternative energy projects.
“This effort represents the collaboration of a broad coalition of support for clean energy technologies and energy efficiency that will benefit ratepayers and allow us to continue to meet our energy demands,” said Representative Brian S. Dempsey (D-Haverhill), House Chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. “Initiatives such as the Green Communities Program will be key to advancing the clean energy goals of the Commonwealth.”
The bill also revamps the existing Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust Fund, housed within the Massachusetts Technology Park Collaborative. The Fund, still under the direction of the Collaborative, will now be directly overseen and administered by a Governing Board, chaired by the Commissioner of the Department of Energy Resources. The new Board will be charged with ensuring that funds will be used to generate the maximum economic and environmental benefits from renewable energy to the ratepayers of the Commonwealth through initiatives which utilizes the advantages of renewable energy in a more competitive energy marketplace.
Also established in the bill is the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Auction Trust Fund, consisting of funds recovered through carbon dioxide allowance auctions. Massachusetts joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cooperative effort by Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce carbon dioxide emission, in January 2007. Funds from these auctions, deposited into the trust, will be used for projects like the green communities program and the promotion of energy efficiency, conservation and demand response.
The proposal also amends the current renewable energy portfolio standard and creates a second tier to assist our regions existing renewable resources while we continue to promote new renewable energy to come online. Class I eligible technologies will include new and incremental renewable generation while the second tier, Class II, is created to include existing renewable generation.
Other portions of the bill include provisions that:
• Direct the state to replace state-owned and operated vehicles with more fuel-efficient vehicles.
• Direct the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs to establish a program whereby homeowners or tenants can purchase renewable energy products for the home with no up-front payment, and pay them off monthly on their utility bill.
• Establish a 5-year pilot program, requiring distribution companies to enter into cost-effective renewable energy contracts, over 10 to 15 years, to help eliminate a barrier in the financing of renewable energy generation in the Commonwealth.
• Codify the Office of the Ratepayer Advocate under the Attorney General to intervene in proceedings on behalf of Massachusetts ratepayers.
• Encourage net metering to promote on-site generation through financial incentives.
• Establish a commission to examine the environmental and economic impact of instituting a green building plan for the Commonwealth.
The Green Communities Act, also unanimously approved by the Senate, was signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick and is now Chapter 169 of the Acts of 2008.
Provided by Representative Paul J. Donato’s Office