Discussions between the Massachusetts Senate and House over the energy bill H.4568 came to a conclusion late Sunday, July 31. The mandate requires Massachusetts to solicit long-term contracts for 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power. This figure marks a halfway compromise between the proposals from the House (1,200 megawatts) and the Senate (2,000 megawatts) put forth in June. Though the negotiation between the two sides proved difficult, many – including clean energy and environmental advocates – think that the passing of the law is a win for the state’s increasing commitment to renewable energy. The bill also stipulates that Massachusetts must solicit long-term contracts for 1,200 megawatts for hydropower and other renewable energy resources, like solar or land-based wind.
The measure requires the state to develop a plan for gas leaks; however, it does not include the amendment proposed by the Senate that would have prohibited utility companies from charging customers to fund the construction of new gas pipelines. Environmental firms criticized the lack of inclusion of such a provision. Some, on the other hand, praised the move, asserting that the inclusion of such an amendment would prevent pipelines from being built and in turn increase electricity rates for customers in a state in which electricity is already very expensive.
Members of the Senate were disappointed that the law did not entail an increase in the amount of energy utilities must purchase from renewable sources. Reportedly, the House was determined not to allow such an increase because it would raise rates for customers. The mandate also excluded some energy efficiency improvement measures proposed by the Senate, including the requirement of home energy audits. Despite the difficulty of the negotiations between the House and the Senate, lawmakers generally think Massachusetts is moving in the right direction and foresee more fruitful discussion over renewable energy in the future.