Governor signs energy diversity bill

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On Aug. 8, Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation to diversify the state’s energy portfolio by bringing new types of “clean” energy to the Commonwealth.
 
The law directs utilities to procure 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind energy and an additional 1,200 megawatts from other renewable energy sources such as hydropower. Hydropower will likely be imported from Canada or upstate New York.
 
The House and Senate both passed the bill in the late hours of the legislative session on July 31. Energy bills passed earlier by the two chambers had several major differences that were negotiated by a conference committee.
 
The House bill would have required utility companies to solicit and purchase 1,200 megawatts of hydropower and 1,200 megawatts of offshore wind power through long-term contracts, subject to approval by the Department of Public Utilities.
 
The Senate version would have required procurement of long-term contracts for at least 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2027. The Senate bill would have required distribution companies to procure 12,450,000 megawatt-hours of clean energy generation from hydropower and other clean energy sources. The bill also would have doubled the annual rate of increase for the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, or the minimum amount of energy that must come from renewable sources, and would have established a home energy audit system through the Department of Energy Resources. These provisions were not included in the final legislation.
 
Gov. Baker has been a supporter of bringing hydropower to the Commonwealth as a way to diversify the state’s energy portfolio and stabilize costs. The governor had filed his own energy bill, which would have required utilities to solicit contracts for 2,400 megawatts of hydropower in the Commonwealth.
 
The legislation signed by the governor allows cities and towns to opt to participate in a new energy efficiency program for commercial properties, called Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (CPACE). Financing for CPACE is through a private company, and the program will be run by MassDevelopment and the Department of Energy Resources.
 
The energy law expands the requirement that gas companies survey and repair gas leaks in public ways to include Grade 3 leaks that are deemed harmful to the environment. Grade 3 leaks are not considered a threat to public safety or property. A related provision delegates to the Department of Public Utilities, in consultation with the Department of Environmental Protection, the task of developing criteria to identify the impact of Grade 3 leaks on the environment and establishing a plan and timelines to repair leaks that have a significant impact.