Today at 1:00 p.m. the state senate votes on a bill that will give the governor unprecedented control over the electricity market in our state, force more wind turbines and transmission lines into our communities, and increase our electricity rates for the next 20 to 30 years.
The bill, S.2200, is being rushed through the legislature by the Patrick administration, the senate leadership, and the wind industry, and your opposition is urgently needed right now to stop it.
Please contact your state senator Ben Downing and the senate president Therese Murray this morning – ideally before 11:00 a.m. – using information provided at the end of this email.
S.2200 is an energy bill that will increase subsidies to the wind industry, raise costs for consumers, strip revenue from towns, and empower the governor to dominate the renewable energy market in Massachusetts and New England. (A link to the bill is at the end of this email.)
According to the 2012 strategic plan of the American Wind Energy Association, “The Patrick administration wants to drive regional procurement plus a higher wind target (30%) for the state and the NE region.” (A link to the plan is at the end of this email.)
The legislation being considered today, Thursday, March 29th, was written by the Patrick administration to achieve the governor’s astonishing goal.
Here are the main problems with S.2200:
1.) S.2200 gives the governor virtually unlimited power over the build-out of onshore wind turbines and transmission lines throughout Massachusetts.
Under S.2200, a single agency appointed by the governor and not answerable to anyone else has the authority to enter into long-term contracts to buy renewable energy and to build transmission lines anywhere in Massachusetts and New England. (Line 99 of S.2200)
Approval of those contracts will be by another agency appointed mostly by the governor. (Line 138 of S.2200)
Massachusetts ratepayers and taxpayers will be obligated to cover those costly contracts -20 years for renewable energy and 30 years for transmission. (Lines 115, 166 of S.2200)
This authority will kick in if there is not enough renewable energy in the New England market to meet our state’s very ambitious mandates – and we already know there isn’t because all six states are competing for the same limited resources. (Line 93 of S.2200)
2.) This means that for the first time the state of Massachusetts itself will be in the energy business, and, with the extraordinary powers conferred by S.2200, the governor will be able to manipulate the regional energy market based upon the number and terms of the contracts he wants his agency to execute. The agency is the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) and he appoints 10 of its 12 board members.
3.) New transmission to meet the state’s renewable energy mandates is expected to cost billions of dollars. This means that S.2200 will effectively put all the power to decide how much to spend and where to build transmission lines into the hands of one person, the governor.
4.) S.2200 exempts industrial wind facilities from local taxes. These facilities already get lavish federal and state subsidies, and now towns will be forced to subsidize them, too.
Earlier this month, the state’s Department of Revenue ruled that towns can tax industrial wind facilities at their full value as real estate. The wind industry was furious and lobbied hard on this point.
If S.2200 is adopted, DOR’s ruling will be nullified. Instead, towns will be entitled to just 5% of the facility’s gross electricity sales as a payment in lieu of tax. (Line 180 of S.2200)
When you consider that a 10-turbine facility can be worth at least $40 million, but its output might be worth at best only $2 million annually, 5% or $100,000 of the latter would be a fraction of what would be obtained by the town otherwise.
5.) S.2200 confers another subsidy to the wind industry at our expense by doubling the net metering cap from 3% to 6% of an electricity retailer’s peak customer demand. (Line 321 of S.2200)
This sounds like jargon but it is driving the renewable energy market in Massachusetts.
Net metering allows wind-turbine owners to sell renewable energy to the grid at retail prices, using town governments as go-betweens. The towns get a cut and the owners get retail instead of wholesale value for their electricity, essentially doubling their returns. (Line 180 of S.2200)
The town’s cut counts towards the 5% payment in lieu of taxes. (Line 182 of S.2200)
Of course, this means that while towns may get a cut of the revenue, the utilities that by law must buy the electricity from them at retail prices will have to jack up the price of that electricity to the rest of us. So while your town government may benefit, you will pay the price.
6.) S.2200 gives a 100% rebate for energy efficiency measures to the five largest electricity consumers in each utility service territory. (Line 25 of S.2200)
These costs, which could be millions of dollars, will be borne by everyone else, primarily small businesses and homeowners.
7.) On top of the requirement to meet the state’s renewable energy mandate, which is increasing annually to 22% in 2020, under S.2200 electricity retailers must enter into long-term contracts for renewable energy equal to 4% of the total electricity demand from all their distribution customers. (Line 413 of S.2200)
Since renewable energy costs anywhere from twice to five times as much as conventional fuels such as natural gas and hydropower, this will also increase the cost of electricity for ratepayers.
8.) For those long-term contracts, S.2200 establishes competitive bidding for renewables that can qualify under state law for subsidies known as Renewable Energy Credits (RECs). The cost of transmission must be included in consideration of the bids. (Line 125 of S.2200)
The effect of this will be hundreds of new wind turbines onshore in Massachusetts. That’s because it is cheaper to build onshore wind than offshore wind or solar, and cheaper to build hundreds of miles of new transmission lines inside our state then to build them over long distances outside the state.
This is all very alarming and – since S.2200 was just announced on Tuesday and was then rushed through two senate committees before anyone knew what was happening, and now has 75 pages of amendments – it’s apparent that most senators have no idea about the implications of the bill to their constituents.
Your quick phone call this morning to your senator’s staff will make a huge difference.
If enough people call, we might be able to stop the bill or at least slow down the process so that everyone gets a chance to study it and figure out which parts should be preserved and which ones jettisoned.
If you can’t call, please send an email, but a short phone call is most effective.
Please ask your senator and the senate president to oppose S.2200.
And tell them you will remember this issue on election day.
The contact information for Senate President Therese Murray is as follows:
The contact information for Senator Ben Downing is as follows:
- Phone: 617-722-1625
- Fax: 617-722-1523
- Email: Benjamin.Downing@masenate.gov
Please forward this email to everyone you think might have an interest.
If you have any questions, please email or call me at (413) 528-9363.
Here are the sources for information in this email:
S.2200: An act relative to competitively priced electricity in the Commonwealth
Amendments to S.2200
American Wind Energy Association 2012 strategic plan (p. 149 of 259)
Please make the calls now.