HOUSE COUNTERING SENATE ENERGY BILL WITH FOUR PROPOSALS
By Katie Lannan
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JULY 11, 2018...Four energy bills could come to the House floor for votes this week as House leaders ramp up a late-session response to a single major energy bill approved last month by the Senate.
Since Monday, the House Ways and Means Committee has advanced a $666 million economic development bill and legislation dealing with opioid addiction and school funding, teeing them up for action by the full House. The panel on Wednesday began advancing three clean energy bills.
Committee members have until 3 p.m. Wednesday to vote on the amended energy bills, which deal with energy efficiency standards (H 3404), the renewable portfolio standard (H 4575), and energy storage (H 4576).
The House hopes to take up those three bills -- along with a redrafted version of a Rep. Jennifer Benson energy efficiency bill (H 1724) now before the Committee on Bills in Third Reading -- this week, according to an aide to Speaker Robert DeLeo.
The House appears to be taking a different procedural approach to energy policy than the Senate, which approved an omnibus bill tackling multiple issues.
The Senate on June 14 unanimously passed legislation that institutes a carbon pricing system, increases the renewable portfolio standard, removes the solar net metering cap, creates an energy storage target and authorizes additional procurements of offshore wind and hydropower, along with other measures.
With less than a week now remaining before a new deadline for the two branches of the Legislature to send their differing versions of bills on the same topic to conference committee negotiations, advocates have been calling for the House to act on energy.
Gina McCarthy, who served as Environmental Protection Agency administrator under President Barack Obama, on Wednesday issued a statement saying she was joining "the coalition of voices encouraging Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo and House Ways and Means Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez to do what they can to get a strong climate and energy bill passed out of the House this session before time runs out."
"I have faith that Speaker DeLeo and Chairman Sanchez understand what is at stake in this fight for U.S. leadership on climate change," McCarthy said. "I know they have each worked hard for the people of this state for many years. And I know they can find a way to position Massachusetts to reap the economic and health benefits that a clean energy economy will provide. My hope is that they will find a way to do just that by quickly passing a House climate and energy bill."
The House plans to meet in a formal session on Thursday, and on Wednesday morning adopted an order requiring that any amendments to the three Ways and Means energy bills be filed by 9 a.m. Thursday.
The committee's energy efficiency bill is based on legislation filed by Rep. Frank Smizik and backed by the energy efficiency program administrators of seven Massachusetts utilities. The utilities said in a June 28 letter to lawmakers that the efficiency standards Smizik's bill proposes -- for items including computers, portable electric spas and water coolers -- "would generate net economic savings and other benefits for our customers in addition to significant energy savings statewide."
The energy storage bill would establish a new research institute and a testing facility "that shall serve as a resource for companies developing energy storage systems and shall be located on a campus within the University of Massachusetts." The bill, originally filed by Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee Co-Chair Rep. Thomas Golden of Lowell, suggests the testing center would be at UMass Lowell -- it specifies the facility would need to be in a gateway city and "be located near" the Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center at UMass Lowell.
It also charges the Department of Energy Resources with studying the feasibility of using a mobile battery storage system to respond to extreme weather events or power outages.
The third bill creates a "clean peak standard" for utilities and would increase for a decade the amount of new clean power utilities would need to buy each year under the renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Under current law, an additional 1 percent of clean energy is required each year.
Under the bill, the RPS increases would be set at 2 percent annually from 2021 through 2030, then fall back to 1 percent.
The Senate's energy bill raises the RPS by 3 percent annually.
Urging lawmakers to proceed with caution on energy policy and avoid "wholesale changes" to the state's energy efficiency programs, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts wrote to legislative leaders late last month to argue against moves including a doubling or tripling of the RPS increases.
The June 28 letter from AIM senior vice president and counsel Robert Rio said the RPS "completely ignores the benefits of hydropower" and that a focus on the RPS "does nothing to address the real source of carbon emissions -- transportation."
Sean Garren, the northeast senior director at Vote Solar, said the three bills Ways and Means is advancing are "vital" and "will support the Commonwealth's clean energy industries."
"We hope to work with House Leadership to strengthen these bills and pass them quickly," he said.
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