These are strange days in Massachusetts. A state known for its environmental leadership, we now argue over solar caps and net-metering rates while solar projects are shuttered or put on hold. We debate the merits of forcing electricity ratepayers (you and me) to pay $8 billion to construct natural gas pipelines, while new research from Harvard suggests the U.S. is responsible for a huge spike in global Methane emissions—with fracking the likely culprit. We consider the environmental and economic impacts of importing hydro electricity from Canada, while our own offshore wind resources —labeled the “Saudi Arabia of wind”—remain unutilized.
It appears some state policy proposals are based on economics that ignore or don’t properly weigh social or environmental costs, benefits and limits. There’s a continued focus on near-term concerns, while the long-term consequences of policy action (or inaction) are overlooked or discounted. We need to move beyond the short-term, beyond narrowly focused financial considerations.
There is hope. Many political leaders in the state want energy legislation that will benefit the commonwealth and fight climate change. We see this in the letter signed by 100 State Representatives advocating for a balanced, sensible approach to solar legislation: fair net-metering compensation, subsidy reform via the SREC program and grandfathering of existing systems.
This is good news. Let’s hope more Massachusetts political leaders act on their own beliefs, and not those of the utilities and fossil fuel industry.
Author’s note: This post is based on a letter I wrote for the Massachusetts Sierra Club as chair of the Greater Boston Group.