Talking Points

Clean energy advocates poised for a win on Beacon Hill

(CJ GUNTHER/EPA/Shutterstock/File 2018)

Major business groups hoped the clock would run out before lawmakers could get around to increasing renewable energy requirements for electric utilities.

No such luck. House leaders just advanced such a bill, with less than three weeks left in formal sessions for the year. The Senate already endorsed a more ambitious proposal. So it’s almost guaranteed we’ll see a jump in renewable requirements before everyone bails for the Cape after July 31.

Here’s how it works today: Sellers of electricity, primarily National Grid and Eversource, need to ensure that 13 percent of their power purchases come from renewable sources, or face financial penalties. State law requires that number to go up by 1 percentage point every year — 14 percent next year, 15 percent in 2020, and so on.


Beacon Hill wants to step up the pace. The Senate recently passed a bill that would increase the requirement by 3 percentage points annually. The latest House bill, meanwhile, would bring the annual increase to 2 percent — but temporarily, for a 10-year period that ends in 2030.

Environmentalists and clean-tech supporters such as the Northeast Clean Energy Council say that without a substantial increase, Massachusetts could quickly fall behind other states that have implemented new renewable standards.

But big employers and their lobbyists worry about Massachusetts’ relatively high electric bills. They want state officials to give big mandated purchases of hydropower and offshore wind power, passed in 2016, more time to come to fruition before adding new requirements.

They’ve lost that battle. Working through the utility-backed Mass Coalition for Sustainable Energy, they sent a letter to Beacon Hill leaders today, essentially saying that any expansion of renewables should be paired with an expansion of natural gas. Nice try. Lawmakers will assuredly let the time run out before picking up that political football.


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.