By Jon Chesto
House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo put his considerable political clout behind the offshore wind industry during a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.
As part of a wide-ranging energy bill that the House is expected to release soon, DeLeo pledged for the first time to include language aimed at developing an offshore wind industry in Massachusetts.
The speaker cited the local jobs that could be created by the industry as one motivating factor.
He said the procurement process outlined in the upcoming bill would require offshore wind developers to compete with each other. The developers, DeLeo said, would need to show that they can demonstrate cost benefits and feasibility and can guarantee that their power could be delivered during critical peak times.
DeLeo said his energy bill will also include a competitive procurement process for hydropower, presumably from Canada, because it represents a renewable and reliable energy source. Bringing hydropower from dams in Canada has been a big priority for Governor Charlie Baker, who began pushing his own hydro bill last year, in part to meet the state’s aggressive carbon dioxide reduction goals.
DeLeo’s support for offshore wind was not unexpected: Representative Patricia Haddad, a top DeLeo lieutenant, is one of the biggest wind advocates at the State House. But the comments Wednesday marked the first time that DeLeo has publicly endorsed legislation to support offshore wind.
Three wind developers have already acquired the rights to lease portions of federal waters south of New England. They are hoping that state legislation could open the doors for long-term contracts that would help them finance their projects by ensuring there are buyers for the power.
Deepwater Wind chief executive Jeff Grybowski, for example, has a 20-year contract with National Grid to buy power from the nation’s first offshore wind farm, a five-turbine project Deepwater is building off Block Island. Grybowski said he would like a similar contract to be encouraged by the Legislature in Massachusetts to help finance a much larger offshore project. “I think we have a lot of momentum [on Beacon Hill],” Grybowski said.
Matthew Beaton, Baker’s energy secretary, offered encouraging words to the industry at the US Offshore Wind Leadership Conference in Boston on Tuesday but stopped short of promising definitive support.
DeLeo’s statements a day later left industry insiders such as Stewart Mullin hopeful.
“It’s fantastic that Massachusetts is leading the way in really pushing the development of offshore wind,” said Mullin, marketing director at wind turbine manufacturer MHI Vestas.
Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.