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Could We Become The "Saudi Arabia of Wind"?

If Governor Baker and Legislative leaders are determined to realize their ambitious of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 they need to accelerate the large-scale deployment of offshore wind energy and do so now because absent that contribution, the target will never be reached.
     For Massachusetts to achieve a clean energy future, it will have to electrify the economy and decarbonize the grid. That means increasing the development of renewable energy, including industrial-scale offshore wind; establishing aggressive efficiency programs, especially in the transportation and building sectors; and sequestering carbon by planting lots of trees and protecting more greenspace.
     Despite strong potential and an urgent need for increased clean energy, today, we have no industrial scale offshore wind farms in America. That has to change, and Massachusetts can be a leader.
     Between 2013 and 2018, the Interior Department issued seven wind energy leases in the deep federal waters off Massachusetts – sometimes referred to as the “Saudi Arabia of wind.”
     Four years ago, Bay State lawmakers passed the Energy Diversity Act requiring electric distribution companies to purchase 1,600 megawatts of energy from those sites – enough to power 800,000 homes.
     Two years later, the legislature followed-up with the Clean Energy Act requiring a study of what doubling that procurement would look like.
     Since then, only two contracts for wind development at 800 megawatts each have been awarded by the Commonwealth, one of which, Vineyard Wind, has been unnecessarily delayed by a complicated federal permitting process. This is a slow and insufficient pace to get us to a substantial and sustainable green energy economy.
     Massachusetts can position itself as not only a construction and support center for offshore wind, but also the East Coast’s educational and innovation hub for this new industry.
     First however, some bold policy initiatives must emanate from Beacon Hill, clarifying to consumers, developers, and the supply chain that it is serious about moving forward with the advancement of industrial-scale offshore wind. Once that happens, financiers, entrepreneurs, and energy analysts will signal to developers around the world that there is certainty in the Massachusetts market and it is open for business.
     Absent that action, it’s business as usual as the planet burns, seas rise, and storms get stronger.
Jack Clarke, Mass Audubon Boston, MA
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