Massachusetts Chambers Realize the Full Economic Potential of the Clean Energy Economy

Here at NECEC, our home state of Massachusetts proved itself a leader by embracing clean energy in last year's omnibus energy bill, which set out a series of procurements that will drive 1600 megawatts of offshore wind and 1,200 megawatts of new hydro, solar and land-based wind over the next decade.

While clean energy businesses are busy working on proposals to build out such renewable energy, today more and more mainstream businesses are looking towards the economic development opportunities that are on the horizon.

In a recent article in South Coast Today, SouthCoast Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rick Kidder notes that now is the time for lawmakers in the Commonwealth to demonstrate a "continued commitment" to renewables. Massachusetts’ South Coast, which stands to benefit as the state’s offshore wind industry takes off, is eager to see the economic development opportunities that come along with being at the center of a new industry.

“It’s important that the commonwealth look at hydro, that the commonwealth look at wind, and for us as a potential wind center, that’s an economic boon for us,” SouthCoast Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rick Kidder said. “New Bedford, in the days of whale oil, was the city that lit the world and now it has the opportunity at least to be a piece of the city that lights the wind, so it’s something that’s very important over time.”

Further, Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Jeannie Hebert looks towards her region’s roots from the industrial revolution when factories were powered from renewable hydropower from the Blackstone River, noting that today Massachusetts can protect itself from high energy rates by diversifying its energy resources again with renewables.

While businesses and communities see the full economic potential of the clean energy economy, policy adjustments still need to be made to ensure cost-effective development.  A recent NECEC report found that Massachusetts must increase its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to ensure continued cost-effective clean energy development to maintain our current progress, encourage new investment and production, and drive economic growth.

The RPS, which requires utilities to provide a minimum percentage of their annual electricity sales from renewable sources, has been a proven driver for renewable energy growth and is the foundation for clean energy markets. By increasing its RPS, Massachusetts can heighten demand for utilities to purchase more electricity from renewable sources, which according to the study could create as many as 43,000 jobs across the region by 2030.

According to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, clean energy jobs across the state have grown 75 percent since 2010, recently surpassing the 105,000 mark. A failure to increase the state’s RPS requirements will have a chilling effect on the already incredible growth of our vital renewable sector. Our clean energy economy is a boon for Massachusetts, but we still must keep policy up to realize the full potential that clean energy brings our economy, environment and energy system.

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Jacob Shuman

Jacob is NECEC's Policy Intern.