State Regulators Demonstrate Commitment to New England's Renewable Future

More than a hundred clean energy business leaders, policymakers, and stakeholders at last week’s 153rd New England Electricity Restructuring Roundtable had their eyes set on the future of renewable energy in New England in 2030 and beyond.

The main draw of the event was a panel discussion entitled “Renewable Energy Related Policies, Plans, and Programs” featuring three of the leading state regulators in the region: Secretary Matthew Beaton of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Commissioner Carol Grant of the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources, and Deputy Commissioner Mary Sotos of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Secretary Beaton kicked off the discussion with an overview of recent legislative and regulatory successes for renewables in Massachusetts. He pointed to last year’s omnibus energy bill as an example of the state’s leadership on energy, expressing particular excitement for opportunities related to offshore wind and hydro. Keeping with the roundtable’s focus on the future, the secretary also discussed Massachusetts work to set an energy storage target, the recently announced Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART), and hinted at new energy efficiency legislation from the Baker Administration.

Commissioner Grant expanded on the Secretary’s vision, suggesting that the “future is now” for renewable energy. She noted that individual states are driving transformation in decarbonization and climate policy, placing great value on the New England states’ ability to collaborate across borders. After launching the first offshore wind farm in the nation last year, the commissioner indicated that Rhode Island intends to continue leading on renewables. The state plans to employ 20,000 workers in clean energy by 2020.

Making her first public speaking appearance in her new role, Deputy Commissioner Sotos commended Connecticut for the progress the state has made since integrating its energy and environment departments six years ago. She suggested that to truly advance the future of renewables, energy financing needs to be seriously addressed. Though the Constitution State has led the charge on financing with the Connecticut Green Bank, which has spurred more than $1 billion in investment since its founding in 2011, electricity rates in the state remain higher than the national average.

Though varied in their state’s approaches, the three regulators demonstrated that the future is indeed bright for renewable energy in New England. Despite setbacks at the federal level, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut leading energy officials maintain that the region  will continue championing clean energy. NECEC and our members are eager to help make that true and are committed to working with leadership in the Northeast to develop state energy policy to drive cost-effective clean energy development with an eye towards a clean energy-based future.

For more information on the future of renewable energy in New England, as well as slides from each of the roundtable’s speakers, visit the New England Electricity Restructuring Roundtable website.

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Jamie Dickerson

Jamie is NECEC's Policy Analyst.