Taking the Long View: Insight and Wisdom from Dan Bosley

Pictured above at NECEC's 2023 Maine Clean Energy day in Augusta
First row: Dan Bosley and Natalie Treat, NECEC; Rachel Talbot Ross, Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives; Maya Gibbs, Ameresco; Shatorah Roberson, Tesla; Kristen Tarr, Engie North America. Second Row: Dave Wilby, Wilby Public Affairs; Jessica Robertson, New Leaf Energy; Joe Curtatone, NECEC; Ari Jackson, Glenvale Solar; Alex Houghtaling, LineVision. Rear: Sean Burke, BlueWave.

By Dan Bosley

After a dozen years as an essential figure on the Northeast Clean Energy Council’s policy team, Daniel Bosley has retired as our Government Relations Executive. Bosley served for 24 years in the Massachusetts State Legislature, representing the First Berkshire District. In the House of Representatives, Bosley held several Chairs, including the Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee. As House Chair of the Government Regulations Committee, he was the principal author of the 1997 landmark electric restructuring bill.

While in the Legislature, Bosley was appointed to the Federal U.S. Trade Representative’s Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Council and served as the National Chair of the Council of State Governments (2004). Bosley continues to operate Daniel Bosley Consulting Services, bringing expertise in renewable energy, workforce development, veteran's services, agricultural policy, international trade policy and more.

During his tenure at NECEC, “Boz,” as he was affectionately known—contributed tremendously to the development of the clean energy sector in New England—offering our growing team institutional knowledge, and of course, key connections.

Following are the remarks Bosley delivered at NECEC’s Annual Legislative Roundup on August 9, 2023, a fitting cap to his long tenure with us:

Last week, I stood in a field on a farm in Conway with Senator Ed Markey. This field, at Natural Roots Farm, had been under five feet of water a few weeks before because of the flooding that occurred after a spate of violent rainstorms.

This is just one of the many impacts we see each day  related to climate change. Weather patterns, air quality, invasive species, ocean rise, to name a few. Our ice caps are melting and the water of the coast of Florida reached 100 degrees this summer. All of this is irrefutable, and it is our mission to do our part to combat this. That has been the mission at NECEC in my 12 years here and I am proud to have been a part of this.

In the 1990s when I was the principal author of the Electric Restructuring Act, we were concerned about keeping the lights on. However, even 26 years ago, we were concerned with climate change and offered incentives to switch fuels from oil and coal to natural gas, a much cleaner source. Now we know that wasn’t enough.

I am very proud of the efforts made with NECEC and the successes we have had. We all share in that success because none of this is done without the hard work of our members. When I was a state representative, I used to say that my job was to change the world incrementally every day.

I feel we have done the same at NECEC, changing our part of the world bill by bill, state by state. We together have been impactful, but this needs to continue. It needs to be ramped up.

I was one of the first hires outside of Peter Rothstein and his two office staff. We have, from day one, operated as the honest broker for climate change. We didn’t advocate for one solution or industry but since the first day, the mission was to be the voice for this entire industry sector and against the effects of climate change.

That made us incredibly valuable to policy makers who were trying to wade through sometimes conflicting testimonies or they were looking at sweeping changes impacting many areas of policy, economies, environment, transportation, etc.

They needed one voice that would give them an honest assessment of policies as well as a sounding board on what the practical effects were on proposed policy changes. Since we started, policy and the decisions that are required have become even more complicated.

NECEC needs to continue as that honest broker, leading decision makers through the thicket of very thorny policy decisions. You need to push lawmakers to make difficult decisions. You need to advocate. You need to educate.

In 1997, we had to convince lawmakers to change our entire utility system and that was tough because we knew that people would question cost and we knew that we were taking people out of their comfort zones and asking them to make difficult choices.  

Legislators need to make similar choices today. We can’t convert an entire economic sector without substantial and costly, in the short term, changes. We need to make investments in order to effect change. It wasn’t easy in ‘97 and it won’t be easy today. But it is necessary for our long-term health and for our economy.

I used to say that the tough decision was over when lawmakers stopped questioning climate change and started to offer legislation as a result of climate change. I was wrong. The toughest decisions are still ahead.

Things like the Massachusetts Roadmap bill are extremely important, but now that you have a roadmap, you need to build the roads. Too much of our time is spent trying to figure out process, when what we need is progress. That means tough decisions and your advocacy and support for those decisions is key to changing our climate infrastructure.

Here are a few suggestions:

First, we need to tend to our knitting. That means continuing to be that honest broker and that means involving members in making the changes needed. You all need to know what we represent and what we are doing to advance policy. And while we all advocate for our piece of this industry, we all need to remember that our goal is to find a common way to move everyone forward also.

Second, we need to reach out to regional career centers and establish region wide training regimens for the many workers we will need to accomplish the conversion to a cleaner environment. The career centers are already established across the region and we should use them.

Third, we need to remind lawmakers of the three main components to our efforts, and we can’t achieve our goals without working on all three.

You have heard me say this multiple times, but it gets back to advancing legislation on clean energy, transportation and thermal. We can’t meet our goals without all three, and we are still debating small pieces without looking at the bigger pictures of moving forward.

I can not believe after many years, we are still debating energy labels for houses, or the roles of oil dealers in job training. Let’s figure these out by looking at the bigger picture and figuring out what it takes to get to our stated goals, which by the way, are statutes in many of our states.

Four, do not get discouraged. For one thing, we are a society that gets faster each year and attention to an issue is fleeting if we don’t keep bringing it to the forefront. It’s the squeaky wheel, folks. Keep pushing and remind yourselves of where we were 20 years ago and where we are today. Keep grinding because you make a difference.

Five, Please follow the science. We can and do have differences of opinions, but science is immutable. Remind decision makers of that. I can’t stress how important this is. If you attend legislative hearings, you know that there can be conflicting or very emotional testimony.

Conflicting testimony leads to a reticence by lawmakers to advance legislation. But demonstrating the value of a policy by citing the science behind it gives legislators a reason to advance that policy. It can be very powerful.

Last is very difficult but necessary. We need to find a way to get all our states moving in the same direction at the same time in a more coordinated manner.

The states are all working on the same issues, but with slightly different languages and on different timelines. There is a lot to admire about their efforts. We have a lot of legislative friends out there, but we need to make their efforts more efficient. We need to show the rest of the world what is possible. And a coordinated regional effort would be phenomenal.

Several years ago, I was in Maine testifying on the climate council bill. One Legislator told me he came from a poor rural district with many low-income constituents. He said they couldn’t afford EVs or energy efficiency improvements to their homes. Then he said, “Besides, what difference will one small town in Maine make in a global effort?”

I told him that the difference would be infinitesimal, but it was a start. I told him that I had represented a poor district and the fact is that rural poor with no insulation and an old car needed our help more than others because they had a bigger carbon footprint than those who were able to buy a new car or insulate their homes.

I told him it is not what we do,  but how we do it and how to make it affordable. Each state needs to take real steps forward and can you imagine what it would be like to have all the states going in the same direction?

The economies of scale alone would immediately drop the cost needed to transition to a clean economy. It would equalize the cost of doing business from one state to the next so we wouldn’t be competing with each other. And given our position as a regional thought capital of the US, we could be a leader and maybe an inspiration of what is possible on a global scale.

Am I being naïve? I don’t think so. ISO is regional. We have multi state compacts in nursing, dairy and policing to name a few. We can do this. And NECEC could take the lead by getting together all the Energy Committee Chairs of the New England region to begin by having them talk to one another, learning from each state, inspiring one another, and sharing information so that we can act in a more coordinated effort.

It has been my experience that we can be very innovative when there is a business opportunity. We export solar cookers to Africa; a group of MIT retirees are working on a town wide efficiency plan; local companies are working on new technologies fueled by the brainpower of our regional technology clusters every day in our region and states are putting together green banks to finance some of these efforts.

We can and are changing the world incrementally every day. We have come a long way but have so much farther to go.

My grandson, Rowan—Rowan Daniel thank you very much—is 15 months old. I want him to grow up in a better world where the air is not so angry, and the water is not so dirty. We can do better. We must do better.

I am so proud of the work we have done together over the past 12 years. I am grateful for your friendships and your hard work. Thanks, and keep pressing. I will be watching.

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