Driving Our Clean Energy Future Remarks

By:  Deval Patrick
Date: Oct. 16, 2012
Location: Boston, MA

In my business career, I noticed the tremendous pressure everyone felt to manage for the next quarter, to get the short-term results even if it jeopardized the long-term interests of the enterprise. Sadly, those habits have crept into the way we govern, where we govern for the next news cycle or election cycle, and rarely make decisions in our long-term interests -- that is, unless they have a short-term political payoff.

One of our generation's biggest long-term challenges is energy: where to get it, how to sustain it, and how to keep it cost effective. It poses profound long-term questions about the environment and public health, about supply and demand. And yet some still argue the science of climate change. The future of federal tax incentives is uncertain. Investor support for renewable energy technology development and deployment is uneven. And historic low prices for natural gas have diminished the urgency for action.

Five years ago, we in Massachusetts took a fresh look at our energy future, starting with our current realities. Energy in Massachusetts has long been relatively costly. With no oil, coal or natural gas of our own, we are at the end of the pipeline and are subject to the whims of a global energy market. We bear the costs associated with finding, extracting and transporting fuels from all corners of the world.

Our businesses and residents spend $22 billion annually on energy costs -- $18 billion of that leaves Massachusetts. That's nearly $8,000 for every Massachusetts household that we send to other states and other countries to meet our energy needs.

So, working together with many of you in this room, we set out to shape a different future. We set ambitious long-term goals for changing how much and what kind of energy we consume, and gave businesses, families and local governments the tools we need to get there. Our goal: to make Massachusetts a leader in the clean energy revolution that is already sweeping the world.

I am proud to report that it's working.

We focused at the outset on energy efficiency, making it our "first fuel" to meet new energy needs. We are making $2 billion in energy efficiency investments over three years, and generating $6 billion in benefits for consumers. That's a rate of return I will take any day -- and it is just the beginning. We are now in a position to meet future power needs without new generation capacity. Indeed, today in Massachusetts, and for the second year in the row, we lead the nation in energy efficiency.

121 Massachusetts communities have adopted clean energy building codes, and are poised to achieve up to 20 percent savings in new construction. We are testing new ways to build zero net energy buildings at competitive costs, and stretch codes that pay back in energy savings in less than two years.

Today, 103 communities -- representing 2.9 million Massachusetts residents, nearly half of all of the people of Massachusetts -- have committed to cutting municipal energy consumption equal to the annual energy consumption of more than 13,000 Massachusetts homes and the greenhouse gases from more than 23,000 cars.

Generating electricity from resources we have right here, like wind and solar, is also a part of our strategy. When I took office, Massachusetts had a nominal commitment to renewable energy, a total of about 6 megawatts of solar and wind energy combined. We now have 162 megawatts of solar power alone. We're already more than halfway to our 2017 goal of 250 megawatts, with five years left to hit the target.

State government is leading by example. We've installed panels at state colleges and universities, public health facilities, airports and water treatment plants. Programs like "Solarize Massachusetts" are putting solar energy within reach of businesses and families across the state. Because of this program, Massachusetts communities are seeing prices between 7 to 11 cents per kilowatt hour compared to the average statewide 15 cents for fossil fuel-based power sources.

We have also moved forward on wind power. We've seen a twenty-fold increase to 61 megawatts in just five years, enough to power nearly 19,000 homes. What is striking is how much of it has come from individual municipal wind turbines.

Meanwhile, my support for America's first offshore wind development, Cape Wind, is unshaken. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates it will create 43,000 new jobs by 2030. Every single U.S. state along the East Coast is working to develop off-shore wind. Every one is racing for second place; Massachusetts will be first.

There is a second offshore wind development area in the works, located in federal waters of our coast. It's the largest proposed East Coast offshore wind development area and it has already attracted responses from 10 offshore wind development companies. If these projects are developed in a cost effective manner, we estimate the area could generate up to 4,000 megawatts of wind energy. To put that into context, that is enough electricity to power 1.7 million households in Massachusetts and is equal to the electricity currently generated by every single coal-fired power plant currently operating in Massachusetts combined.

We've also opened the largest indoor wind blade testing facility in the world and leading international companies are sending their technologies here for testing, research and development.

But energy efficiency, wind and solar are not the only solutions. We should also push forward into new areas of renewable power. Germany is famous for its commitment to wind and solar, but the remarkable fact is that they get more renewable power from "biogas" derived from food and yard waste than from the other two combined. My agencies are now putting in place the rules to create a similar boom in Massachusetts.

We are paying attention to the demand for talent as we grow. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center sponsors an internship program for students to get experience in this emerging sector and for companies to get the skilled workers they need. Over the past two summers, the program placed more than 262 summer interns at more than 77 clean energy companies across the state. 38 of those students have gained full-time and part-time employment after finishing their degrees -- young talent like QuynhAnh Tran, a chemical engineering graduate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Amanda Colby, an energy and environmental analysis major from Boston University. Each was first hired as an intern at Cambrian Innovations, a fuel cell technology company in Boston, and now works full time.

They are both here today with their employer.

This program works. So, today I am pleased to announce a renewed investment in our clean energy workforce. We're going to invest $1 million to fund a year-round internship program to place college students and recent graduates at clean energy companies in Massachusetts.

I understand that some people think investment in clean energy costs too much. But that view doesn't take into account the costs of inaction. Electric bills of most Massachusetts ratepayers are down some 40% in the last three years. That won't last: demand for oil and natural gas continues to grow in Asia and Latin America. So, we have a perfect window right now to make clean energy investments. We invest in energy efficiency to save money by using less energy. And we invest in homegrown renewable power to free ourselves from the rollercoaster of imported fossil fuels from places in the world where conditions on the ground are difficult to predict. Our new $1 million grant program to help get clean tech demonstration projects into the marketplace is just one of those mechanisms and I encourage young companies to take advantage of that program this week.

As we shift away from fossil fuels to clean and renewable sources, we are enabling a clean tech industry in Massachusetts. With our combination of brainpower, research universities and venture capital, Massachusetts is global destination for clean tech the same way we are today in health care, the life sciences and high tech.

We have attracted more clean energy private investment per capita than any other U.S. state. We've seen new companies in solar, energy storage, lighting, wind and biofuels emerge. We are seeing international leaders in clean energy establish and expand their presence here. We've got offshore wind companies basing U.S. operations here and the owner of the world's largest fleet of underwater cable ships has established an office here. Today, 5,000 clean tech companies in Massachusetts employ 72,000 people. The sector grew 6.7 percent last year and over 11 percent this year, defying national and global economic trends. You are all in the right place at the right time.

Whether we like it or not, there will be winners and losers when it comes to clean energy in the 21st Century. The winners will be those places that did everything they could to be ready for change and created an atmosphere for and a culture of innovation.

We welcome you to be a part of it all here, and wish you a successful meet-up.

Thank you.