BOSTON, MARCH 2, 2016….Hoping to promote a “natural pair” of electricity sources, House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Wednesday told business leaders the House would push to add offshore wind and imported hydroelectricity to the state’s energy portfolio.
“Hydroelectricity is a low-emission renewable and reliable source of energy,” DeLeo told the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. “When partnered with wind resources, hydropower can provide energy when the wind doesn’t blow. These two are complementary, and I believe that they are a natural pair.
DeLeo’s overture on hydro harmonizes with Gov. Charlie Baker, who has long argued that importing hydropower is the best course to ensure reliable renewable energy.
DeLeo said the bill would create a competitive procurement process for hydroelectricity and would also encourage the development of offshore wind in the waters around Massachusetts.
After his speech at the Boston Park Plaza breakfast, DeLeo told reporters offshore wind would not compete against hydropower. He said, “Wind will be an energy sector of its own,” while allowing that hydroelectric generators can have a wind-energy component.
Asked if the bill would require utilities to purchase a certain amount of power in those renewable energy sectors, DeLeo said, “We’ll set forth a certain amount of megawatts that they will have to hit for them to be considered and in doing so they will make their proposals.”
DeLeo spokesman Seth Gitell then said the bill would be available “very soon.”
Touting the benefits of competition, speaker said the bill would aim to secure “good contracts” for energy and he said the offshore wind industry is excited about the prospects of doing business in Massachusetts.
“Massachusetts is probably the first big state that they’re coming to in this country. We’re excited about that,” said DeLeo, who said he attended the U.S. Offshore Wind Leadership Conference held in Boston.
Dan Dolan, president of the New England Power Generators Association, said the governor’s bill would carve out an additional 33 percent of the state’s energy usage to be supplied by renewables on top of existing law that brings the renewable carve-out to 20 percent by 2020.
Dolan, whose group represents most of the power plants in New England, including renewables, said under the governor’s bill “more than half of the market would be carved out and given to the winners the state picks in the process.”
Citing a study commissioned by the association, Dolan said Bay State ratepayers could expect to pay another $777 million under Baker’s proposal. Noting that the transportation sector has substantially grown in its share of emissions and that the region has a cap-and-trade program for power plant emissions, Dolan said, “We’re willing to do our share, and we have frankly done more than any other sector of the economy.”
The speaker unveiled other proposals at the gathering, including restrictions on the use of non-compete contracts, which generally bar employees from leaving their position to work for a competitor.
Critics have said non-compete contracts hamper the fast-paced innovation economy while business leaders have said they protect against the acquisition of corporate secrets through hiring.
DeLeo mapped out non-compete legislation, describing it as “compromise,” that would limit the contracts to 12 months, require notice of the non-compete clause to prospective employees, and prohibit their use with low-wage workers.
Referencing the widely covered controversy around sandwich chain Jimmy John’s using non-compete agreements with its employees, DeLeo said that type of non-compete is out of bounds.
“For the kids who make sandwiches, they had non-competes,” said DeLeo. “That was absurd.”
Former Gov. Deval Patrick proposed a ban on non-competes as part of a jobs bill in 2014, but it went nowhere. DeLeo said there had been “strong feelings on both sides of the equation,” and both sides agreed on “the need to do something” after last session ended, as non-compete opponents worried that the state was losing talent to California, where non-competes are outlawed.
DeLeo also proposed a $2 million fund “to promote the use of big data and analytics,” which he said could “unlock discoveries.” The House on two prior occasions has included funding for big data only to see it cut midyear by the governor, according to the speaker’s office, which said that had occurred under both Baker and former Gov. Deval Patrick.
The speaker said Jim Rooney, the chamber president, joined him for a roundtable in Springfield earlier in the year and the Boston chamber will work on expanding economic growth throughout the state, starting formally with a Baystate Business Link forum in the spring.
DeLeo also asked the business leaders to help create an Early Education and Care Business Advisory Group to gather ideas for how business can address early education access and quality.
Copyright 2016 State House News Service