Mar. 9, 2012
BOSTON — A bill aimed at lowering Massachusetts electricity prices spurred a debate on jobs Thursday at a hearing of the Legislature's Joint Committee on Utilities and Energy.
Massachusetts has some of the highest electricity costs in the nation. In fact, State Rep. Randy Hunt of East Sandwich said electricity is so expensive that manufacturers are leaving the state, taking with them hundreds of jobs.
He’s backing a bill that he says would lower the cost of energy. It would require utility companies to purchase their renewable energy through a competitive bidding process — and go with the lowest of three bids.
"For almost everything that we spend money on publicly in this Commonwealth, whether it's at the town level, state level or community level, we’re required to get competitive bidding so that we make sure we have good costs, lowest costs — and sometimes not necessarily the lowest cost but best overall package," he said. However, "right now the Green Communities Act actually exempts these types of long-term renewable contracts from the competitive bidding law" to the detriment of consumers and businesses.
But critics, like Louis Antonellis of the IBEW, which represents over 10,000 Bay State electricians, said the bill would send green jobs out the state. In his view, Hunt's bill would essentially require Massachusetts utilities to sign contracts with large out-of-state projects, killing the local wind and solar industry.
“We should stay on the path of helping workers in Massachusetts with clean energy projects and not encouraging utilities and electrical consumers to take their money and projects elsewhere,” Antonellis said.
The bill is also seen as a reaction to the recent purchasing agreement between NStar and Cape Wind. In that case, the contract didn’t go through a competitive bidding process even though Cape Wind Power would be more expensive than other renewable sources.
Sean Corcoran's Cape Wind blog