The Barrett Report, September 2023
It’s hard not to be positive on a warm, sunny day in Lincoln. So at The Nature Conservancy’s recent event at Codman Farm, I shared some good news: The future is looking bright for clean energy. More and more people are making the switch to EVs and heat pumps — crucial technologies for reducing our emissions. More work to do, but a lot of progress in Massachusetts and at the federal level in the past three years.
Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, the Senate chair of the Legislature’s Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee, said he is concerned that sharply higher prices for offshore wind power could stall the state’s decarbonization effort, which is reliant on using clean electricity to displace fossil fuels in the transportation and heating sectors.
“Competition means more than the number of developers bidding,” he said in a phone interview. “It means objective reliable evidence that developers are still bent on economizing and on giving New England consumers affordable rates. I want to see us move to high, high proportions of clean energy, but the long game here requires electricity prices that the public will accept. You don’t want to ignite a backlash against the entire climate policy project.”
The American Revolution has its own special day coming up — its 250th birthday, in 2025 — and startup money for a proper celebration is now on the way. My district has a lot riding on getting the 250th right, but so do a host of other communities across the state. With this first major round of funding, we can get serious about telling our story to the nation and the world in the course of marking a high-profile milestone.
In Framingham, Eversource is building a networked geothermal pilot — a connected system of ground-source heat pumps that use underground heat to warm buildings. The $5 million in funds I secured to collect data on these systems helped get the project off — or should I say under — the ground. Here, I’m speaking to an out-of-state delegation that wanted to learn how Massachusetts is making the switch from gas to geo.
One takeaway from the boat ride to see construction of Vineyard Wind 1, the first major offshore wind farm in the country, is that determination and follow-through are the name of the game. We’re gaining ground and making genuine progress.
Roughly 30% of emissions in Massachusetts comes from heating our buildings. Reliance on natural gas for this purpose remains one of the toughest hurdles to overcome. One of many proposals before the Legislature is a bill to put a hold on new gas lines entirely. I recently chaired a hearing on that idea, among others.
Lexington, a town I represent, is asking a tough question: How do we move toward a zero-waste future? One of the steps we can take is updating the 40-year-old bottle bill — raising the deposit from five cents and expanding the number of containers eligible for deposit — to achieve higher rates of returns. Legislation to accomplish this is pending before the Energy Committee, of which I’m Senate Chair. I’m pushing hard for passage.
Mass Save — the state’s biggest program to reduce carbon emissions in buildings — has no visible leadership. Current law calls for no CEO, no board of directors — no one accountable to the Legislature and the public. I have a bill to reorganize Mass Save in order to achieve better outcomes for ratepayers. Energy utilities will still have a seat at the table, but not at the head of the table. Here, I’m chairing a hearing where the bill was debated.
To my mind, this excellent report underscores a big-picture truth: Massachusetts needs a plan to attract move-ins, from other states and even from abroad. When you place the workforce needs documented so effectively here alongside the findings of other studies concerning labor shortages in healthcare, home care, and early childhood education, it’s hard to draw any other conclusion. We need to attract a slew of workers to fill jobs, and I don’t see how we meet our greenhouse gas reduction limits otherwise.