By Peter Rothstein
Governor Patrick’s recently announced merger deal between Northeast Utilities and Nstar does more than just protect against rate increases for years to come – it enhances the state’s national leadership in the clean energy innovation economy and positions us for the key benefits from the emerging clean energy industry: jobs, economic growth and a sustainable energy infrastructure.
The clean energy industry currently employs 64,000 people in Massachusetts; the sector is on track to grow 11 percent this year after 7 percent growth last year. By expanding Nstar’s efficiency programs and commitments to purchase renewable power, the merger agreement will stimulate private investment in this fast-growing industry and create thousands of additional new jobs every year.
This increased private investment aligns with the Commonwealth’s work to promote the clean energy industry as an engine of job creation. Massachusetts has crafted a strong clean energy strategy that enjoys broad customer support, and which sets market signals for investment and growth of cost-effective efficiency and renewables. As a regulated utility playing a central role in the implementation of these policies, Nstar’s agreement signals its clear readiness to work as an active supporter and partner in the state’s strategy. These clean energy investments in efficiency and renewables are on a path to stabilize and bring down energy costs over time, and keep more of our dollars in the regional economy instead of purchasing imported fossil fuels.
Nstar’s commitment to expanding its energy efficiency programs, purchasing additional generation from solar and investing in demonstrations of electric vehicle recharging all signal to private companies and jobs seekers that Massachusetts offers increased opportunities for the newest, most innovative and cost-effective technologies to come to market. The resulting investment dollars flowing into the Commonwealth will support such job-creation opportunities as solar project development and expansion and wind turbine manufacturing – including materials manufacturers expanding from ship building to turbine blade manufacturing. Truly, the clean energy innovation economy is being built right here in the Bay State.
This is exactly where Massachusetts should be – at the vanguard of an exciting new industry driven by disruptive technologies and forward-looking innovators. After all, this state leads the country in awarded research and development grants from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) program, designed to explore creative “outside-the-box” technologies that promise genuine transformation in the ways the nation generates, stores and utilizes energy. We also benefit from our proximity to top-tier local universities, which continue to spin out clean energy startups and innovation talent that make us the envy of the nation.
So what’s important about the announcement isn’t Cape Wind. Rather, it’s about confirming that Nstar is on a path to become the largest utility in New England with a deeper commitment to be a partner in our transition to a clean energy economy, stabilizing and reducing our long-term energy costs, and creating jobs and markets for our global-leading innovation economy. This merger, quite simply, makes a strong investment in the future of Massachusetts, and that benefits everyone who lives, works and invests in this state.
Peter Rothstein serves as president of the New England Clean Energy Council