Transition to renewable power sources too slow, Massie says

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BOSTON — Saying the state is stuck with an "economy of the past" because of a lack of insight and expertise to challenge a "broken" electrical system, Democrat for governor Bob Massie on Thursday released a 22-point energy plan that calls for a carbon pricing system, the full transition to renewable power by 2050 and reform of the state's utility regulation.

"This is about centralized power, energy and political power, versus distributed power, both energy and political power," the Somerville Democrat told the News Service. "And that's a transition that's very beneficial for democracy, but the reins of both types of power are being held by a poorly understood, small circle of beneficiaries."

Massie, a longtime environmental advocate, said energy policy reform is not the only reason he's seeking the corner office — social justice issues are also a priority, he said — but it is a key plank in his platform and one he feels resonates with voters.

"I'm hearing that people would love to have a leader that understands this, first of all, and who embraces dramatic change," he said.

The changes Massie calls for in his 29-page plan range from simple — he notes that he drives an electric car, while Gov. Charlie Baker does not — to systemic.

Massie calls for establishing a carbon pricing system where families receive cash benefits to move to froom fossil fuels to renewable power through investments like purchasing electric cars. He wants to eliminate the cap on net metering to allow for an expansion of solar power, decentralize the electric grid through a move toward distributed energy based in communities, and "dramatically expand" wind energy.

Massie is one of three Democrats vying to challenge Baker, a Swampscott Republican, in the 2018 election.

Jay Gonzalez of Needham, who served as administration and finance secretary under Gov. Deval Patrick, labels climate change as "the biggest threat to our planet and to our future" on his campaign website, where he says Massachusetts should be the first state to adopt carbon pricing, accelerate its transition to clean energy, and oppose any new gas pipelines. Former Newton Mayor Setti Warren is also seeking the Democratic Party nomination.

An energy diversity law Baker signed in August 2016 required Massachusetts utilities to procure 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind and 1,200 megawatts of new hydropower, solar, wind and other renewable sources by 2027. The law, Baker said at the time, would "set Massachusetts' course for the future in a proper and appropriate way to ensure that we continue to reduce our carbon footprint and at the same time deliver reliable and competitively priced energy for the people of this region."

The request for proposals for the broader clean energy procurement set a Jan. 25 deadline for an evaluation team, consisting of the Department of Energy Resources and distribution companies, to select projects for negotiation from among 46 bids submitted. Three companies have proposed offshore wind projects, and the selection date for those is set on April 23.

Massie characterized the current approach to offshore wind as "extremely slow" and said the state should be pursuing multiple projects at once. A "full buildout," he said, would allow Massachusetts to export the power it could generate, increasing revenues to the government by as much as $6 billion. He said the state now spends $20 billion a year importing various forms of fossil fuels, including heating oil, gasoline and natural gas.

A robust embrace of offshore wind and other renewable energy would offer "tremendous benefits" to families and communities, help prevent global warming and position Massachusetts as a leader in a relatively new technology, Massie said.

"You'd think with all of those benefits, you would see a deep desire for rapid changes, and instead, because people are thinking on the basis of economic models from 20 and 30 years ago, and they're comfortable with a complicated system that reaps benefits for them, they're not particularly interested in change," he said. "That's why we need elections. That's why we need new leadership."

Massie intends to release a "comprehensive transportation plan" within the next month, he says in the energy document.

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