A proposed congressional bill would require electric companies to invest in renewable energy and could benefit the South Shore.
The renewable energy industry may get a boost from Washington, and the South Shore – aiming to become a leader in wind power production – could benefit.
Some lawmakers, including U.S. Reps. William Delahunt, D-Quincy, and Stephen Lynch, D-South Boston, want to require electric companies to supply 15 percent of power from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2020.
“Thank you, Congress, for doing this. President Bush, please approve this law,” said Judeth Van Hamm of Hull, president of Hull-based Sustainable South Shore, an organization with representatives from 18 communities that raises global warming awareness.
When Congress reconvenes Sept. 4, a conference committee will try to agree on an energy bill. House Bill 3221 includes the renewable energy provision, although there is no comparable element in the Senate version.
“The primary benefit of the legislation would be to build the renewable energy market,” said Seth Kaplan, a senior attorney and director of the Conservation Law Foundation’s Clean Energy & Climate Change Program.
The legislation, if passed, could save consumers about $28.5 billion on gas and electric bills by 2020, according to the Conservation Law Foundation's Web site.
It also comes at a time of vigorous debate about wind power in Massachusetts, in light of a proposed 130-turbine wind farm spread over 25 square miles off Nantucket Sound.
Delahunt and U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy have opposed the effort, which would create the nation’s first offshore wind farm, while Gov. Deval Patrick, Rep. Barney Frank and others support it.
South Shore communities have already made progress and may benefit financially from a growing renewable energy market, Kaplan said.
Hull has two wind turbines and four more have been proposed. Quincy recently completed a year-long study of potential wind turbine sites.
“(The legislation) will make a difference for residents,” said Lisa Bertola of Scituate, a member of Sustainable South Shore.
Bertola said she would like the bill to require even more of a commitment to renewable energy.
“Any step is a good step, but the legislation is probably not adequate,” she said.
If wind energy becomes a business venture, it could be a whole new world, she said. The South Shore could have a wind power collaborative that could satisfy its needs and even make money.
“The possibilities are endless,” Bertola said. The key is making the technology more affordable, refined and plentiful, she said.
Currently, electric companies doing business in Massachusetts must have a minimum of 3 percent power from renewable energy. Under state regulations, the power companies must increase it to 4 percent by 2009.
“We are all moving in the same direction, towards less reliance on foreign oil,” said state Sen. Michael Morrissey, D-Quincy, a member of the special State Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change.
“We try to stay ahead of the curve,” Morrissey said. “We have a standard. I would be happy if we meet it and exceed it.”
Adva Saldinger of The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Mass.) may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.