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Cape Wind project needs to move ahead

By Joe Kennedy III

America needs a comprehensive national energy policy for the 21st century that moves us beyond decades of reliance on non-renewable and foreign energy sources.

Energy in the United States can be cleaner, cheaper, and domestically produced, but only if we are willing to make hard choices, to make significant investments in new energy technologies and industries, and to enact smart policies that harness market forces and American ingenuity on both sides of the meter and the pump.

With climate change threatening irreparable harm on our ecosystems and economy, we need to move away from carbon-intensive sources of energy. I support federal environmental and economic policies that will reward zero- and low-carbon energy producers and make us less reliant than ever on energy imported from regimes that share neither our values nor our interests.

Energy drives our economy and plays an important role in determining where firms locate, where jobs grow, and where people choose to live. We need a balanced approach that makes our local and global environment safe and healthy for our children and grandchildren without saddling families and businesses with unnecessary costs.

Government can be—and has been—a first mover in helping stimulate the demand for energy-efficient technologies. The heavy energy demands of military bases and battlefields can be further addressed through new technologies, many of which can then be applied to commercial and residential markets. Government buildings in general are also good candidates for energy-saving retrofits—investing in these improvements now can help jump-start the economy and lead to long-run savings that reduce the cost for government at all levels.

Our modern electric power grid has been called the biggest and most complex machine in the world—delivering electricity from hundreds of power plants over 200,000 miles of high tension transmission lines, to millions of consumers. While the grid is an engineering marvel, it needs to be smarter. We need to make investments in a smart-grid that increase the efficiency of our transmission lines and provide consumers with the opportunity to realize savings by delivering more transparency on usage and price.

Demand response is among the most promising new energy-efficiency technologies and one of the fastest-growing "power sources" in the market today. It is being developed by innovative companies in Massachusetts such as EnerNOC and World Energy, which pay large energy consumers to reduce their electricity demand when prices are high. A grocery wholesaler, for example, that cuts power to its freezers during an hour of peak demand on a hot summer afternoon, may reap significant savings without risking any spoilage.

Increasing our investment in wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower, and biofuels will further reduce our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels and slash greenhouse gases and other emissions. In 2011 alone, close to 7,000 megawatts of new wind energy came on line, more than enough to power every household in Massachusetts. Some 29 states have set renewable portfolio standards.

We have made significant progress in installing new renewable capacity but have a long way to go before meeting our nation's renewable energy potential. Setting a national RPS would help spur new development of renewable energy.

I support the long-term development of the offshore wind industry in the Northeastern U.S., including the Cape Wind project, which alone will nearly double the amount of renewable power produced in Massachusetts.

The Production Tax Credit for wind-energy projects has successfully increased the amount of wind power and led to significant price reductions. I support extending this tax credit to promote further renewable production. The oil and gas industry—one of the most profitable sectors in the history of global commerce—currently receives $4 billion annually in direct federal subsidies. We should re-direct these funds to other priorities.

We must also address the need for new transmission lines to carry green power to the market. We should fast-track the permitting of new transmission lines if at least 50 percent of the energy on those lines will be generated from renewables.

Planning for our energy future cuts across broad economic, environmental, and national security concerns. We cannot function as a modern society without affordable and adequate energy resources. We cannot survive as a people by polluting our air and water and raising global temperatures in blind pursuit of energy supplies. And we must not maintain our energy security by sending our sons and daughters overseas to defend access to foreign sources of energy. Only a comprehensive energy policy will ensure the proper balance.

Joe Kennedy III was elected to represent the 4th District of Massachusetts in the U.S. Congress in the November Election. For the Record is an excerpt of a posting on Congressman Kennedy's website.

March/April 2013