Last week, the two-day VERGE conference in Boston kicked off with opening remarks from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
Gov. Patrick was an appropriate luminary to inaugurate an event that focuses on the convergence of energy, information, building and transportation technologies, because Massachusetts has been so dynamic in transforming its energy economy in recent years.
In his remarks, Gov. Patrick highlighted the Commonwealth's growth strategy around clean energy and clean tech, which has focused on three pillars: education, innovation and infrastructure. He noted that Massachusetts is at the end of an expensive energy pipeline, subject to the whim of global markets. In addition to environmental costs, Massachusetts spends billions on its annual energy tab, with 80 percent of energy spending outside of the Commonwealth.
One specific administration goal has been to address that vulnerability, while simultaneously creating new technologies and businesses that ultimately would have Massachusetts viewing the rest of the world "as our customers." The Commonwealth has had some success in this area. It's now No. 1 in energy efficiency spending, having surpassed California for the second year in a row. It also has reached the Patrick Administration's stated goal of reaching 250 megawatts of solar by 2017, and done it four years ahead of time. As a consequence, it has now re-set the bar at 1,600 megawatts by 2020.
Massachusetts is also building a port for offshore wind projects in New Bedford, boasts the world's largest wind blade testing facility in Charlestown, and aims to be a regional powerhouse in offshore wind energy development. Patrick also noted that solar deployment is up by 71 times since 2007 and wind installations have increased more than thirty-fold, and 72,000 people are currently employed in the clean tech industry.
Gov. Patrick had a brief moment after his introductory comments and before running off to his next appointment, and was kind enough to to share with me his insights about Massachusetts energy policy and his time in office.
Kelly-Detwiler: You noted that 80 percent of the money spent on energy in Massachusetts goes to out-of-state companies. What can the Commonwealth be doing to promote even more economic benefit from its energy policy?
Patrick: I used to be in the oil business, and understand upstream and downstream components of that business and how fast it's evolving. More and more folks in traditional fossil fuels business are coming to understand that they also have to master an understanding of the clean tech sector. If we do that here, then the job creation opportunities are limitless. So much of this depends on technology solutions, which we can help create.
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Photo by Goodwin Ogbuehi for GreenBiz Group