Gov. Charlie Baker is testifying today on Beacon Hill in support of two pieces of legislation his administration has filed on energy issues. The first would lift the cap on net metering for solar power, increasing the amount that residents, businesses and communities can get back from electric companies for generating their own solar power. The second bill would increase the amount of hydropower the Commonwealth brings in, most likely from Canadian sources.
As with any legislation, the devil is in the details, but our polling finds broad support for increasing the Commonwealth’s use of renewable energy. We asked voters last year on their energy preferences as part of Looking for Leadership, a report on Massachusetts public opinion on climate change done in conjunction with MassINC and funded by the Barr Foundation. The only energy options to win majority support were renewables, with solar power as the most popular, followed by wind and hydroelectric. Voters are split on natural gas, and they are not at all enthusiastic about nuclear power as a future energy source.
Voters also supported public policies to encourage the adoption of renewable energy, even when told those policies would require spending public money. Nearly all voters (85 percent) favored increased incentives to encourage individuals and business to generate their own renewable energy; over half (55 percent) strongly supported that idea. And 87 percent support (63 percent strongly) requiring utility companies to upgrade the electric grid to allow for more renewables and better energy efficiency.
The administration and legislative leaders will no doubt be wrestling with important details around these issues, but public opinion is clearly pointing them in the direction of more renewable energy.