Two large arrays of solar panels sit atop Cape Air buildings beside the Barnstable Municipal Airport in Hyannis, pioneering projects in decentralized, renewable energy.
Cape Air’s headquarters now generates as much electricity as it uses on an annual basis, made possible not just by solar panels but by an aggressive effort to renovate, insulate, and “green” the buildings. Employee incentives also are offered by the company to use less electricity at home; every employee has been given three energy-saving light bulbs, and the remarkable truth is that if each of them replaces an old-fashioned light bulb four hours a day, the savings equal the amount of electricity created by the solar panels on the hangar’s roof.
The company also has invested in engine modifications for its fleet of 70-plus planes, saving hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel while optimizing safe operations. These and other innovations have earned Cape Air an EPA award for environmental initiatives.
In his first term in the Senate, Dan strongly supported successful efforts to raise the net metering cap, a guaranteed increase in the amount of electricity generated from homes and businesses that utilities must accept and credit. This helps ensure that new solar and wind projects will have necessary financial incentives.
He also has expressed strong concern about the operation and future of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth. While the risk of accident is low, the impact of an event would be catastrophic. He urged the Nuclear Regulatory Commission not to re-license the 40-year-old plant for another 20 years until ongoing concerns about spent fuel rod storage, evacuation planning for the Cape and Islands, and aging infrastructure are addressed. Utility officials indicate that electricity generated by Pilgrim is not necessary to supply the region’s needs; Dan believes that we should see nuclear power as a bridge technology with a finite lifespan, and begin planning a transition for approximately 600 workers at the plant to new jobs as we move to shut down the facility.
Big picture, energy production, distribution and consumption need to be driven by public interest rather than investor prerogatives and short-term profit. Distributed solar power is an example of a community-rooted model of energy production that also drives job creation and small business growth. Major offshore wind development (much farther offshore than the Cape Wind project) is now in the planning stages – state and federal estimates say that a single potential wind farm area roughly 20 miles off the coast could produce enough electricity to power 1.7 million Massachusetts homes, with minimal visual impact and little if any harm to commercial fishing. The process to decide who develops this resource needs to give priority to companies locally owned and community focused.
Given that our utilities are mainly investor-owned, the appropriate regulatory role is to insist that public interest remains a primary objective, both in terms of fair rates and corporate responsiveness. From boardroom to executive offices to storm response, investor-owned utilities need to be held accountable. Dan has suggested, not really joking, that CEOs of our public utilities should accept salaries identical to the salary of the President of the United States, then take the difference between that, and what they make now, and hire additional frontline crews and workers to serve our communities.
During his first campaign, Dan established a goal for the Cape and Islands to be electricity-neutral in 20 years – the region should generate as much electricity as it consumes, using solar, wind, smart renovation and conservation. He believes we can build on the excellent work done by the Patrick administration and fulfill a similar goal for the Commonwealth.