Law would force state and utilities to be more 'green'

Lindsey Parietti

Beacon Hill leaders unveiled a revised and more widely supported version of an energy bill Thursday that would hold the state, and utility companies, responsible for curbing energy use.

But for some local companies, the legislative push toward cleaner energy is not necessary.

“I don’t think (the state) is in the lead (in renewable energy) by a long shot,” said Miles Russell, president of solar startup company GreenRay.

Russell, who founded the company from his Lincoln home in 2006, said that while state officials are not at the forefront of energy issues, they have made it easy to get loans and grants.   

“It’s a great place to be located because of all the high-powered universities and businesses here,” said Russell, whose company is developing more user-friendly and easier-to-install solar panels. “The complement to that is to develop the marketplace as well, because the citizenship can be a leader in consumption.”

Russell is encouraged by the possibility of new financial incentives, but, like many energy leaders, he is not holding his breath for legislative action.

In 2006, companies including Framingham-based Staples, Whole Foods and Starbucks joined the Environmental Protection Agency’s national challenge, committing to significantly increase their renewable energy use.

Staples is using solar panels, motion sensors for lights, and contemplating a wind turbine near its Mass. Pike headquarters to achieve its pledge of 20 percent green power.

Robert Keough, spokesman for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental affairs, said Boston Scientific, a medical equipment manufacturer headquartered in Natick, has also set the tone.

According to Keough, the company has cut hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs by improving its mechanical equipment and lighting system.

In a nod to Gov. Deval Patrick’s frustration with the slow pace of state business, House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi pointed out Thursday that it took 11 months to work the kinks out of his legislation.

The bill requires the state to use more fuel efficient vehicles, forces utility companies to identify ways to reduce consumer energy use, and offers a $2,000 tax break for buying a hybrid vehicle.

According to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut and other states have similar policies ordering utility companies to identify and implement any efficiencies that are cheaper than generating more electricity.  

Lawmakers are expected to debate the bill next week, but whether it will pass before the Legislature goes out of commission for the holidays is unclear.  

The bill’s supporters acknowledge the need to overcome the “not in my backyard” mentality impeding wind power on the South Shore and other areas.

Although MetroWest is not a prime candidate for wind turbines, Staples may be the first to test the local appetite with plans for a 165-foot tower that it revealed this summer

Rep. Thomas Conroy, D-Wayland, said Massachusetts should look to its neighbors to learn how to both increase clean energy use and win public approval.  

“Some of the farmers in upstate New York are essentially getting a piece of the action by leasing their land to energy companies, so instead of growing crops they’re growing wind power,” he said, also naming Germany and Holland as solar power examples. “You can grow these businesses in a way (that is practical) and learn from other countries.”

Daily News staff writer Lindsey Parietti can be reached at lindsey.parietti@cnc.com.