Sunshine on the Senate Energy Bill

Last week, the Senate passed its version of the energy omnibus bill aimed at addressing our state’s pressing energy problems. The bill, entitled “An Act to Promote Energy Diversity” included some truly outrageous provisions.

First, the proposed law requires individuals selling houses to provide the results of energy audits to potential buyers. Proponents say it's like reporting miles per gallon on vehicles, but realtors around the state have quite a different opinion. The provision would create a brand-new level of bureaucracy, drive up costs, and add nothing to the already-common but optional home inspection process.

The Senate bill would also levy a 2.5 cents per gallon tax on home heating oil sales to pay for “energy efficiency measures.” You might remember, the legislature proposed a gas tax last session tied to the rate of inflation which was subsequently repealed by the voters. Thwarted only momentarily, Senate leaders are now pushing a tax on home heating oil.

In its unkindest cut of all, the Senate version of the energy omnibus bill allows Cape Wind to bid on offshore wind contracts. Cape Wind has in the past promised cheap, clean energy, while planning to sell almost 78% of it to power companies for roughly two times the average cost of power generated by U.S. suppliers. And, their advertised price of 18.7 cents per kilowatt hour was slated to increase by 3.5 percent in each year of its 15-year contract. The House bill rightfully froze them out of the bidding process. The Senate, apparently, decided to forgive and forget.

A conference committee has been organized between the House and the Senate to iron out differences between the two versions over the coming weeks. Let’s hope they have enough sense to leave out the unnecessary headaches for energy payers.

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