Beaton: Clean energy agency unlikely to be part of consolidation

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BOSTON, MARCH 17, 2015…..The Baker administration is holding the door open to consolidating quasi-public state agencies, but a top Baker deputy said Tuesday that the entity focused on the clean energy sector will likely stay where it is.

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton said there is currently no proposal to consolidate quasi-public agencies, but said there will be future talks with other secretariats within Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration and such agencies.

“There needs to be some conversation about what are the opportunities,” Beaton told the 12-member board of directors for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which he chairs.

“I feel the right home for CEC is where it is, aligned with our secretariat,” he said.

Beaton said he has spoken with Alicia Barton, the center’s executive director, about taking “our foot off the gas pedal” and ensuring priorities align between the center and the administration.

“We need to show the investments we’re making are the best use of taxpayer dollars” that offer a sound return and benefit the economy and the industry, he said.

Barton, who was seated next to Beaton, agreed. “We take that responsibility very seriously,” she said.

The center was created through legislation in 2008 and is funded through the Renewable Energy Trust Fund, which receives charges paid by electric ratepayers of investor-owned utilities and municipal electric departments that have opted in.

During the board meeting on Tuesday, Beaton put the brakes on the board signing off on two studies, costing $175,000 each. Beaton said he was seeking more specifics on what the 12-member board would be authorizing.

“We were basically going to allocate funding for studies that didn’t have a fully defined scope yet,” Beaton said.

The studies were slated to look at energy storage, with the center focusing on the industry landscape and the Department of Energy Resources looking at existing policies and regulations that affect energy storage.

Beaton also sought to modify the board’s approval of $750,000 in funding for the “Learn and Earn” program, saying state officials should review the program before it goes out for bidding by education providers.

The program, first piloted in 2014, would allow the providers to offer summertime or year-round employment to Massachusetts high school students while they learn about clean energy.

“This was a question of are we spending every dollar we’re using on these programs in the most effective way possible,” Beaton said.

“The effort that we discussed would be to explore other opportunities to leverage other existing programs throughout government to maximize the benefit of our dollars spent in the CEC, and let’s make sure we’re getting the best bang for our buck having the most effect on the maximum number of students with the dollars that we’re spending,” he added.

Copyright 2015 State House News Service

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