Your View: While whaler makes historic visit, New Bedford's new energy future brightens

The homecoming of the whale ship Charles W. Morgan has revived New Bedford’s storied past as “The City that Lit the World,” while also highlighting the promise — and remaining challenges — of New Bedford’s energy future.

Today, the city is positioned to become the center of the emerging offshore wind industry in America. As the Morgan sat beside a New Bedford pier for the first time in 73 years, the U.S. Department of Energy delivered a history-making boost to offshore wind. Last Tuesday, it awarded a conditional commitment for a $150 million loan guarantee to the Cape Wind offshore wind farm project.

The federal loan guarantee is a substantial vote of confidence for a project that is piling them up these days. Over the last several months, we have seen Cape Wind win definitive legal victories as well as important financing commitments.

Cape Wind’s string of successes is hurtling the project toward launching early next year, using the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal — the nation’s first terminal built for the offshore wind sector. Construction of that terminal is right on track, thanks to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.

The significance of the federal loan guarantee extends well beyond its benefits to Cape Wind, signaling to the global offshore wind market that the United States’s commitment to the industry is more than just words.

As powerful as the momentum for offshore wind is, however, work remains to ensure that the sector can fulfill its promise of jobs and economic development for not only New Bedford, but for the SouthCoast region and the commonwealth as a whole.

Congress should follow the lead of the Department of Energy and renew the critically important Investment Tax Credit, a provision supported by Democrats and Republicans and one that will spur clean energy production and green job creation across the country.

At the state level, a major energy bill is in the Massachusetts Legislature that will determine the future of offshore wind in the commonwealth. As Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson reported Wednesday, the current version of the “Act Relative to Clean Energy Resources” would crowd out the Massachusetts offshore wind industry with a massive influx of Canadian hydropower.

If this bill passes as currently written, the offshore wind industry will still emerge across America, but the jobs and investment will go to New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and others states — not Massachusetts. Through the leadership of Sen. Mark Montigny, Rep. Tony Cabral and regional partners such as Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad, who all appreciate the need for local job creation, we are strongly advocating for an amendment to the bill. It would enable a modest 200 megawatts per year for four years of offshore wind energy to be developed in Massachusetts over the next four years — creating jobs here at home, not out of state.

Together, these pieces of legislation are essential to the widespread development of the offshore wind industry and for Massachusetts. New Bedford will be the first harbor in the nation to welcome offshore wind components when the Cape Wind project gets underway in 2015. With continued support from the Obama and Patrick administrations and the state legislative leadership, as well as with the leadership of New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, we anticipate that Cape Wind will be the first of many projects to create jobs for our residents and value for our businesses.

That’s great news for economic development, clean energy production and energy diversity.

And there is no better holiday weekend to be advocating for new jobs creation in Massachusetts’ and America’s energy independence.

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