Healey: ClimateTech payoff 'going to be huge' (2024)

BOSTON — Delivering her climate technology pitch before 300 clean energy experts and investors, Gov. Maura Healey emphasized Tuesday the importance of giving the sector some “love” — in the form of $1 billion in long-term government support — to spur a massive return on investment for Massachusetts.

Healey’s economic development bill, which features a 10-year climate tech initiative and reauthorization of the state life sciences initiative, remains under review by a legislative committee as Beacon Hill Democrats have less than two months remaining of formal lawmaking.

The climate tech proposal, which has not run into legislative obstacles to date, offered a popular talking point for Healey during the inaugural ClimaTech global conference in Boston, which her administration helped launch and is privately funded by businesses.

The three-day event features a bevy of panels and discussions with corporate and government leaders, as well as a “Shark Tank” style competition for startups investors, in addition to other programs and networking offered at venues in Fenway and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. The conference runs through Wednesday, and Healey and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu spoke at an opening night reception Monday at Fenway Park that was presented by National Grid.

“We have so many incredible investors here — we have so many incredible founders and entrepreneurs here,” Healey said of the Massachusetts climate landscape Tuesday morning at MGM Music Hall. “It’s an incredible ecosystem, if we just give it a little bit of love, a little bit of nourishment, and we have our state policies and state funding aligned with that. As I say, you know, 12 to 1 return on investment is huge, and I think it’s game-changing, not just for Massachusetts but for the planet.”

The UMass Donahue Institute previously estimated Healey’s climate plan would generate $16 billion in economic activity and create 7,000 direct new jobs.

Scott Strazik, CEO of Cambridge-based clean energy company GE Vernova, called the conference an “incredible platform.” GE Vernova is a “founding partner” of the conference, along with National Grid.

“The city and the state’s vision for kind of investing in the energy transition is one of the many reasons why we’re here and getting this platform for a couple days,” Strazik told the News Service, after he spoke on stage following Healey’s appearance. “We’re thrilled to be in Cambridge and in Massachusetts, and look forward to a long partnership with the governor. We appreciate her leadership and her vision, and look forward to working with her and her team a lot more from here.”

Healey has proposed $400 million in capital funding for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and $300 million in operating support at the MassCEC to cover workforce development, strategic partnerships and internships. The plan also incorporates $300 million in tax incentives.

“We’re really excited to get a bill passed before the end of the cycle, and this conference actually is a really great way to highlight so much of the great work done and also for us to tell the story of how we lead and to be the global hub for the industry, just like we are with life sciences,” Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao told the News Service. “So it’s super exciting for us.”

Hao described a “very collaborative process” working with lawmakers on the so-called Mass Leads Act, as the secretary reviewed the three main components of the climate technology pitch that she wants to see remain intact through the legislative process. Those include capital funding to invest in research labs and expand manufacturing, tax incentives to create jobs across the state, and operating dollars for the MassCEC to distribute grants and develop workforce training programs, Hao said.

“All three of those components are really important, and we want to work very closely with the Legislature to make sure that those get passed as part of this, and they’re all proven,” Hao said. “These are modeled very much on the success we’ve had in life sciences.”

Beyond economic development, the Legislature is also weighing major housing and information technology bonding authorizations. Healey proposed a $4 billion housing bond bill, while the House on Monday unveiled its $6.2 billion plan as the chamber’s budget chief said he wants to take advantage of the commonwealth’s bond rating increase from last April.

Bond bills are politically popular, but there’s a limit on how much the state can borrow each year, and a long list of spending targets.

State finance experts have said Massachusetts can afford $3.117 billion in general obligation debt for capital spending in fiscal year 2025. That’s an increase of $212 million over the current fiscal year to keep up with inflation, but Healey’s finance chief has said the bond cap would return to its typical $125 million growth limit in the next fiscal year.

During her conversation with Boston Globe Media CEO Linda Henry, Healey highlighted existing climate tech innovators, including The Engine incubator for “tough tech” in Cambridge, Greentown Labs in Somerville, and Boston Metal in Saugus.

“What I see across the state is incredible companies and startups, and scientists who are pioneering the very technologies that we’re talking about,” Healey said. “So imagine this, steel was first invented in this country — in Massachusetts, not in Pittsburgh, but right here in Saugus, Massachusetts in 1640. Well today, we have a company, Boston Metal, that’s about producing green steel — super cool, that can be used globally.”

Healey argued that by investing state dollars in climate technology, Massachusetts would incentivize “others” to contribute and help bring innovative ideas to fruition. Henry, noting the Legislature has roughly 60 days left to act on major bills, asked Healey what she would say to colleagues about why her climate pitch has to happen this session.

“I don’t think there’s a better ROI than what we put forward in our economic development bill, the Mass Leads Act,” the governor said. “We’ve already proven what we’re capable of as a state in terms of fostering and nurturing, and we just want to, as an administration, lean more into that and hope that we as a state will lean more into that because the payoff is going to be huge.”

Stwart Peña Feliz, co-founder and CEO of MacroCycle Technologies, said the plastic upcycling and recycling startup launched out of MIT was competing in the conference’s “Great Global Innovation Challenge,” which awards finalists a cash prize and display space at MGM Music Hall. The competition was held across the street, at the House of Blues.

“This initiative is really well appreciated from the governor because it gives us the stage and the platform to be able to launch ourselves, and to be able to scale up, and help our planet as quickly as possible,” he told the News Service. “I’ve really enjoyed how public and vocal she has been, which has made it very clear that Massachusetts has a long-term focus and investment on climate tech. All this publicity, and initiatives, and investments are making us feel more comfortable or more excited about scaling up locally in Massachusetts, instead of going to another state that may have been attractive before, but now is not as attractive because of all the investments going on in Massachusetts.”

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Healey: ClimateTech payoff 'going to be huge' (2024)


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