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Business Manager’s Blog

Michael Monahan

Michael P. Monahan, the Business Manager of Local 103 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, represents more than 7,000 electrical and telecommunication members in the Greater Boston area.

In addition to the strong and steady leadership he provides to his Local Union on a daily basis, he exudes the same qualities when providing services for the community, whether it is coordinating volunteer efforts for electricians who are donating their skills at various places, such as schools and private homes for disabled individuals, or the installation of wireless capabilities for the City. From his days as a rank-and-file member through his current position as Business Manager, Mike has met every challenge and serves his membership with pride and distinction.

Sun and Wind Alter Global Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind

The New York Times | By Justin Gillis
September 13, 2014

Germany Offshore TurbinesThe small German island of Heligoland, a popular tourist destination, is undergoing dramatic change as the wind industry takes over.

HELIGOLAND, Germany — Of all the developed nations, few have pushed harder than Germany to find a solution to global warming. And towering symbols of that drive are appearing in the middle of the North Sea.

They are wind turbines, standing as far as 60 miles from the mainland, stretching as high as 60-story buildings and costing up to $30 million apiece. On some of these giant machines, a single blade roughly equals the wingspan of the largest airliner in the sky, the Airbus A380. By year’s end, scores of new turbines will be sending low-emission electricity to German cities hundreds of miles to the south.

It will be another milestone in Germany’s costly attempt to remake its electricity system, an ambitious project that has already produced striking results: Germans will soon be getting 30 percent of their power from renewable energy sources. Many smaller countries are beating that, but Germany is by far the largest industrial power to reach that level in the modern era. It is more than twice the percentage in the United States.

Germany’s relentless push into renewable energy has implications far beyond its shores. By creating huge demand for wind turbines and especially for solar panels, it has helped lure big Chinese manufacturers into the market, and that combination is driving down costs faster than almost anyone thought possible just a few years ago.

Electric utility executives all over the world are watching nervously as technologies they once dismissed as irrelevant begin to threaten their long-established business plans. Fights are erupting across the United States over the future rules for renewable power. Many poor countries, once intent on building coal-fired power plants to bring electricity to their people, are discussing whether they might leapfrog the fossil age and build clean grids from the outset.

A reckoning is at hand, and nowhere is that clearer than in Germany. Even as the country sets records nearly every month for renewable power production, the changes have devastated its utility companies, whose profits from power generation have collapsed.

A similar pattern may well play out in other countries that are pursuing ambitious plans for renewable energy. Some American states, impatient with legislative gridlock in Washington, have set aggressive goals of their own, aiming for 20 or 30 percent renewable energy as soon as 2020.

The word the Germans use for their plan is starting to make its way into conversations elsewhere: energiewende, the energy transition. Worldwide, Germany is being held up as a model, cited by environmental activists as proof that a transformation of the global energy system is possible.

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Editorial: Renewable heat gets a moment in the sun

Boston Business Journal
September 12, 2o14

It seems like every new renewable energy incentive out of the State House prompts a backlash from business groups worried about yet another reason for electricity prices to go up here.

But now there’s one such incentive that groups like Associated Industries of Massachusetts aren’t complaining about. The reason? This one isn’t expected to add to the high cost of buying power here.

Gov. Deval Patrick signed a bill into law last month that would allow certain renewable heating and cooling sources to qualify for a kind of renewable energy credit that utilities need to buy to meet state mandates. These credits are similar to a more widely used system for credits for electricity bought from renewable sources, such as windmills, biogas plants and solar arrays. Solar, in particular, has benefited from this system, making Massachusetts one of the hottest places for solar electricity generation in the country.

As of Jan. 1, “renewable thermal” technologies will qualify for a similar incentive known as “alternative energy credits.” Here’s why it shouldn’t drive up costs: Electric utilities such as NStar and National Grid are already paying millions of dollars in financial penalties to the state because there aren’t enough of these alternative energy credits to purchase to meet the state’s mandated levels. Right now, essentially only combined heat-and-power plants qualify. So adding renewable heat to the mix isn’t expected to cause electric prices to rise, as the credits probably won’t add up to more than the cost to the electric utilities for the financial penalties they face today — costs that are passed on to ratepayers.

But there’s still some work to be done before the Jan. 1 deadline. The state Department of Energy Resources is now charged with writing the rules for this new system. It won’t be an easy task given that these heating and cooling credits need to be translated into something that works for electricity companies. (Until now, electric utilities just purchased credits for renewable electricity.)

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ViewPoint: Mass. solar industry can’t afford another stand-off

Boston Business Journal | By David O’Connor and Tom Thompson
September 12, 2014

During the recent legislative session, Gov. Deval Patrick tried to persuade legislators to pass a bill that would have restructured the state’s incentives for solar energy. This was surprising, given his record of solar success. Policies he previously proposed, and that the Legislature approved, have produced a local industry that employs hundreds of people. The state now hosts 15,000 solar installations that can generate over 640 megawatts of clean electrical power.

Yet the governor could see problems on the horizon and moved aggressively to get ahead of them. He could see that limits (known as “caps”) on the amount of solar power that can qualify for financial incentives would likely cause a sudden stall in the growth of the state’s burgeoning solar industry. His bill would have removed those caps altogether. At the same time, he was hearing complaints from utilities and the business community that current incentives are too expensive. His bill would have provided for less generous, though more predictable, revenue streams for new solar projects.

But the bill did not gain the support it needed to pass. Solar businesses and advocates differed on whether any reform was needed. Utilities and business groups differed on whether the proposed reforms were still too generous.

This lack of consensus caused the Legislature to balk at restructuring the current incentives. Instead, it raised the caps, though only slightly, allowing solar development to continue at its current rate for another six months to a year. It also appointed a task force of representatives from all sides of the debate and asked for legislative recommendations by next spring. Despite what must have been a considerable disappointment, the governor signed the stopgap bill.

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Boston could get power to block Wynn under gaming panel’s latest plan

Boston Business Journal | By Jon Chesto
September 11, 2014

Wynn ResortsWynn Resorts has done everything it could to avoid tangling with the city of Boston, as it tries to build a casino on a polluted site in Everett, right on Boston’s doorstep. Most notably, Wynn designed its entire plan for the site to circumvent a section of that land that lies within Boston city limits. The state’s casino law gives host cities the power to approve or deny a project via a referendum, and Wynn was determined to ensure that Boston didn’t get that power. But now, in the eleventh hour of this state review, the Las Vegas-based gaming giant could find itself facing a license with terms that essentially give Boston veto power over the project after all.

Nonetheless, Mayor Marty Walsh’s top legal aide, Eugene O’Flaherty, fired off a letter on Thursday accusing the Massachusetts Gaming Commission of manipulating the review process in Wynn’s favor. (It was unclear whether O’Flaherty had seen the latest proposal to give Boston some veto control over the Wynn project before he composed the letter, as he doesn’t mention that proposal.) Walsh has long argued that Boston should be a host city for the Wynn project, but the commission has dismissed that assertion. O’Flaherty is claiming that the entire process for the Boston-area license is tainted for several reasons, and he seems to be putting the commission on notice that the Walsh administration is prepared to sue, if necessary, to block Wynn.

The commission is expected to decide next week whether to award its Boston-area casino license to Wynn or to Mohegan Sun’s project at Suffolk Downs in Revere. The commissioners just made public their assessments of various aspects of both proposals — and Wynn emerged with a slight lead, based on a simple tally of the categories where Mohegan was outscored by Wynn.

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Millennium Partners pledges $225k to preserve Boston’s Old South Meeting House

Boston Business Journal | By Thomas Grillo
September 11, 2014

Old Meeting HouseDevelopers of Millennium Tower has pledged $225,000 in donations to preserve the Old South Meeting House, one of Boston’s oldest and most historically significant landmarks.

Millennium Partners is constructing a 60-story condominium project at the former Filene’s department store site on Wahington Street, one block from the historic Old South. In 2102, the New York-based developer with offices in Boston won approval to build a $630 million complex of offices, stores, and 442 condominiums expected to be priced between $800,000 and $2 million apiece.

The donation resulted from conversations between the development team and Old South staff who had expressed concerns about construction impacts on the 285-year-old brick building. The funding will bring 21st century improvements to the 1729 National Historic Landmark, including enhanced energy conservation, new interior lighting and a digital sound system to support the many programs and performances that take place in the hall year round, Old South said.

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Milton mulls housing production plan

The Boston Globe | By Jaclyn Reiss
September 11, 2014

old Hendrie’s ice cream plantMilton officials are mulling over a plan to introduce more affordable housing to the town amid a developer’s controversial Chapter 40B proposal for the former Hendrie’s Ice Cream site.

Filing a housing production plan with the state would give the town more control over projects proposed under the state’s Chapter 40B affordable-housing law, said state Senator Brian A. Joyce of Milton at a joint Board of Selectmen and Planning Board meeting last week.

Under the statute, developers can bypass some zoning bylaws in communities where less than 10 percent of the housing stock is considered affordable. Currently, Milton has about 4.5 percent.

But if the state were to accept Milton’s housing production vision, and the town increases its affordable units by half a percent of the total housing stock in a given year, “that would give us a one-year safe harbor to allow the town to say no to any 40B project that has not already received its site eligibility letter from the state,” Joyce said.

The production plan, which officials are still finalizing, would outline specifically what the town could do to grow its affordable units, including listing potential developments and sites and stating how they would tweak zoning to encourage affordable development. The town could also consider voting again on adding a Community Preservation Act fund through additional taxes, which could benefit affordable-housing projects.

Selectmen and Planning Board members seemed anxious to approve the plan, which cost the town more than $5,000 in consulting fees, so they could submit it to the state by October, said William Clark, Milton’s planning director. The state then generally takes about three months to review it and decide, said Karen Sunnarborg, the consultant who prepared the plan.

Joyce said the state is considering adding 49 units from Fuller Village, an independent senior living facility, to count toward the town’s affordable-housing stock. Coupled with an approved housing production plan, “we will be able to control our destiny for another year,” he said.

However, the plan is not without its obstacles. Some officials said that even if the state approves their vision, adding a half-percent of the town’s 9,641 total housing units to get a year of control might prove unreasonable.

“Getting anywhere near 48 units a year is absurd,” said Planning Board member Michael E. Kelly, referring to the amount of affordable units Milton must add annually.

Sunnarborg agreed that the number seemed “ambitious.”

“In a five-year plan, I’d say it would be lucky if you get one year of certification,” she said.

However, she also noted that the plan gives potential developers a more concrete idea of what the town wants in an affordable development.

“It would make projects more amenable,” she said.

Read more.

Church of Scientology of Boston moves to Quincy

The Boston Globe | By Katherine Landergan
September 11, 2014

The Church of Scientology of Boston has relocated to Quincy, where it will stay for at least two years as it renovates the former Hotel Alexandra in Boston’s South End.

Spokesman Kevin Hall said the church is leasing 1515 Hancock St., “right in the center of town,” and it’s sharing the third floor and part of the first floor, spanning 14,400 square feet. The rest of the four-story building is used for other occupants’ offices.

Hall said the space is ideal as a temporary location because of its accessibility and ample parking. He estimated that about 150 people visit the Church of Scientology of Boston each day, and they have more than 30,000 parishioners in New England.

“Quincy is a nice neighborhood,” Hall said. “It’s also on the commuter rail and subway lines so it’s easy for our parishioners to get there.”

Marc LaCasse, the church’s real estate attorney, said it signed a two-year lease, which has two six-month extensions available. “They ended up in Quincy because the space was turn-key ready,” LaCasse said. “They just needed to move in. It’s a great short-term solution.”

Hall said the first floor would house a “life improvement center,” where prospective parishioners can learn more about scientology, and on the third floor the church planned to install saunas, which newcomers must use to sweat out drugs and toxins as part of a process called a “purification rundown.”

He described scientology as a nondenominational “religious philosophy” that teaches people how to “enjoy life by being more aware.”

“We offer training on how to understand people better, how to study better, how to increase communication,” he said. The church offers Sunday services on topics such as “how to work with children” or “how to improve your marriage,” he said.

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Chiofaro Towers’ Shadows Mapped Out

Banker & Tradesman | By Steve Adams
September 11, 2014

A pair of skyscrapers on the Boston waterfront would cast hour-plus-long shadows along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway past Faneuil Hall Marketplace for much of the year, consultants told a city review committee.

Boston-based Chiofaro Co. proposes a pair of 615- and 538-foot-tall towers to house offices, a luxury hotel and condos built on the site of the eight-story harbor garage between the Greenway and the New England Aquarium.

The 1.3-million-square-foot plan is under review by an advisory committee to the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Developer Donald Chiofaro withdrew a 1.5-million-square-foot proposal in 2011 before returning this year with the dual-tower concept.

Regulators will consider the structures’ effect on shade and wind patterns, among other factors, as they decide whether to let the billion-dollar project go forward.

Boston-based consultants Utile Inc. calculated sunlight patterns on Oct. 23, and determined the towers would throw shadows down the Greenway as far as the Dock Square garage on Clinton Street. The shadows would cover a large portion of Long Wharf in the afternoon.

Oct. 23 was chosen because regulators have cited it as the latest date of widespread outdoor activity in the area.

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Greenway group open to plan for nearby towers

The Boston Globe | By Casey Ross
September 11, 2014

Harbor Garage 2The conservancy that manages the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway in Boston is backing a plan for a towering redevelopment of the Harbor Garage, calling the concrete parking structure an eyesore that mars the Greenway and blocks access to the waterfront.

In a letter to city regulators, the Greenway Conservancy offered a major boost to developer Donald Chiofaro’s $1 billion plan to replace the Atlantic Avenue garage with two skyscrapers. Although it noted that questions remain about the buildings’ heights and uses, the conservancy said the proposal should advance through the permitting process.

“The conservancy supports replacing the garage with a signature multi-use development which would open connections to the harbor and re-imagine a dynamic four-season public realm,” the conservancy’s planning director, Linda Jonash, wrote to the Boston Redevelopment Authority. “This is an opportunity that should be embraced now.”

The towers Chiofaro wants to build — one 600 feet, the other 537 feet — would house offices, hotel rooms, and condominiums. The towers would be joined by a retail-lined atrium between the Greenway and Boston Harbor.

On Wednesday, consultants for the BRA outlined a study showing the proposed buildings would cast significant new shadows on the Greenway in the morning and on Long Wharf and New England Aquarium in the afternoon.

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Braintree to install solar array at landfill

The array of more than 4,000 panels will generate enough power for 200 homes. Braintree will be the 4th South Shore town to use a solar array for municipal power.

Wicked Local Braintree | By Lane Lambert
September 11, 2014

BRAINTREE – Come December, Braintree will join a small but growing number of towns using solar panel arrays to produce municipal power.

Mayor Joseph Sullivan and Braintree Electric Light Department general manager William Bottiggi announced Thursday that more than 4,000 solar panels will be installed this fall atop the town’s capped landfill off Ivory Street.

Bottiggi said the array should be fully operating by mid-December, and will generate 1.6 million kilowatt-hours of electricity in a year – enough to power for more than 200 homes.

“It’s a great use of the landfill,” Bottiggi said. “This becomes a piece of our power supply.”

Sullivan said that since the landfill is “a highly visible site,” residents can see the effort the town is making to use more renewable energy.

The landfill near the Union Street rotary and the MBTA’s Red Line station. It’s adjacent to the Covanta solid waste transfer station.

On the South Shore, Marshfield, Rockland and Scituate already have solar power arrays on their landfills, while Hingham and Pembroke are planning similar projects.

Quincy and Weymouth have no plans thus far for solar power projects. Several Quincy schools and municipal buildings have solar panels.
Bottiggi said BELD and the town have been planning the project for two years.

Read more.

Bid to repeal casino law finds little support among city leaders

The Boston Globe | By John Laidler
September 11, 2014

Mayor Daniel Rizzo of RevereAs it heads toward a high-stakes ballot vote in November, the movement to repeal the state’s casino law is getting a mostly thumbs-down reaction from city leaders in the region.

An informal survey found a large majority of top officials from area cities are against ditching the landmark 2011 gambling law, citing in particular the economic benefits that would flow from casinos.

Many city leaders also predicted that the repeal measure — Question 1 on the Nov. 4 ballot — will not prevail.

The municipal officials offered their views as the Mass. Gaming Commission is poised to award the casino license for the Greater Boston region, choosing between Mohegan Sun’s proposal for Suffolk Downs in Revere, and Wynn Resorts’ plan in Everett.

“I oppose the repeal because I believe casinos if managed properly are a legitimate business that can spur economic growth and provide options for business people and communities,” said Melrose Mayor Robert J. Dolan.

But Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone strongly supports the repeal.

“Casinos just don’t build communities. It’s a terrible model for economic growth,” said Curtatone, one of 10 original signers of the repeal initiative in August 2013. “You can’t find one example of a casino improving the quality of life or the economic outlook of a state or a region. You do see them taking from small, independently owned local businesses and local squares.”

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Gaming Commission sets final conditions

Bidders’ last roll of dice

Boston Herald | By Jack Encarnacao
September 11, 2014

The pair of gaming giants battling for the Boston-area casino license have the final conditions from the state Gaming Commission and their written responses — due tomorrow — are their last chance to tilt the panel in their favor before it enters deliberations Monday.

Commissioner James McHugh said he hopes Wynn Resorts and Mohegan Sun “think about the conditions very carefully and respond to us carefully, and give us a considered response for us to judge.”

“I have every confidence that they’ll do that,” McHugh said after yesterday’s meeting, at which the developers and the commission went back and forth on the conditions that would be attached to a potential license.

Both companies declined to comment yesterday on the conditions, which include a requirement Mohegan obtain an additional $100 million in equity and Wynn pay up to $20 million — plus $1 million each year — to make up for the impact its Everett casino will have on Sullivan Square in Charlestown. A group of about 50 people held an anti-casino rally last night in Sullivan Square.

Wynn and Mohegan drafted letters designed to convince commissioners to soften the conditions, most of which the board disregarded.

Mohegan asserted the cash from its private equity partner Brigade Capital is enough to start construction, and that the company “will have several months to get the financing in place and will have the $732 million in financing quickly, which we can then deploy” to build a Revere casino.

Wynn insisted, despite commission findings to the contrary, that its project won’t worsen the Rutherford Avenue or Main Street approaches to Sullivan Square, and that improvements to the Cambridge Street/Maffa Way/Alford Street intersection “will mitigate the impacts of Wynn Everett’s traffic.”

Commissioners signaled yesterday that whatever Charlestown traffic plan it imposes will not go far without buy-in from the city of Boston, which has a deal with Mohegan but withdrew from talks with Wynn, as well as state and federal transportation agencies.

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Casino deliberations set for next week

The Boston Globe | By Mark Arsenault
September 10, 2014

Etess and WynnThe suspense about which company will win the Greater Boston casino license will now stretch into next week.

The state gambling commission will begin its final deliberations of the state’s most lucrative gambling license on Monday, to provide applicants Mohegan Sun and Wynn Resorts time to respond to conditions the commission has proposed for each developer, if they win the license.

After spending the first two days this week evaluating the rival proposals, the commission spent most of Wednesday finalizing their list of proposed license conditions, designed to address concerns with each application.

The commissioners must decide between Wynn’s proposal, planned for the Mystic River waterfront in Everett, and Mohegan Sun’s casino project at Suffolk Downs racetrack in Revere. The winner will get a resort casino license estimated to be worth more than $700 million a year in gambling revenue.

For Wynn, the major license conditions are related to concerns about traffic in Sullivan Square in Charlestown. The commission has asked Wynn to commit to pay 10 percent of the cost of a long-term fix for the intersection, up to $20 million.

For Mohegan Sun, the commission wants the developer to bring significantly more equity into the development’s financing plan.

The developers have until Friday afternoon to provide written responses to the conditions. They may accept or decline any of the proposals or offer alternatives to address the commission’s concerns.

Read more.

Developers Move Forward with Montreal-New York Transmission Line

Industrial Info Resources
September 10, 2014

Power LinesPlanning is under way for Transmission Developers Incorporated’s (Albany, New York) Champlain Hudson Power Express Transmission Line, which will link Montreal to New York City. Construction of the $2.2 billion project is anticipated to begin in 2016.

The 1,000-megawatt (MW), 320-kilovolt (kV) transmission system would include 333 miles of high-voltage submarine and underground line running from Hydro Quebec TransEnergie’s (Montreal, Quebec) substation in Canada, to Transmission Developers Incorporated’s new converter station in Astoria, New York. Plans previously had called for a new converter station in Connecticut, but the idea was dropped. Hydro Quebec plans to have two high-voltage, direct-current (HVDC) converter stations in Canada.

AECOM (NYSE:ACM) (Los Angeles, California) is the engineer for the project, and HDR Engineering (Omaha, Nebraska) is conducting environmental studies and permitting.

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New England Takes $8.4 Billion Slice of Pharmaceutical-Biotech Capital/MRO Investment Pie

Industrial Info Resources
September 10, 2014

DrugsReported by Annette Kreuger, Industrial Info Resources (Sugar Land, Texas)–There are nearly 1,350 active Pharmaceutical-Biotech Industry capital and maintenance (MRO) projects in North America, representing a total investment value (TIV) of $61 billion. According to a recent analysis of Industrial Info’s Pharmaceutical-Biotech Industry database, the New England region is at the top, accounting for an $8.4 billion portion of that spending for 126 projects.

New England has long been a favorite of the industry, hosting an impressive roster of the top biotech and pharmaceutical companies, along with nascent but promising start-ups. The region’s attractions include formidable intellectual capacity and strong governmental support. The projects in play range from $1 million annual maintenance programs, to a $600 million expansion project. Project activity varies from early planning to active construction status.

Of the $8.4 billion worth of industry capital investment in New England, $4.3 billion, divided over 56 sites, are already under construction, including the two projects discussed below. That leaves a healthy $4.1 billion to be invested in 70 projects that have a future kick-off date.

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