Massachusetts gave solar panel manufacturer Evergreen Solar millions of dollars to bring green jobs to the state, but that didn’t stop the firm from shuttering the plant in Devens, Mass. and moving to China, where costs are lower.
Governor Patrick wants Evergreen to return up to $21 million of the grants it was given, but that is unlikely to happen:
During his monthly appearance Thursday on WTKK-FM, the governor also criticized the chief executive of Evergreen for his comments to a legislative committee this week. Michael El-Hillow told the panel his company didn’t intend to return any of the more than $20 million in direct grants it received from the state.
Evergreen is taking care of business and the poor folks in Massachusetts are left with nothing much to show for their tax dollars. The move to China was no secret – it was announced in Fall 2009, just 18 months after Gov. Patrick announced the state’s funding support for Evergreen:
Mr. Patrick first heard about Evergreen Solar while running for governor and has since worked with the company on its expansion while making the addition of clean energy development companies a priority. Evergreen Solar is receiving $23 million in state grants, up to $17.5 million in low-interest loans and a low-cost, 30-year lease of state-owned property for the Devens plant.
The thirty-year lease ended up being ten times longer than Evergreen needed. Before taxpayers get too mad at the businessmen, they may want to ask legislators why they gave evergreen another $5 million after the decision to move to China was announced:
In November , the company said it would stop assembling solar panels in Devens and move the work to China in order to compete with other solar manufacturers. The outsourcing could potentially eliminate 150 to 200 jobs in Massachusetts starting in mid-2011.
The decision to shift work to China has been controversial because Evergreen received $58 million in state loans, grants, and other aid to build the Devens plant. MassDevelopment, a quasi-public agency, recently voted to give the company an additional $5 million loan, despite Evergreen’s deteriorating financial condition.
As if this tale of woe isn’t bad enough for Gov. Patrick, the state also subsidized the other end of the transaction with generous payments for Evergreen’s customers:
In addition, in January the state started a rebate program that defrays up to 60 percent of the cost of installation of solar panels for homeowners, and up to 40 percent for businesses, Mr. Patrick said. A law signed by the governor earlier this month requires utilities to get 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2030 and will permit utilities enter into long-term contracts of 10 to 15 years for renewable energy sources.
Not even mandated demand and sweetheart customer pricing could save green jobs, which makes the Governor’s predictions of a bright green New England future ring hollow:
Mr. Patrick said that not all manufacturing is practical in Massachusetts any longer, but life sciences, technology and clean energy are part of the state’s future.
What happened in Massachusetts is likely to be repeated across North America and the EU as renewables fail. The technology isn’t good enough, the costs are too high and the fact government money for the manufacturer and customer can’t make the math work is the last nail in the coffin for the promise of green jobs.