Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles said he's leaving his post as the state's top champion for renewable energy at the end of December to seek out opportunities in the private sector.
Bowles, who was appointed to the job by Gov. Deval Patrick four years ago, said he feels he's helped launch the state on the path to a green energy future and wants to step aside.
"I've got a variety of entrepreneurial ideas that I've been thinking about for a number of years," Bowles told WBUR, "but due to my government service, have been unable to do anything."
Gov. Patrick called Bowles “a star in this administration” and said he’s worked to create a “clean energy economy in Massachusetts..."
Under Bowles, the state has increased its use of renewable forms of energy, including solar, wind and geothermal power.
Patrick called Bowles "a star in this administration" and said he's worked to create a "clean energy economy in Massachusetts, saving money for consumers, increasing our energy independence, and creating jobs."
Bowles said one of the state's biggest energy and environmental achievements of the last four years was passage of the 2008 Green Communities Act designed to encourage the development of more renewable energy.
One result of the law is that solar and wind power are increasingly seen as reliable energy sources, he said.
"When you see 5,000 solar projects across Massachusetts, it no longer becomes a novelty item," Bowles said.
Bowles also pointed to the state's approval of the Oceans Act of 2008, a landmark ocean-management plan that created a vast regulatory map for Massachusetts coastal waters and set new limits for offshore wind farms.
Bowles said other states and the federal government are using the map as a blueprint as more energy companies look offshore for sources of wind power.
While much of his focus has been on renewable energy, Bowles also oversaw the state's efforts to help cities and towns preserve open space.
With state aid, local communities have been scooping up open space at the rate of 54 acres per day. The state now has more than 1.2 million acres of land permanently barred from development.
Bowles has also found himself at the center of controversy during his tenure in office, including for his support of the contentious Cape Wind project. The planned 130-turbine project, the nation's first offshore wind farm, met with opposition from critics of the Nantucket Sound location and of the cost of the energy produced by the farm — which at first will be about double today's price of power from conventional sources.
Bowles defended the administration's backing of the project, saying it has "significantly more pluses than minuses from the environmental perspective."
The Patrick administration has also been faulted for other energy-related decisions.
After investing $1 million to jump-start four proposed wood-burning plants in Russell, Greenfield, Springfield and Pittsfield, Bowles commissioned a study that found biomass-fired electricity would result in a 3 percent increase in carbon emissions compared to coal-fired electricity by 2050.
The administration then proposed new regulations that leaders in the wood-burning power plant industry said would stifle growth.
The administration has also been criticized for its support of Marlborough-based Evergreen Solar Inc. which received $58 million in state aid before announcing it was planning to move some jobs to China.
Bowles, a former president of MassINC., a Boston-based policy think tank, said that in the long run, the Patrick administration's efforts to make Massachusetts a hub of renewable energy technology will help boost the state's economy.
"The states that move fast and move out ahead early on clean energy are going to benefit the most," Bowles said. "That's going to really happen with Massachusetts."
Before leaving, Bowles has one more task: setting the 2020 greenhouse gas emissions limit required by the state's Global Warming Solutions Act.
"Of course I leave with mixed emotions because I've had a tremendous amount of fun in the job and Gov. Patrick is a really first-rate boss," he said.
This program aired on December 1, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.