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Updated on December 21, 2010



The Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust (MRET) is very much a public entity. It is funded entirely with public money and its management/directors are appointed by public authority, namely the governor. So, why does MRET refuse to tell a citizen how much a particular outside expert's hourly billing rate is? This question is particularly important when said outside expert is none other than Susan F. Tierney, Ph.D. Tierney once held office as Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs in the administration of governor William Weld. Prior to that she held the post of DPU commissioner and headed the Energy Facilities Siting Board under governor Michael Dukakis. She also held a sub-cabinet post in the Clinton Administration. Sue Tierney has the education and experience to know that when she works for and is paid by a government agency her hourly rate is, or should be, disclosed when requested.

Tierney is now the managing principle of a private consulting firm, the Analysis Group. This firm delivered a sixty-five report to MRET dated January 8. 2010. Is it significant that the executive director of MRET is Mitchell Adams, former Harvard college roommate of William Weld former Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue under the same governor William Weld? Is it unwarranted suspicion on my part to believe that certain people remain thick as thieves (interesting image...thieves) based on their known political alliances? It is as if some folks share the political and intellectual equivalent of blood type. Throughout the entire ten years I have been following and opposing Cape Wind the same names and spheres of influence have appeared and reappeared.

Sue Tierney's biography/curriculum vitae/resume as rendered by the Analysis Group runs to twenty-eight pages and in addition to spelling out her lengthy and impressive education it credits her with falling just short of causing creation itself. Reading it one is amazed that it does not list every telephone call she has ever made or received. Sue Tierney is a force of nature, or so says her biography. And now, she is paid a secret hourly rate by an agency commanded by a former fellow Weld Administration official.

Is Sue Tierney ashamed of her public subsidy? Does she feel that her subordinates would be publicly embarrassed by the gap between their billable value and hers? Perhaps Sue Tierney feels that the Analysis Group actually is not worth the $200,000 they were paid by the Commonwealth and that if her hourly rate were published she and her cohorts might read unflattering comments in the Boston press. Or, perhaps Sue Tierney simply feels that she is special and that there are and should be special rules for special people.

This report by the Analysis group consumed a total of 615 man-hours at an average hourly charge of $315. One assumes that Tierney is paid more than the worker bees who do her bidding and her research. Could it be that Susan Tuierney, Ph.D. bills her time at, say $500 per hour? Is she worth $500 per hour, or even $315: exactly what does she do that the Commownealth of Massachusetts cannot have done by regular staff employees in its various departments?

If Sue Tierney is paid $150 per hour her annual salary comes to $162,000. Her student loans must be paid by now. As for her fields of expertise, nowhere in the legend of Susan F. Tierney Ph.D. is there mention of engineering or energy generation expertise. Of course, she has that in common with so many of the more vocal wind power "experts" and supporters. Among Sue Tierney's appointments are some interesting and very influential energy posts: U.S. Department of Interior, Deputy Secretary for Energy Policy (1993-1995); member of the Advisory Council for the U.S. Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL); member of the Advisory Council, U.S. National Commission on Energy Policy; and on and on. In addition, Tierney sits on the board of directors of Evergreen Solar, Enernoc (Boston-based energy strategy and management), Ze-Gen (manufacture of syntheric gas) and ISO New England (non-profit independent system operator for all New England electric distribution). Tierney was widely held to be the leading contender for appointment by president Obama as Secretary of Energy. One suspects that she would have had to take a huge cut in pay to accept that post.

Although Sue Tierney's education was first as an undergraduate studying art history in California and then as a successful candidate for both a masters degree and a doctorate in planning at Cornell, she has spent her career engaged in matters largely concerned with the intersecting issues of environment and energy and is now usually described as an energy expert. Fair enough. How can one so widely viewed as an energy expert offer such nonsense as the factual basis for major public policy decisions as we see in the report Tierney has authored at the Analysis Group?

Page sixteen of this report actually features a actual cartoon depicting a chicken and an egg. This imagery is intended to illustrate what the report identifies as the chicken and egg problem faced by those who must simultaneously advance the cause of offshore wind energy development and the fact that there is no transmission capability for collecting this new energy and bringing it to shore where it would enter the regional electric grid. So, which comes first, the chicken or the egg? For that matter, which part of this problem is the chicken and which is the egg? The cartoon is cute, too cute and bizarre.

NREL information appears often in the Tierney report. Such claims as deepwater offshore wind being at least ten years way from practical applications are repeated and credited to NREL but nowhere does the report offer what could have been contrary views of people actually engaged in the development of the new technologies that could bring offshore wind into deep waters within five years or less. After all, why should highly paid consultants with zero actual experience in a given technology and desk jockeys from NREL with a similar lack of practical experience feel that speaking with those are actually doing the basic and advanced work necessary to advance deepwater technologies is either wise or expected? For these self-annointed experts it is clearly suffuicent to cut and paste a cartoon and several dated artists' imaginings of new technologies. This is how conjecture becomes fact and theory becomes policy.

The worst single aspect of the Tierney report is its regurgitation of the claim that offshore wind equipment will operate at 40% efficiency. Unlike what we should expect from a scholar/energy expert, for that is how Sue Tierney is presented, there is no attribution for this claim. Nowhere does the report tell us who developed this fact or what currently operating offshore wind farm in Europe or anywhere else achieves this level of efficiency on a reliable basis. In fact, years of consntant research and digging tell me that no one in the world operates offshore wind generating equipment at anything close to 40% efficiency. Actual operating experience at similar lattitudes in Europe reliably ranges from 18% to 25% with a occasional notable mark at or slightly above 30%

What this means is that all of the costs and benefits represented by the Sue Tierneys and NRELs of the world are flawed, if not entirely bogus. I could have cut and pasted a similar report for a lot less than $200,000, quoting equally unreliable sources and offering equally rosey forecasts for results that simply cannot be honestly offered. And, I would gladly state my hourly rate of pay. How is it wise for our government to make decisions about our energy future and costs based on such milseading and arrogant conduct?

Susan F. Tierney, Ph.D. may be considered an energy expert in some quarters but this report does nothing to burnish her image with me. In fact, Tierney's membership on the board of directors of the the Evergreen Solar company seems completely compatible with this report's incompetence. Evergreen began as a start-up solar manufacturer in central Massachusetts, absorbing millions of dollars of taxpayer funded subsidies and loan guarantees. The company and Massachusetts governmment hailed the venture as the beginning of a waive of green job creation in Masachusetts in spite of mountains of credible opinion that such pots of gold were not to be had at the end of the Massachusetts rainbow. Government funding was necessary because private equity and lending, the samrt money, took a dim view of evergreen's propsects. Shortly after the fanfare died down, however, Evergreen announced that it could not remain a manufacturing entity in Massachusetts or anywhere in the United States and compete or even survive in the brutal solar equipment market. Evergeen announced it would relocated its manufacturing operations to China.

Is it mean to wonder what influential government posts Sue Tierney might one day hold in China? The Chinese avail themselves of the best talent wherever they find it. If she has not received a call from Bejiing Sue Tierney might begin to question her own credentials as an energy expert. I certainly do. Perhaps Tierney's firm should be paid only 40% of the amount they billed.

COPYRIGHT 2010 By Peter A. Kenney


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