When most people think of reducing fossil fuel usage and transitioning to clean energy, the first things that come to mind are probably wind turbines and solar panels. But the first step in the necessary shift away from dirty energy may actually be appliances and plumbing fixtures in our homes and businesses. Whether we’re talking faucets, showerheads or lamps, these everyday items are the unsung heroes of the clean energy revolution.
Now, Massachusetts has a chance to embrace these simple ways to lessen our footprint on our imperiled planet because our state legislature is considering a bill that sets higher energy efficiency standards for many common and commercial appliances.
To make that happen, lawmakers need to step up. This year, the state House and Senate each passed a different version of climate legislation. While both bills fall short of what Massachusetts needs to do to prevent the worst impacts of climate change and transition to 100 percent renewable energy, the silver lining is that both versions included provisions to make our appliances and plumbing fixtures more energy-efficient, thanks to the efforts of state Rep. Josh Cutler and state Sen. Jason Lewis.
Why is this a golden opportunity? Making appliances and plumbing fixtures more efficient has big climate and public health benefits. This one policy would slash Massachusetts’ emissions of harmful pollutants, including carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. For example, by 2025, these standards would annually lower carbon dioxide emissions by 113 thousand metric tons, which is the equivalent of taking 24,000 cars off the road annually. Along with helping fight global warming, these regulations would also be a huge win for public health, reducing the amount of smog-forming pollutants in the air that are linked to respiratory diseases and other health problems.
The water and energy savings are also significant. By 2025, the proposed standards would save enough electricity to power 32,000 homes for a year and enough water to meet the annual needs of 61,000 American families. Especially in a drought year like we’ve had in 2020, these water savings can make a big difference. And there are cost savings too. These water and electricity savings would reduce utility bills by an estimated $103 million each year. And the savings only go up, reaching $282 million a year by 2035.
If lawmakers enact these standards, Massachusetts will join a club of leadership states -- California, Colorado, Washington and Vermont -- that have adopted similar policies. There are positive signs that the Massachusetts legislature is prioritizing efficiency standards, but nothing is for certain.
That’s where citizen action comes in. Six lawmakers -- Rep. Patricia Haddad, Rep. Bradley Jones, Rep. Tom Golden, Sen. Cynthia Creem, Sen. Michael Barrett and Sen. Patrick O'Connor -- are charged with hammering out the details of the climate bill. Over the coming weeks we’re urging constituents to contact those members and ask them to keep efficiency standards in the bill.
Appliance standards are a key part of cutting our energy waste and saving the planet. If we have the technology to create appliances and plumbing fixtures that don’t use unnecessary water and energy, why wouldn’t we use it?