Energy efficiency bills advance

Environment Massachusetts

Boston – Four bills approved by the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy last week would reduce wasted energy, investigate how to increase the availability of energy efficiency programs to low-income households, and accelerate the adoption of clean heating technologies.

“The first step toward powering our society entirely with renewable energy is to reduce the amount of energy we’re using, so it’s fitting that these bills are among the first energy legislation to advance this session,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for Environment Massachusetts. “If enacted, these policies will significantly reduce harmful pollution from the burning of fossil fuels, while reducing energy costs for people from all walks of life. We commend Chair Barrett, Chair Golden, and members of the committee for moving this legislation forward.”

An Act establishing a study of energy efficient options for low income households (S.1942), filed by Senator Brendan Crighton, would direct the state to conduct a study on the effectiveness of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean transportation programs in serving low-income families, and establish a pilot program to retrofit low-income housing to be net zero energy buildings. Representative Natalie Higgins and Representative Andy Vargas have filed a companion bill in the House (H.2874).

“As the climate continues to change with more extreme weather, it is low-income households that will be hit the hardest and have the most difficult recovery,” said Andrew Grande, Clean Energy Director for the Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN). “Net zero homes are a climate solution and a resilient measure to allow people to remain in their homes and communities. MCAN looks forward to Massachusetts claiming a leadership position for the rest of the country on this issue.”

An Act establishing building energy performance standards (S.2011), filed by Senator Becca Rausch, would establish energy efficiency standards for existing buildings with more than 15,000 square feet of gross floor area. The building code requires new buildings to be constructed to a minimum standard for energy efficiency, but there are currently no statewide requirements for existing buildings to become more efficient. Representative Maria Robinson has filed a companion bill in the House (H.2919).

“Time is running out to meaningfully address climate change, and building efficiency standards are a critical part of the comprehensive set of solutions we need,” said Senator Rausch. “I’ve heard from folks in my district and across the Commonwealth that they want real action to protect our environment and stimulate related job and economic growth. Like so many fellow parents, I want all of our children to have a livable, enjoyable planet in 50 years. It’s my responsibility as a Senator to make progress here.”

“This bill is aggressive but extremely practical in providing both environmental and economic benefits,” said Representative Robinson. “Upon passage, Massachusetts would be the first state to adopt building energy performance standards, a perfect opportunity for the Commonwealth to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and maintain its status as a leader in the area of energy efficiency.”

An Act relative to Energy Savings Efficiency (S.1986), known as the Energy SAVE Act, filed by Senator Jason Lewis, would set minimum energy and water efficiency standards for commercial and household appliances. By 2025, the proposed standards would prevent 159,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, the equivalent of taking 34,565 cars off the road. Representative Josh Cutler has filed a companion bill in the House (H.2832).

An Act to encourage the deployment of heat pumps (S.1925), filed by Senator Mike Barrett, would set targets for the adoption of heat pumps and other clean technologies to provide heating, cooling, and water heating for buildings. It would also amend the state building code to require new construction to be built to accommodate the installation of heat pumps.

These bills now must be approved by the Senate Ways & Means Committee before coming for a vote before the full Senate.