On Friday, March 26th, Governor Charlie Baker signed a new climate bill into law. The official name of the law is “An Act Creating A Next Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy”. Kind of a mouthful. This new law aims to tackle a wide range of challenges and sets goals for the state to reach. It continues the trend of Massachusetts being one of the most progressive states when it comes to climate action.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
This law sets a goal for net zero emissions by 2050 in the Bay State. It also puts in place interim targets along the way. By 2030 GHG emissions must be 50% lower than what they were in 1990, and by 2040 they must be 75% lower than what they were in 1990.
There are six “high priority” sectors that will be focused on in emission reduction: electricity, transportation, commercial and industrial buildings, residential buildings, industrial processes, and natural gas distribution.
Some sectors will be more difficult and expensive to reduce emissions, so if the state is able to meet overall goals of GHG emission reduction, it won't be penalized for missing the target in one or two of these specific high priority sectors.
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Demand For Renewables / Utilities
The law also increases demand for renewable energy. Eversource, Unitil, and National grid will be required to increase their renewable energy portfolio by at least 3% every year, starting in 2025. The law requires that utilities increase their share of offshore wind energy by 2,400 mW.
It also focuses on MLP’s or Municipal Light Plants, which are basically smaller utility companies that serve a single town or municipality. They have historically not been required to purchase their electricity from renewable sources, but this law states that they must get 50% of their electricity from non-carbon-emitting sources by 2030, and be fully net zero by 2050.
The law updates the list of priorities for the Department of Public Utilities. Has been added to the list of priorities. Security, Equity, and reducing GHG Emissions have all been added to this list.
It also breaks down some of the barriers that have kept people from the benefits of clean energy like solar power. “To date, lower income and minority neighborhoods have fewer solar panels than wealthier white neighborhoods – this is true even after adjusting for home ownership levels and income.” (WBUR) The law makes it easier for people to participate in community solar projects, helps non-profits afford solar, and bolsters net metering.
Environmental Justice is another key part of this law. It will require new standards for public participation in the decision making process for development plans. Having stakeholders and community members at the forefront and heart of the decision making will ensure that everyone is on the same page as energy and energy efficiency projects are developed.
The Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program is also subject to change. “Now, the Department of Energy Resources, which oversees the SMART program, is statutorily required to prioritize solar installation on the roofs of low-income households, and it must make the SMART program — or any future solar incentive program — easier to sign up for.” (WBUR)
Climate Justice is Environmental Justice. It is extremely important to ensure that communities that have historically been left out of the conversation and decision making process are included as we move forward.
This law also calls for Increased deployment and development of Electric Vehicle Charging stations. More charging stations will make it easier to get around and cause less range anxiety. Another interesting addition to this law is that it sets a new efficiency standard for household appliances. When it is for a new dishwasher or refrigerator, it will have to be an energy efficient model. The energy efficient models will save people a boatload of cash in the long run: “according to a study from the nonprofit Environment Massachusetts, these new standards will save Massachusetts residents $282 million in electricity bills a year by 2035.”