The Next Generation Roadmap Act is one of the strongest climate laws in the nation. It requires the Commonwealth to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030, a mere eight years away. This is both a monumental task and an imperative one. Reaching that target will set us on a trajectory to net zero emissions by 2050.
The law must now be implemented, and we need to hold our elected and appointed officials accountable for reaching our mandated greenhouse gas reductions.
To make sure we are on track, we will be monitoring deadlines included in the law to determine if we are meeting them or lagging behind.
To reach our greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction mandates, we must address the building sector which contributes about a third of the overall GHG emissions in the Commonwealth, second only to transportation. The Clean Heat Commission was established to advise the Administration on strategies and policies to achieve deep emissions reductions from the combustion of heating fuels in the Commonwealth.
Three public meetings are scheduled in March and April with more expected later in the year. See more information on the Commission and public meetings.
Naming of members to the Commission was delayed until January 2022. As of mid-March 2022, the Commission had met five times. An Interagency Decarbonization Task Force, that includes environmental agency staff and staff from the Department of Housing and Economic Development, has also been established and is meeting weekly. By November 30, 2022, the Commission will produce recommendations for the Governor on how to sustainably reduce heating fuels and GHG emissions in buildings, including a framework for a cap on heating fuels. The Commission is working to develop initial recommendations that can be incorporated into the 2030 Clean Energy and Climate Plan that will be released in July 2022.
Public comments can be submitted to GWSA@mass.gov.
The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) website has been updated to include these criteria as part of its mission statement: The DPU seeks to promote safety, security, reliability of service, affordability, equity, and greenhouse gas emission reductions.
The number of balancing factors the DPU can consider alongside greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions (e.g., customer costs and reliability) may mean that we won’t see significantly different decisions from the DPU.
For instance, overall the recently filed three-year energy efficiency plans submitted to the DPU by the utilities were excellent. However, advocates were disappointed that in the final plans approved by the DPU, the agency restored fossil fuel incentives that had been reduced and altered performance incentives which appear in conflict with their new mission to ensure equity and the reduction of GHG emissions. In one bright spot, the DPU strengthened the plan by requiring utilities to prioritize weatherization prior to heat pump installation for all customer classes, not just moderate-income ratepayers.
As we transition away from fossil fuels, it is imperative that natural gas distribution companies rethink their products and business model. In June 2020, the Attorney General called on the DPU to open an investigation into the future of the natural gas industry “to develop a nation-leading regulatory and policy roadmap to guide the evolution of the gas distribution industry companies, provide ratepayer protection, and allow the Commonwealth to move into its net-zero GHG emissions energy future.”
The DPU has turned over responsibility for this investigation to the gas distribution companies. Advocates are closely watching this process. Decisions and policymaking that come out of this proceeding will be consequential and indicate how seriously the DPU is taking their expanded mission. More information about this docket can be found at The Future of Gas and ByNumber (state.ma.us. 20-80 is the docket number.
Monitoring of DPU actions will be ongoing.
The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) is responsible for oversight of investor-owned electric power, natural gas, and water companies in Massachusetts. The DPU also oversees the safety of natural gas pipelines and supports the work of the of the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) and its staff.
The Council consists of 9 members appointed by the governor. The Roadmap Act requires that the Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary consult with the Council before making any substantial adoptions, revisions, or amendments to regulations related to the definition of environmental justice population as defined in the Act.
Members of the EJ Council were finally appointed a full year after the deadline called for in the Roadmap Act. The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs has developed a website that includes information about members of the EJ Council along with meeting notices, materials and minutes.
Where is this in the law?
The Roadmap Act established carbon emission targets for MLPs. These targets include 50% carbon free energy sales in 2030, 75% in 2040, and 100% in 2050.
Two organizations that work with MLPs, the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electricity Company (MMWEC) and Energy New England (ENE) are helping them develop greenhouse gas emission standards.
MMWEC has assisted its 20 municipal light members in developing individualized 2050 roadmap plans for their power portfolios to ensure they stay on track with the Commonwealth’s climate goals.
MMWEC reports that nine of their members have already exceeded the 2030 goal of 50% carbon-free energy sales. An additional seven members have exceeded 40% carbon-free as of 2021, and therefore are on track to exceed 50% by 2030.
While this is good progress, it is worth noting that much of this progress is achieved using non-emitting sources (e.g., nuclear and old hydro) rather than clean energy (e.g., wind, solar, geothermal).
Municipal light plants (MLPs) are locally owned utilities. There are 41 MLPs in the Commonwealth that serve 52 communities,
accounting for 13% of all Massachusetts energy customers. Prior to the Roadmap Act, MLPs were not required to meet GHG emission reduction targets unlike the large utilities.
Where is this in the law?
The Board of Building Regulation and Standards (BBRS) is responsible for monitoring the state building code and retains full authority over the base building energy codes. In 2008, the Green Communities Act required the BBRS to develop a municipal opt-in stretch code for communities that wanted to go above and beyond the base building code and require higher energy efficiency standards for new buildings. To date, 299 municipalities in the Commonwealth have adopted the stretch code. Multiple communities are now seeking a net zero building code that provides them with the tools they need to reach ambitious climate goals for buildings in their cities and towns. The Roadmap Act calls on the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) in consultation with the BBRS to develop a municipal opt-in “specialized” stretch energy code.
The Administration has added the new members detailed in the Roadmap Act.
New BBRS Members Include:
- David Riquinah: expert in residential building energy efficiency
- Darien Crimmin: expert in commercial building energy efficiency
- Betsy Petit: expert in advanced building technology
EEA Secretary Theoharides set the reduction goals for the Mass Save programs at 504,000 metric tons and 341 metric tons of carbon emissions reduction for the electric and gas plans respectively.
Where is this in the law?
The Roadmap Act requires that Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office incorporate environmental justice principles and considerations into both its public process and analysis of project impacts.
Interim regulations went into effect Jan. 1, 2022.
Phase 2 regulations are being developed with a draft anticipated in the fall of 2022 and final regulations being promulgated in early 2023.
The MA Environmental Justice (EJ) table submitted extensive comments and recommendations on the proposed changes. Some issues the EJ table raised will be considered during phase two of regulation development. The new regulations include requirements for project proponents to engage with affected communities prior to filing with MEPA and public health considerations were included in some provisions of the new regulations. In addition, a more streamlined process for ecologically beneficial projects was included.
What is MEPA?
The Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) requires state agencies to study the environmental impacts of projects that are likely to cause damage to the environment, meet certain thresholds, and require state permitting, financial assistance or land disposition. The law requires project proponents to use all feasible measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate damage to the environment or, to the extent damage to the environment cannot be avoided, to minimize and mitigate damage to the environment to the maximum extent practicable.
The Department of Revenue released guidance on property tax exemptions for solar powered, wind powered, fuel cell powered, and energy storage systems.
The initial $12 million has been transferred. MassCEC is undertaking a workforce needs analysis to understand the current clean energy workforce and gaps, future projected clean energy workforce and gaps, and workforce development best practices related to Women and Minority Owned Businesses, environmental justice populations, and current and projected fossil fuel workforce and opportunities for transition.
To date, MassCEC has provided $4.5 million in planning and implementation grants to Women and Minority Owned Businesses. This effort has supported 50 existing firms and helped create another two dozen.
MassCEC has also begun to work directly with regional employment training programs within environmental justice communities to develop programs for job training and placement in the clean energy economy.
The Roadmap Act also specifically called for MassCEC to administer a heat pump market development program to fund and offer training to expand the markets for space and water heating using efficient heat pump technology. This will be part of the MassCEC work detailed above.
Solicitation for OSW workforce training from Jan 2022 with May/June for contract awards
Appliance standards are one of the single most effective energy saving policies we can take and are key to meeting our climate goals. The Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has set new regulations and released a full list of covered products.
DOER will hold public meetings in the second quarter of 2022 to get feedback on how these new regulations will be implemented and enforced. Manufacturers may no longer send non-compliant products to Massachusetts for sale, but retailers can sell their existing inventory through the end of 2022.
The new appliance standards now in place will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save consumers money. The Appliance Standards Awareness Project estimates that in 2025 alone, the new standards will save consumers and businesses over $100 million and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 113,000 metric tons, an amount equivalent to taking 24,000 cars off the road.
The Roadmap Act called for 15 products to comply with California precedents or any federal standards adopted after January 2021. These products included commercial cooking equipment, computers, and computer monitors.
Energy and Environmental Affairs held public meetings to present and gather feedback on:
- Proposed emissions limits and sector specific sublimits for 2025 and 2030.
- Proposed goals for reducing emissions from and increasing carbon sequestration on natural and working lands (NWL)
- Proposed policy portfolio that aims to achieve these emission limits, sublimits, and NWL goals.
The Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) required a 25% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions below the 1990 baseline level from all sectors of the economy by 2020.
Meeting this goal is key to determining whether the state is on track to achieving the more ambitious emissions reduction targets established by the Roadmap Act. The state did exceed the target, but the data may not be representative as some of the reductions likely can be attributed to the economic slowdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is known that emissions reductions in the electric sector were the primary contributors to statewide reductions through 2020. To meet future targets, major emissions reductions in the transportation and building sector are needed and progress in these sectors to date has been limited.
The original Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008 (GWSA) set emissions limits every ten years while the Roadmap Act has reduced the time frame to five-year intervals. This change will ensure the state is on track and provide a mechanism to make mid-course corrections in a timely manner. The sector specific sublimits require policymakers to think through the variety of trade-offs required to meet the overall five-year targets and provide guidance for state policy.
The 2050 net-zero target of the Roadmap Act is dependent on emissions reductions made this decade. Unless major progress is made by 2030, it is unlikely that future targets are achievable.
In December 2020, the administration released the interim 2030 Clean Energy and Climate Plan (CECP). This interim plan was issued prior to the enactment of the Roadmap legislation and targeted a 45% emissions reduction. A redrafted final plan was released in June 2022. This plan complies with the Roadmap Act and its targets of a 50% reduction in GHG emissions reduction by 2030 and net zero carbon by 2050.
This Environmental Justice Council is directed to review the environmental justice definition every five years.
Now that the EJ Council has been appointed, they are learning about the history of the EJ definition and discussing if updates or changes are needed.
Five public hearings took place in early March 2022 to receive public comment on two straw proposals.
On September 23rd, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) released final code language for its Stretch Energy Code and Specialized Municipal Opt-in Code.
A straw proposal was expected in fall of 2021 but was delayed and finally released in February 2022.
An updated stretch code and the new specialized opt-in stretch code called for in the 2021 Roadmap Act were released as straw proposals without code language by the Department of Energy Resources (DOER). Public comment on the straw proposals closed on March 18, 2022. Another comment period is expected after the draft language is released later this spring.
299 communities have adopted the stretch code since it was first available in 2009. Some communities want to go further in their efforts to transition to clean energy and eliminate fossil fuel combustion to the extent possible in new buildings and major renovations. The Roadmap Act requires DOER to develop a definition of a net zero building and a net zero building performance standard. The proposed specialized energy stretch code straw proposal, while it includes many good updates, would still allow fossil fuel heating as long as pre-electrification measures (e.g., wiring) are taken and rooftop solar is installed if feasible. Many climate advocates were disappointed that the specialized code straw proposal did not ban new fossil fuel hookups, at least in the building types that can currently support full electrification economically. The proposal instead seems to comply with net zero for buildings by 2050 rather than requiring net zero construction today.
Evaluations of the draft code:
Mass. building code draft renews push for gas bans | Energy News Network
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has begun this process with a series of public meetings.
Environmental Justice (EJ) advocates have been pushing for cumulative impact analysis in permitting and siting decisions for years. Inclusion of this provision in the Roadmap Act is critical in addressing the disproportionate exposure of certain communities to public health and environmental hazards from one or multiple facilities. This provision means that a proposed project in an EJ community will not be evaluated in isolation. By examining cumulative impacts, regulators will have a more comprehensive understanding of all environmental and health risks already facing certain communities and can more effectively address these issues.
See more information on DEP’s work to develop cumulative impact regulations and incorporate public input in the process.
The Roadmap Act adds new language that requires that all quarterly and annual reports must, for the first time, quantify the degree to which the activities undertaken “contribute to meeting any and all GHG emission limits and sublimits imposed by statute or regulation.” The first annual report on the first year of the 2022-2024 Energy Efficiency Plan will be due by June 1, 2023.
Energy and Environmental Affairs must hold three public hearings.
The Department of Energy Resources (DOER) released a 1,600 megawatt (MW) offshore wind request for proposals (RFP) on May 7, 2021, to add to the 1,600 MW of offshore wind that had already been procured in 2018 and 2019.
In December 2021, DOER announced the winning bids – Commonwealth Wind, a 1,200 MW project from Avangrid Renewables, and another 400 MW from Mayflower Wind to add to their previously awarded contract. Contracts will be finalized in the spring of 2022. Once this solicitation is complete, the Commonwealth will have 2,400 MW of offshore wind requirements remaining, and DOER is required to conduct solicitations every 18 months.
Our region is uniquely positioned to harness this reliable, clean energy resource. We have enough wind off our coasts to power our grid ten times over and that wind is strongest and most consistent at times of peak demand. We have high energy demand near shore – and the shallow waters on our continental shelf are ideal for turbines.