Legislature Passes Landmark Climate Change Bill
Sweeping Legislative Package Includes Sen. Lewis Bill to Improve Home Appliance Energy Efficiency Standards
The Massachusetts Legislature on Monday passed breakthrough climate legislation that overhauls the state’s climate laws, drives down greenhouse gas emissions, creates clean energy jobs, and protects environmental justice communities. The bill, supported by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of legislators in both the House of Representatives and State Senate, included policy language proposed by Senator Jason Lewis to update the Commonwealth’s appliance efficiency standards, a measure which environmental and consumer advocates say will save consumers money, tackle climate change and protect the environment.
The bill, An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy (S.2995), sets a 2050 net-zero greenhouse gas emissions limit, as well as statewide limits every five years; increases the requirements for offshore wind energy procurement bringing the statewide total to 5,600 megawatts; requires emission reduction goals for MassSave, the state’s energy efficiency program; and, for the first time, establishes the criteria in statute that define environmental justice populations. The legislation also increases support for clean energy workforce development programs including those targeting low-income communities and improves gas pipeline safety.
“In Massachusetts we are leading the nation into a clean energy future, and this package of climate legislation offers programs and supports to help our residents and businesses as we tackle the challenge of climate change together,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “I’m particularly proud that this ambitious package includes the Energy SAVE Act, a bill I filed with the support of the Green Energy Consumers Alliance, the National Consumer Law Center, and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. That measure, which updates Massachusetts home appliance efficiency standards, will reduce home energy and water consumption from household appliances and save consumer dollars by improving efficiency.”
The legislation includes, among other items, the following provisions.
- Sets a statewide net zero limit on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and mandates emissions limits every five years, as well as limits for specific sectors of the economy, including transportation and buildings.
- Codifies environmental justice provisions into Massachusetts law, defining environmental justice populations and providing new tools and protections for affected neighborhoods.
- Requires an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind, building on previous legislation action and increases the total to 5,600 megawatts in the Commonwealth.
- Directs the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), regulator of the state’s electric and natural gas utilities, to balance priorities going forward: system safety, system security, reliability, affordability, equity, and, significantly, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
- Sets appliance energy efficiency standards for a variety of common appliance including plumbing, faucets, computers, and commercial appliances.
- Adopts several measures aimed at improves gas pipeline safety, including increased fines for safety violations and regulations related to training and certifying utility contractors.
- Increases the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by 3 percent each year from 2025 – 2029, resulting in 40 percent renewable energy by 2030.
- Establishes an opt-in municipal net zero energy stretch code, including a definition of “net zero building.”
- Prioritizes equitable access to the state’s solar programs by low-income communities
- Establishes $12 million in annual funding for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center in order to create a pathway to the clean energy industry for environmental justice populations and minority-owned and women-owned businesses.
- Provides solar incentives for businesses by exempting them from the net metering cap to allow them to install solar systems on their premises to help offset their electricity use and save money.
- Requires utilities to include an explicit value for greenhouse gas reductions when they calculate the cost-effectiveness of an offering of MassSave.
- Creates a first-time greenhouse gas emissions standard for municipal lighting plants that requires them to purchase 50 percent non-emitting electricity by 2030 and “net zero” by 2050.
- Sets benchmarks for the adoption of clean energy technologies including electric vehicles, charging stations, solar technology, energy storage, heat pumps and anaerobic digestors.
The bill was sent Monday to the governor for final approval.