Amid alarming reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, State Senator Jason Lewis joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate on Thursday to pass a major climate bill, An Act Driving Climate Policy Forward. The bill addresses climate change in three primary areas — clean energy, transportation, and buildings — with the aim of achieving the Commonwealth’s ambitious goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, which the Legislature codified into law in 2021.
“Massachusetts is a national and global leader in combating climate change and shifting our economy away from dirty fossil fuels to clean, renewable sources of energy like offshore wind and solar,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “But the scale and urgency of the climate challenges we face demand that we rapidly expand our burgeoning offshore wind energy industry and accelerate efforts to green our transportation sector and buildings.”
The bill includes significant provisions to support and accelerate the deployment of clean energy infrastructure:
- Allocating $100 million to a Clean Energy Investment Fund to support infrastructure development related to offshore wind energy, solar energy, and energy storage.
- Allowing agricultural and horticultural land to be used to site solar panels, and eliminating the so-called ‘donut hole’ for on-site solar energy net metering to promote residential solar.
- Removing biomass from the list of energy-generating sources that are allowed to receive state incentives for clean energy.
The bill includes numerous strategies to reduce emissions in the transportation sector, which is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts:
- Allocating $100 million for the state’s MOR-EV electric vehicle incentive program, which provides rebates to individuals who purchase or lease electric vehicles.
- Expanding access to electric vehicle charging stations.
- Starting in 2028, requiring every passenger bus that is purchased or leased by the MBTA to be a zero-emission vehicle. By the end of 2040, the MBTA would be required to operate exclusively zero-emission vehicles. Underserved and low-income communities would be prioritized for the equitable deployment of these zero-emission buses.
- Requiring the MBTA to develop and implement plans for electrifying the commuter rail fleet, with new purchase of diesel locomotives to be phased out in the coming years.
- Directing the state to prepare a report on the estimated cost of converting school buses to zero-emission vehicles, as well as recommendations on how to structure a state incentive program for replacing school buses.
The bill also includes significant provisions to tackle the challenging issue of reducing emissions from buildings:
- Creating a 10 municipality demonstration project allowing all-electric new building construction by local option.
- Making enhancements to the Mass Save program, which provides rebates and incentives for owners and renters related to efficient appliances and other home energy improvements.
- Requiring the state to consider the participation of low- and middle-income households, including renters, in the Mass Save program, and provide recommendations to promote more equitable access and reduce disparities in uptake.
The bill now heads to a Conference Committee to reconcile differences with a previously passed House climate bill, before sending the final version to Governor Baker’s desk.