New MA Climate/Wind Law Advances Decarbonization on Many Fronts

The Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind, recently signed into law by Gov. Baker, includes a lot of things ECA Mass and our allies have been advocating for this legislative session. So celebration is in order. The Energy/Wind law will kickstart some of the work the state needs to do to reach the ambitious goals established by the Next Generation Roadmap law. For the bill and a section-by-section summary produced by Massachusetts Climate Xchange, see here. (The text of the bill (H.5060) and the related law (Chapt. 179 of the Acts of 2022) is identical, but some section numbering may differ.)

Bringing Clean Electricity to Massachusetts

A major goal of the law is to support the equitable development of the offshore wind industry through:

  • New tax incentives, grants, loans, and other investment opportunities to build the wind energy industry, a domestic wind energy supply chain, and to provide job training.
  • Incentivizing wind energy developers to engage low-income workers, workers of color, businesses owned by women and people of color, provide job training, and to offer specified benefits to employees and communities.
  • Establishing a commission help protect wildlife from harm by offshore wind projects.

The law creates two new entities to deal with the delivery of electricity:

  • The Clean Energy Transmission Working Group to work with New England states to build/upgrade lines.
  • The Grid Modernization Advisory Council to ensure utilities make needed and cost-effective transmission upgrades.

The Department of Energy Resources will work on energy storage and transmission:

  • Studying energy storage and issuing recommendations for adding storage to the grid.
  • Possibly soliciting bids for up to 4,800 gigawatt-hours of storage
  • Soliciting bids for the construction of an offshore transmission system to support offshore wind projects.

Solar energy receives a boost through:

  • An increase in the net metering cap.
  • Allowing more than one installation on a property.
  • Allowing and selectively incentivizing solar on farms.

Finally, the law prohibits awarding renewable energy credits to power plants that burn biomass to generate electricity. ECA Mass and its allies fought hard for this one.

Accelerating the Electrification of Transportation

The law promotes the adoption of electric vehicles (EV) by:

  • Banning the sale of new internal combustion vehicles (ICV) after 2035.
  • Increasing EV rebates from $2500 to $3500 for new EVs costing $55,000 or less with $1,000 more for trading in an ICV and $1500 more for lower-income residents.
  • Providing some incentives for buying medium and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles.

EV charging will be made more accessible and cheaper through:

  • Formation of a council to oversee the equitable deployment of public chargers.
  • Requiring the installation of chargers at all Mass Pike service plazas and in some public transit parking areas.
  • Requiring utilities to offer off-peak rates for EV charging.

Electrification of public transit will be accelerated by requiring the MBTA to:

  • Buy only zero-emission buses beginning in 2030.
  • Electrify the whole bus fleet by 2040.
  • Consider emissions and climate resiliency in planning.

Studies of electrifying regional transit, school buses, and ride hailing services are mandated.

Decarbonizing Buildings

The law supports electrification of buildings by:

  • Allowing 10 municipalities to ban gas hook-ups in new construction and major rehabs.
  • Incentivizing the purchase of electric appliances.
  • Ending Mass Save incentives or rebates for fossil fuel heating with few exceptions.
  • Requiring owners of buildings over 20,000 square feet to report emissions annually.
  • Initiating a study of electrification of K-12 school buildings.
  • Ensuring that gas pipeline replacement doesn’t conflict with state decarbonization goals.
  • Allowing more input into and time for the future of gas study.
  • Facilitating geothermal heat projects by utilities.

The MA Dept. of Public Utilities may require some gas companies to submit plans for decommissioning the gas infrastructure.

Expanding the Mission of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (CEC)

The role and responsibilities of the CEC are significantly expanded by:

  • Tasking them to develop wind industry port infrastructure and job training programs.
  • Establishing and administering an investment fund to support clean energy development through research, construction of infrastructure and other means.
  • Expanding research and development support to nuclear fusion, networked and deep geothermal energy, biofuels, green hydrogen and carbon capture and sequestration.
  • Expanding its workforce development programs.

Funding: The Emperor has no Money

The Climate/Wind bill did not include funding to support all these initiatives. The funding was supposed to be allocated in the economic development bill that stalled in the legislature. Legislative leaders are trying to figure out how to take up this bill now that the formal session has ended.

What’s Missing?

The wind/energy law has the potential to drive much-needed progress in equitably decarbonizing energy, transportation and buildings. But many climate policy objectives remain to be addressed in the next legislative session including decarbonizing large buildings, promoting public transit, biking and walking, electrifying commuter rail, protection of natural lands, air quality in environmental justice communities and other initiatives needed to meet our climate goals.

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