In The People's Blog

Yesterday morning at 6:30 a.m., before I hit the road to Boston, I saw the final bill produced by the Clean Energy and Climate Conference Committee which was set up to reconcile the House and Senate bills passed earlier this session.

Here are two critical things to know about this clean energy and climate bill:

  1. The timing: There are 10 days remaining in the formal legislative session. The Governor has 10 days to consider a bill before signing it or vetoing it. So by passing this bill today, the Legislature will have the opportunity to override a possible veto from the Governor.
  2. The content – what’s in the bill! So let’s dive in.

At the beginning of this session, the legislature passed a bill to move the Commonwealth to net zero emissions by 2050. I wrote about that bill here. (It contained a net zero building code provision as a result of a bill I filed in January 2019.)

The bill that we voted on today spells out how the Commonwealth will get there.

I heard from hundreds of constituents about this bill, on issues ranging from wind energy, to energy storage, to solar, to supporting our pollinators.

There were three provisions that I heard most about from constituents. All of them were included in the final bill:

  1. Removing biomass from the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). This bill makes biomass ineligible for incentives under the RPS. RPS incentives should be reserved for truly green sources of energy, like wind and solar, and not biomass.
  2. Authorizing 10 communities to go fossil-fuel free on new construction. Many constituents wanted this policy to be statewide, but this is a start. Communities accepted to this pilot must first meet the 10% affordable housing target set by state law, and we’ll watch their results closely. 
  3. Making solar more accessible, particularly for those who don’t own homes.

When I read the final bill this morning, I was looking closely for provisions that I had championed – whether they were bills I filed with House colleagues Rep. Natalie Blais and Rep. Mindy Domb, or whether they were amendments we worked on with advocates and filed during Senate debate. 

Which provisions? Here are the ones that made it into the final bill:

Reform the “Single Parcel” rule for solar panels: 

Net-metering makes solar affordable – it allows solar panel owners to sell excess energy back to the electricity grid. Currently, only one entity on a single tax parcel of land can participate in net-metering. As a result, solar panels become less affordable for residents of condominium or apartment complexes or low-income housing, as well as farms or separate buildings on municipally-owned land. 

I have been working on this issue since 2019, when local solar advocates called a group of legislators to a meeting at Village Hill in Northampton. The entire text of a bill I filed with Rep. Natalie Blais and Rep. Mindy Domb is included in this clean energy omnibus measure. It allows independent buildings on one parcel of land to access net metering. 

Modernize the Electric Grid: Our electric grid is built on an obsolete model based on large fossil-fuel power plants. Rep. Natalie Blais and I filed a bill directing electric companies to develop an electric-sector modernization plan to proactively upgrade systems to improve resiliency, facilitate renewable energy and prepare for energy storage and electrification technologies necessary to decarbonize the environment and economy. A strong version of our bill is included in the final conference bill. It also directs new grid modernization projects to “minimize or mitigate impacts on ratepayers.” 

Pollinator-Friendly SMART Solar Program: The SMART program provides incentives for qualifying solar installations. It had previously included a Pollinator-Friendly incentive for solar installations that received pollinator-friendly certification, but that program ended in 2021. Rep. Mindy Domb and I filed an amendment to reinstate the program, and the amendment is included in the final bill. 

Maximum Green Community Project Grant: Current law imposes a cap of $100,000 on grants available for municipal energy efficiency improvements under the DOER’s Green Communities program. Thankfully, the final bill lifts the cap and lets it be set administratively thanks to our advocacy.

Green and Healthy Schools. Rep. Domb and I filed an amendment based on a bill we filed to require an assessment of K-12 school buildings statewide for energy efficiency and environmental health factors. The assessment will provide the basis for formulating strategies to implement green and healthy school standards. The provision is included in the final bill. 

A summary of other main provisions of the bill follows. The bill is now on the Governor’s desk.

Advances Solar Power

  • Eliminates the so-called “donut hole” for on-site solar energy net metering, allowing Class I solar systems up to 25kW to be exempt from the cap.   
  • Permits agricultural and horticultural land to be used to site solar panels as long as they do not impede the continued use of the land for agricultural or horticultural use.
  • Creates a pollinator-friendly solar incentive.
  • Establishes a commission to examine opportunities for farms and agricultural lands for the development of agri-voltaic projects.

Promotes Offshore Wind

  • Targets tax breaks to companies that are likely to contribute substantially to the “manufacture, fabrication, and assembly” of domestic supply chain components of the offshore wind industry.
  •  Establishes a commercial fisheries commission to review the industry and recommend policy implementations to improve industry sustainability.  

Strengthens the Mass Clean Energy Center

  • Qualifies cutting-edge technologies – fusion energy and networked geothermal energy — for MassCEC support.
  • Expands MassCEC’s workforce development program to better reach underserved groups.

Decarbonizes Transportation

  • Puts more electric vehicles on the road through MOR-EV incentives.
  • Increases by $1,000 (to $3,500) the rebate for qualifying purchases and leases of zero-emission passenger cars and light duty trucks and costing $55,000 or less and offers an additional $1,000 to purchasers who are trading in an internal combustion vehicle.
  • Adds an additional $1,500 rebate for low-income customers. 
  • Requires MOR-EV to offer rebates to medium and heavy duty zero-emission vehicles.
  • Creates a new outreach program for underserved and low-income communities, as well as communities with high proportions of high-emission vehicles.

Gets Serious About EV Adoption

  • Mandates new vehicle sales be ZEVs starting in 2035.
  • Requires DOT to compile a motor vehicle database so municipalities and the public can better plan for vehicle electrification in their neighborhoods. 
  • Gives the DPU’s division that manages TNCs (Transportation Network Companies, like Uber and Lyft) an emissions reduction role.
  • Instructs MassCEC to develop a guide and website detailing the costs and availability of electric vehicles.
  • Requires DESE and DOER to conduct a study looking at the opportunities and challenges of electrifying our school bus fleet. 
  • Requires MassDOT to help each RTA develop its own electrification rollout plan.

 Tackles Range Anxiety

  • Creates a new intergovernmental coordinating council to develop a plan for deploying EV charging infrastructure in an equitable, accessible, and sustainable way.  
  • Mandates off-peak rates for EV charging.
  • Requires MassDOT to study and report on the status and issues of EV chargers located on the MassPike.
  • Requires MassDOT to install EV charging stations at all service plazas on the MA Turnpike, at least five commuter rail stations, at least five subway stations, and at least one ferry terminal.

Decarbonizes Buildings

  • Requires rigorous data collection on the impacts of all-electric new construction on emissions, construction costs, and monthly heating and lighting bills.
  • Spotlights emissions from large buildings.
  • Following the lead of Boston and Cambridge, requires large buildings (20,000 sq. ft. and larger) across the commonwealth to report their energy usage annually.
  • Requires an assessment of K-12 schools for ways to shift from fossil fuels, boost energy efficiency, and improve indoor air quality.
  • Greens qualifying commercial energy improvements within the C-PACE program.

Presses the Inquiry Into the Future of Gas

  • Prevents the DPU from approving any plan, filed pursuant to Docket No. 20-80 (“the Future of Gas”), prior to the conduct of an adjudicatory proceeding.
  • Starting with the next Mass Save plan (2025-2027), ends Mass Save incentives to install fossil fuel infrastructure in buildings, except as a backup for an electric heat pump.
  • Creates a working group to develop recommendations for regulatory and legislative changes necessary to align GSEP with the state’s climate goals. 
  • Encourages DPU to remove impediments for the development of efficient heat generation technologies, including networked geothermal heating systems.
  • Expands eligible GSEP replacement projects to non-emitting renewable thermal installations and advanced gas leak repairs.
  • Expands gas company reporting obligations under networked geothermal pilots, and stipulates that the DPU may require the utilities taking part in the pilots to submit roadmaps for decommissioning gas infrastructure.

Protects Ratepayers and Vulnerable Communities

  • Removes biomass as a “renewable energy generating source” qualified for inclusion in Massachusetts’ RPS program.
  • In evaluations of offshore wind developers, boosts bids that the “minimization and mitigation, to the extent feasible, of ratepayer impacts.”
  • Requires utilities’ quarterly reports on the implementation of energy efficiency plans to include data on Mass Save’s services to low-income ratepayers.
  • Steps up expectations on Mass Save to increase participation by low-income households and renters and mandates more data collection on the effort.
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