On Monday of this week, both chambers of the Legislature approved 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 measure is now on the desk of Gov. Charlie Baker.
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; and requires emission reduction goals for MassSave, the state’s energy efficiency program.
The legislation also increases support for clean energy workforce development programs, including those targeting low-income communities, and improves gas pipeline safety. For the first time, the bill establishes the criteria that define environmental justice in statute.
The bill’s central components contain key provisions from An Act Creating a Roadmap to a Clean and Thriving Commonwealth, originally filed by Rep. Joan Meschino (D-Hull) and known as the “2050 Roadmap.” These provisions update the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal to net- zero by 2050, set interim targets, and establish planning mechanisms focused on equity to enable the state to achieve its ambitious goal.
“This climate action bill mandates a comprehensive planning process and locks in the key carbon emission reduction milestones needed to get us to net-zero in 30 years. I filed the 2050 Roadmap bill to help us achieve that objective,” Meschino said. “Today, I am thrilled to announce that the Massachusetts Legislature passed the next generation roadmap bill with overwhelming support.”
Sen. Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth) served as one of the six conferees responsible for producing the final version of the bill.
“This is an historic day for Massachusetts,” he said, speaking to his colleagues in the Senate. “We have long been one of the clean energy leaders in our country, but today we strengthen the foundation that we have built upon and chart a course that has been long discussed but never codified or fully implemented. In short, today we get real.”
The legislation also includes 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 Massachusetts;
- directs the Department of Public Utilities, regulator of the state’s electric and natural gas utilities, to balance priorities: system safety, system security, reliability, affordability, equity, and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions;
- sets appliance energy efficiency standards for a variety of common appliances, including plumbing, faucets, computers, and commercial appliances;
- adopts several measures aimed at improved gas pipeline safety, including increased fines for safety violations and regulations related to training and certifying utility contractors;
- increases the Renewable Portfolio Standard by 3 percent each year from 2025 to 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 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 to achieve net-zero by 2050; and
- sets benchmarks for the adoption of clean energy technologies including electric vehicles, charging stations, solar technology, energy storage, heat pumps and anaerobic digesters.