In full transparency, the following press release was submitted to SOURCE media for publication (stock photo)
BOSTON – A group of climate and clean energy organizations and advocates sent a letter to Governor-elect Maura Healey’s transition team on Climate Readiness, Resiliency and Adaptation calling for the incoming Healey administration to build an equitable path toward building decarbonization focused on support for low- to moderate-income communities and jumpstarting a clean energy workforce. Th
e letter was signed by both regional and statewide organizations, including the Conservation Law Foundation, Acadia Center, HEET, Sierra Club Massachusetts, Salem Alliance for the Environment, and Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast, Inc.
The letter included several recommendations and priorities to achieve an equitable transition to clean energy in buildings, which account for 27% of all GHG emissions in Massachusetts. Recommendations include prioritizing funding for low- to moderate-income households to ensure equitable electrification, implementing several recommendations from the recent report published by the Massachusetts Commission on Clean Heat, and clearly defining and establishing the role of “alternative fuels” such as renewable natural gas (RNG) and hydrogen in the Commonwealth’s energy future.
“Now is the time for Governor-elect Healey to affirm Massachusetts’ commitment to the lowest-cost, lowest risk path to reducing pollution from buildings and improving public health: electrification powered by clean renewable electricity, including cold-climate heat pumps, networked geothermal, individual geothermal installations, and electrified district energy,” the letter reads.
The letter also urges Governor-elect Healey to address the high energy burden many Massachusetts residents are facing this winter due to energy price spikes driven by the inherent volatility of fossil fuels prices, stating “the Healey administration should work to create a more equitable rate system for all ratepayers while we move forward with electrification and efficiency.”
Governor-Elect Maura Healey
Lieutenant Governor-Elect Kim Driscoll
Gina McCarthy, Co-Chair
Lizzi Weyant, Co-Chair
Climate Readiness, Resiliency and Adaptation Transition Committee
Dear Governor-Elect Healey, Lieutenant Governor-Elect Driscoll, Co-Chair McCarthy and Co-Chair Weyant,
We are reaching out to you not only as advocates and researchers but as residents concerned about the future of our Commonwealth. We are at a crossroads, and the energy choices the incoming Healey administration makes today will decide whether or not we deliver an equitable transition to a clean energy future that ensures the health, safety, and economic prosperity of all Bay Staters.
Fossil Fuels Have Dragged Us Into An Energy Crisis
This winter, Massachusetts residents are facing staggeringly high energy bills tied directly to a sharp rise in fossil fuel prices and the threat of grid instability due to an overreliance on natural gas. As a result, more and more Bay Staters are struggling with the high cost of home heating, too often falling into arrears on their utility bills. As the temperature drops and people spend more time indoors, they face exposure to nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution emitted when their gas appliances are on and exposure to cancer-causing chemicals like benzene even when their gas stoves are off. Communities like Springfield, Worcester, and Boston are among the top cities nationally facing asthma challenges, and evidence suggests that outdoor air pollution from gas appliances is part of the problem.
In the meantime, the gas industry continues to mislead policymakers and the public with false promises about the potential of alternative fuels like biomethane (often referred to as “RNG”) and hydrogen to decarbonize the existing gas system. These efforts are designed to secure funds for dead-end pipeline infrastructure projects that are destined to fail, while putting customers on the hook for billions of dollars worth of stranded assets for decades to come.
Efficient Electrification is our Only Path Forward
Now is the time for Governor-Elect Healey to affirm Massachusetts’ commitment to the lowest-cost, lowest risk path to reducing pollution from buildings and improving public health: electrification powered by clean renewable electricity, including cold-climate heat pumps, networked geothermal, individual geothermal installations, and electrified district energy. These electric heating solutions must be paired with aggressive deployment of energy efficiency, particularly in the Commonwealth’s existing building stock, to maximize their benefits.
As the Clean Heat Commission just confirmed, every decision made that involves the gas system from this point forward needs to be oriented toward a safe and equitable transition from gas to electrification. We call on the Governor-elect and her leadership team to unequivocally endorse the Clean Heat Commission Report’s findings that burning fuels, whether fossil fuels or alternatives, will be a niche tool at best in the future of building heating.
While Governor-elect Healey should move ahead with the transition toward electrification, Massachusetts residents are facing an acute energy burden today that should be tangibly addressed this winter. In order to help people afford home heating today and in the future, the Healey administration should work to create a more equitable rate system for all ratepayers while we move forward with electrification and efficiency.
Green Economy Workforce Development is Critical
This transition opens the door to create, train and sustain a skilled clean energy workforce composed of electricians, plumbers, HVAC specialists, energy efficiency specialists, general contractors, manufacturers, and utility workers to deliver healthier, more efficient homes and buildings powered by renewable electricity and networked geothermal districts at scale.
The Future of Heat Must be Equitable
Leaders from the Clean Heat Commission have set a bold vision for our energy future, centered around equity and engagement with local communities and stakeholders – and we hope you’ll join them in implementing this vision across the Commonwealth. This can be achieved in partnership with advocates, stakeholders, and community members.
We are hopeful that the Governor-elect will be able to guide our Commonwealth toward a clean energy future where renewable electricity powers our homes and buildings. We have the technology available today to prevent future winter fuel crises.
We respectfully submit the following priorities we hope will help guide Governor-elect Healey toward building a truly equitable clean energy future free from the high energy prices, harmful health pollutants, and billions of dollars in stranded assets of today’s gas system. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Kyle Murray, Acadia Center, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Acadia Center No Ashland Pipeline
Climate Code Blue PLAN-NE
Climate Finance Action Salem Alliance for the Environment
Conservation Law Foundation Trustees Collaborative for Parks & Open Space
HEET Sierra Club Environmental Law Program
GBPSR Sierra Club Massachusetts Chapter
Anita Roy Dobbs Sharon deVos
Cory Alperstein Michael McCord
Curtis Schroeder Anne Wright
Philip Vergragt Julia Laguette
Lee Ketelsen Karen Kraut
- Prioritize funding for low- and moderate-income households and environmental justice populations. Low-income households disproportionately bear the brunt of higher energy costs, older and less efficient appliances, and higher exposure to pollution from the gas system, yet the upfront and ongoing costs of electrification prevents too many from accessing the benefits of decarbonization. Governor-elect Healey should pursue dedicated funding focused on transitioning low- and moderate-income households toward an electrified future as soon as possible, as well as a lower electric rate for heat pump customers.
- Implement recommendations from the Clean Heat Report. The Massachusetts Commission on Clean Heat published several promising recommendations outlining a bold path toward a clean energy future. The Healey administration should take the next step and implement these recommendations, including:
- Joint Energy System Planning. Direct the DPU and DOER to conduct statewide joint energy system planning across gas and electric utilities, stakeholders, and community members that accounts for equity and public health.
- Coordinate Across State Agencies. Governor-elect Healey should encourage buy-in from all parts of state government to achieve our goals to transition beyond the gas system.
- Planning Centered on Equity and Engagement. The communities facing the largest economic and health risks of the gas system should have a seat at the table to decide how to best deliver the benefits of decarbonization.
- Improve Mass Save to increase access and transparency. While Mass Save is one of the strongest consumer relief programs in the nation, we agree with the Clean Heat Commission’s recommendation to explore moving administration of the program to a public entity. In doing so, we urge that the new program retain the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council as an oversight body and maintain weatherization programs.
- Establish Science-Backed Greenhouse Gas Accounting for Fuels. DEP must conduct an immediate rulemaking process to establish updated emissions intensities that account for lifecycle emissions of fuels, especially natural gas, biomethane and hydrogen, and the observed methane leak rates from the state’s gas system.
- Wind Down Gas Infrastructure. The gas infrastructure built today will saddle customers with high costs for decades to come. Rather than throw billions of dollars at this polluting and costly system, we should use our finite resources toward transitioning Bay Staters toward a decarbonized future that delivers a safer, more affordable non-combusting heating and cooling.
- Clean Heat Standard. A CHS could be a valuable policy tool that allows ratepayers to electrify without driving up rates and improve building energy efficiency. However, it needs to be designed properly to drive electrification rather than near-term adoption of alternative fuels that are not compatible with the state’s most cost effective path to net zero. Accurate life cycle accounting that considers local leak rates and 20 year Global Warming Potentials and caps on the amount of alternative fuels permitted to participate in the CHS will be absolutely critical to the policy’s success.
- Build a one-stop-shop for consumers to decarbonize without sacrificing transparency. The recommendation for a Building Decarbonization Clearinghouse, which would consolidate a whole suite of building decarbonization programs for consumers to easily access, is a common sense solution. The redesign of Mass Save should preserve the oversight, transparency, and stakeholder leadership role of the Massachusetts Energy Efficiency Advisory Council (EEAC).
- Expand Smaller Building Benchmarking. DOER has set a strong precedent for energy labeling programs to show the value of decarbonized buildings to owners and renters. This program should be expanded further to smaller residential and commercial buildings under 20,000 ft.
- Center Equity in New Funding Sources. Rather than relying on ratepayers, regulated suppliers, and market-based funds to pay for the transition, we should think creatively about how to use federal and state infrastructure funding via programs like a Climate Bank, and environmental justice population participation in governance and decision making must be baked into new programs at the outset.
- Deliver Electrification to Low-Income Customers. If we don’t build and pursue a clear strategy to decarbonize affordable and low-income housing, we risk leaving behind the very people who face the worst health and economic impacts of our gas system. This should be paired with discounted electric rates for heat pump customers to optimize affordability
- Clearly define and establish the role of ‘alternative fuels’ such as RNG and hydrogen. Regardless of where RNG or biodiesel are sourced, the resulting fuels also release the same greenhouse gasses and health hazardous pollutants as fossil gas and heating oil. Any emissions-saving claims from a combustion fuel must be rigorously justified with a full accounting of life cycle of emissions and social costs. As the Clean Heat Commission Report notes, alternative combustion fuels should be excluded from most building heat uses and saved for the most difficult to electrify uses in the industrial and transportation sectors.
- Restart the “Future of Gas.” Governor-elect Healey prompted the DPU to start the 20-80 proceedings as attorney general, and in the years since she has joined advocates to protest the resulting “Future of Gas” reports and plans, which closely track baseless gas industry talking points and prioritizes the continuation of the gas system over the commonwealth’s climate goals. As governor, Healey should reinvigorate the proceedings by limiting the scope of planning to exclude pathways that heavily rely on combustion fuels and ensuring the incorporation of stakeholder input.
- Establish statewide all-electric building code. Already, cities and municipalities are vying to become one of the 10 cities approved to implement all-electric building codes. Rather than push back against demand, the Healey administration should create a statewide all-electric building code to set a statewide standard municipalities and industry professionals alike can rely on.
- Ramp up networked geothermal projects and heat pump deployment. While there are notable pilots underway to measure the viability of networked geothermal in Massachusetts, we shouldn’t let years go by before we scale up these solutions (potentially through gas utilities) that can deliver highly efficient heating and cooling to entire neighborhoods and communities. We should also accelerate the deployment of heat pumps and electric appliances to help homeowners and renters achieve the benefits of decarbonization.
- Build a clean energy workforce. We are currently facing a dearth of expertise and technical understanding of deep energy efficiency retrofits, induction stoves, heat pumps, and networked geothermal districts preventing the installation of these solutions. The Healey administration should solve this issue by partnering with labor, technical colleges, utilities, and manufacturers to develop workforce training programs and long term planning that will help build a foundation of highly skilled good-paying clean energy jobs in Massachusetts.