Massachusetts is broadly pushing forward in efforts to clean its energy sources.
In 2008, the state set a goal to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. Last year, this value was pushed to net zero emissions by 2050. In 2017, the Clean Energy Standard dictated 80% clean electricity by 2050.
Now, a new crescendo is building amongst the cacophony of political movements.
First is House Bill 2836. The legislation was first filed in early 2019 as the 100 Percent Renewable Energy Act. The plan calls for 100% renewable electricity by 2035, and 100% renewable energy (“heating and cooling, transportation, agricultural uses, industrial uses, and all other uses”) by 2045. The sources of this clean energy, as defined in Section IIf of the state’s General Law, are solar photovoltaics or thermal, wind, ocean/wave/tidal, fuel-cell using renewable fuels, landfill gas, waste to energy, naturally flowing hydro, low emission biomass, and geothermal.
Massachusetts has enough offshore wind potential to power the state 19x over, and rooftop solar alone could provide 47% of our electricity.
The majority of the bill describes how the state is to go about moving towards the 100% goal – such as setting goals, training workers, and researching solutions. By 2030, 50% renewable energy must be hit, and 80% by 2040. Electricity must move to renewable sources at a pace of an additional 3% in 2020 (this document was originally submitted in 2019), 4% in 2021-2022, 5% in 2023-2025, and an increase of 6% a year thereafter.
This legislation rides in front of 2 gigawatts of very real deployments of solar power (see CommercialSolarGuy installing below), a push to add a lot more solar volume, energy storage growth, and after a first 1.6 GW of offshore wind being awarded – a suggestion that we immediately seek another 1.6 GW.
On the roof, doing roof things, cus roof things are what we do pic.twitter.com/5HPOKxaeio
— Commercial Solar Guy (@SolarInMASS) July 7, 2020
Concurrent with this push for more clean sources, are the continued efforts by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey to rein in the power of fossil interests. For years AG Healey has been investigating Exxon’s involvement in climate denialism. These actions have uncovered that Exxon knew the science of burning oil’s effects on climate change decades ago, while still funding groups to muddle the public’s perception of the science, along with hiding the effects of climate change from its own shareholders.
And very recently, in light of the state’s legally binding mandate to reach net zero emissions by 2050, AG Healey’s office has filed a petition with the Department of Public Utilities to ‘Launch a Regulatory Proceeding to Proactively Manage the State’s Transition Away from Natural Gas‘.
The petition first lays out the legal mandates that the state has signed related to climate change. A combination of documents signed by multiple administrations, as well court rulings holding them up, leads the background paragraph to note:
As electrification and decarbonization of heating increases, the Commonwealth’s natural gas demand and usage from thermal heating requirements will decline substantially and could be near zero by 2050.
The Attorney General then points out that New York and California have opened similar proceedings. And that the Department of Public Utilities has both the opportunity, and obligation, to Massachusetts residents. The document specifically notes the responsibility create an opportunity for low/moderate-income customers who might be financially challenged to convert, as well residents of environmental justice communities, to experience a transition with equity and fairness.
The work being done by the Massachusetts legislature is broad. It considers the challenges of deploying a new energy solution, the economics of winding down one of the largest industries in the world, and about building a strong legal structure to defend against the lobbyists of that wealthy industry.