On August 11th Governor Baker signed the “Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind” H.5060 into law after it passed through the House and the Senate in an overwhelming majority. This bill expands upon the Roadmap Bill passed in 2021 by outlining how the state will meet its climate targets of net-zero emissions by 2050. This 100 page bill is a testament to the many climate activists and voices that have advocated for change in the past year and beyond.
One deeply grassroots win we’re most proud of is that the bill declares the burning of woody biomass nonrenewable. Burning trees is a false solution with deep impacts on air quality in environmental justice communities and with our frontline partners we were able to ensure that this false solution was not considered for Renewable Energy Credits or other subsidies.
Below we will outlining some more of the technical content of the bill that aligns with our policy principles. However, I want to preface this summary by noting the many of our efforts that the legislature ignored: the bill does not include air quality monitoring and air quality baselines in air pollution hotspots, climate education in public schools, a corporate polluter fee, transparency in the statehouse, and more ambitious net zero goals as outline in the IPCC 2030 bill and the 100% Clean Act. This Act fell short of meeting many of the priorities and demands that Our Climate advocated for this session that were recommended by people from environmental justice communities. The bill was extremely rushed and lacked transparency after leaving committee and almost had to be scrapped entirely and left for the next session. Still we are proud of and grateful for what we did win which include:
- Declaring biomass a nonrenewable source of energy
- Removing the price cap on offshore wind energy
- This allows for new offshore wind projects even if they do not generate electricity at a cost lower than the price cap. Without a price cap, resources will be allocated to job creation and long term clean economic development rather than generating the cheapest electricity.
- Incentivizing EV vehicles and electrifying the MBTA fleet by 2040
- New gas and diesel powered cars will not be sold after 2035 and the rebate for new electric vehicles will rise from $2,500 to $3,500-$6,000. The bill will also create further EV education in low income communities and neighborhoods with high vehicle air pollution.
- Allows 10 municipalities to ban fossil fuels in new renovation and construction projects
- These cities will provide data on the impact of the changes so they can be better implemented in remaining cities. However, the chosen 10 municipalities are high income areas, which could raise energy costs for lower income cities.
- Allocates resources to decarbonize and improve air quality in K-12 school
The bill outlines sweeping legislation to incentivize efforts to progress offshore wind infrastructure. H.5060 removes the price cap on offshore wind energy. This allows for new offshore wind projects even if they do not generate electricity at a cost lower than the price cap. Governor Baker and other supporters of the removal of the price cap such as House Speaker Ron Mariano claim that due to new technology and competition from other states, the price cap has become obsolete. Without a price cap, resources will be allocated to job creation and long term clean economic development rather than generating the cheapest electricity. Massachusetts will also have a 5.6 GW offshore wind development minimum by 2027. Additionally, investor-owned utilities such as National Grid will no longer have a bid in selecting new projects. This selection will be done by the Department of Energy Resources and an independent party who must give more weight to projects that support jobs for low income and minority people and contracts for minority and women-owned businesses. It also will implement pilot education programs for offshore wind job training in schools.
In the transportation sector, car dealerships will not be able to sell new gas or diesel powered cars after 2035. To incentivise EVs, the rebate for new electric vehicles will rise from $2,500 to $3,500, and $4,500 for those that opt to trade in a gas powered car and an additional $1,500 in low income neighborhoods. The bill will create further EV education in low income communities and neighborhoods with high vehicle air pollution. The state will also oversee a number of public EV vehicle charging sites and collect data about their usage. From 2030, the MBTA can only purchase zero-emission vehicles and must prioritize putting them in environmental justice communities. They will also be required to electrify the entire fleet by 2040.
Despite Governor Baker’s concerns that it would increase housing costs and availability, the new bill will allow 10 municipalities to ban fossil fuels in new renovation and construction projects. These cities will be required to provide data about the impacts of these changes. H.5060 will direct the public and environmental groups to help plan utilities, rather than just the utility companies. Additionally, it will make sure that the “GSEPs Pursuant to 2014 Gas Leaks Act” efforts to replace aging natural gas pipelines does not counter efforts to decarbonize. For the first time, the funding from the Gas Leaks Act will also be redirected to fund large geothermal heat projects. Buildings over 20,000 square feet are now required to report their emissions annually, and the state will allocate resources to improve air quality and decarbonize K-12 schools. In households, H.5060 will incentivize electric appliances. From 2025, Mass Save will not be able to give incentives for fossil fuel powered heating and cooling systems unless they are either in low income housing, a backup to an electric system, or in hard to electrify spaces such as commercial buildings.
H.5060 removes the restriction that only one solar installation could qualify for net metering per property. It will also compensate homeowners for 25 kw of solar power in comparison to the former 10. The law will also establish the Clean Energy Transmission Working Group to identify areas where Massachusetts can improve the electricity grid to build capacity for net-zero needs and the Grid Modernization Advisory Council to make these changes in a cost-effective way. This act will build an investment fund for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and will allow MassCEC to further nuclear fusion, networked geothermal and deep geothermal energy technology.
Hannah Ono is a college freshman at MIT studying Computer Science and Economics who has been with Our Climate since 2020. She is primarily involved in building close partnerships with our partners in Massachusetts and is interested in the economics of environmental policy and its intersections with environmental justice focuses. Before joining Our Climate, Hannah was a National Youth Action Team leader at Citizens Climate Lobby, a Women’s Earth Alliance Grassroots Accelerator, and Data Analysis intern with the New Hampshire Democratic Party.