The Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate recently passed a sweeping climate and clean energy bill, which was signed into law by Governor Baker on August 11 as Chapter 179 of the Acts of 2022. Known as An Act driving clean energy and offshore wind, this new law bolsters green transportation, green buildings and clean power production, including offshore wind and solar, while creating thousands of new jobs and economic benefits for the Commonwealth. The bill builds on previous efforts by the state legislature and will help ensure that Massachusetts achieves its goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
“Massachusetts is a national and global leader in combating climate change and shifting our economy away from dirty fossil fuels to clean, renewable sources of energy like offshore wind and solar,” said Senator Jason Lewis.“But the scale and urgency of the climate challenges we face demand that we rapidly expand our burgeoning offshore wind energy industry and accelerate efforts to green our transportation sector and buildings. I’m grateful to my legislative colleagues, especially Senator Barrett and Representative Roy, and all the climate activists who worked so hard to ensure passage of this critical legislation.”
Some of the highlights of the many provisions in this comprehensive legislation include:
- Establishes a Massachusetts Offshore Wind Industry Investment Program and Offshore Wind Industry Investment Trust Fund, which are designed to support and incentivize investment in offshore wind energy, including the local manufacturing of supply chain components, advanced clean energy research, and workforce development initiatives
- Modifies the existing price cap for offshore wind energy development bids to encourage greater competition, with preference given to bids that invest in local manufacturing, provide employment opportunities for underrepresented populations and mitigate environmental impacts
- Establishes a commercial fisheries commission to provide input on best practices for minimizing impacts to wildlife related to offshore wind energy generation and transmission
- Supports the expansion of solar power by permitting agricultural and horticultural land to be used to site solar panels if they do not impede the continued use of the land for agricultural or horticultural use, eliminating the so-called “donut hole” for on-site solar energy net metering to promote residential solar, and loosening the so-called single parcel rule to help expand solar on sites where it already exists
- Requires utility companies to proactively upgrade and modernize the transmission and distribution grid to improve reliability and resilience and accommodate the anticipated significant shift to renewable forms of energy.
- Increases rebates under the state’s Massachusetts Offers Rebates for Electric Vehicles (MOR-EV) incentive program. The rebate amount will increase to $3,500 for passenger cars and light-duty trucks, and electric vehicle purchasers who trade in their emission-producing vehicles will be eligible for an additional incentive of $1,000. The bill also takes steps to expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
- Requires all electricity companies to submit proposals to the Department of Public Utilities for how they will offer reduced electricity rates for consumers who charge their zero-emission vehicles at off-peak times
- Requires every passenger bus that is purchased or leased by the MBTA to be a zero-emission vehicle starting in 2030. By the end of 2040, the MBTA will be required to operate exclusively zero-emission vehicles. Underserved and low-income communities must be prioritized for the equitable deployment of these zero-emission buses.
- Creates a demonstration project for up to 10 cities or towns, by local option, to require all-electric building construction. To participate, a municipality must also meet certain affordable housing or multifamily development thresholds.
• Makes several enhancements to the Mass Save program, which provides rebates and incentives for owners and renters related to efficient appliances and other home energy improvements