State Senate Unanimously Passes 'An Act to Promote a Clean Energy Future.'

Cyr successfully proposes three amendments to the bill, including the ‘Community Empowerment’ proposal championed by Martha’s Vineyard residents

 (Boston, MA) - Yesterday, the Massachusetts Senate voted to pass S.2545, An Act to promote a clean energy future, sponsored by Senators Marc Pacheco and Mike Barrett. This legislation represents a firm stand by the Senate to ensure a healthier, cleaner Commonwealth for future generations of Massachusetts residents. Most importantly, the policies enacted in this legislation will have measurable benefits in the health of the global environment.

This legislation is a forward looking plan that prepares Massachusetts for the inevitable obstacles that will come with climate change. The policies and programs will protect public health, increase the use of renewable energy, reduce greenhouse emissions, implement a price on carbon, and create jobs in the innovative green-energy economy.

During Thursday’s Senate debate on S.2545, state Senator Julian Cyr offered a “Community Empowerment” amendment (amendment #22, which was unanimously adopted) that would allow municipalities the ability to enter into long-term renewable energy contracts, and provide financing for such projects, on behalf of their residents and businesses.  Before entering into any contract, the municipality must have the support of the community through a democratic process, such as a town meeting vote, followed by a public process to choose the renewable energy project, which would include either boards of selectmen, town councils and/or the community electric aggregator.  Once the renewable energy project is operational, electricity customers in that municipality would see savings on their bills.

“For many of us who live in coastal communities, earlier this year we witnessed extreme weather caused by carbon emissions that have fueled global warming. By passing this bill the Senate provided the leadership needed to fight climate change, while simultaneously addressing our state’s energy needs,” said Senator Cyr (D-Truro). “The Community Empowerment amendment, a homegrown concept conceived by constituents on Martha’s Vineyard, will give towns the power they need to finance, build and receive the benefits of renewable energy projects – a meaningful step forward in the region’s fight against climate change.”

“Vineyard Power Cooperative and their membership are appreciative to Senator Cyr and his staff for their leadership and execution in achieving this milestone and getting this legislation passed in the Senate. We believe in the power of local choice and local empowerment that enables our community to take control of our energy future and will help ensure our community vision of being carbon neutral in home heating, transportation, and domestic electricity by 2050. This is a big win for not only our local island community, who is sitting in the front row to see the effects of climate change and sea level rise, but also for the region and for the Commonwealth,” said Erik Peckar, General Manager of Vineyard Power, the organization who helped craft the language and has been a primary advocate for the bill.

Cyr also proposed amendment #27 (unanimously adopted) to the bill relating to environmental justice. This amendment would add language to the Global Warming Solutions Act to direct the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to consult with the Department of Public Health when evaluating the costs and benefits of greenhouse gas reductions relative to adoption of and compliance with the 2020 statewide greenhouse gas emissions limit.

In addition, Cyr filed amendment #67 (also unanimously adopted) relating to residential solar. This amendment creates a special commission to investigate and study the feasibility of incentivizing and requiring the installation of solar power systems in all newly constructed housing.

“Future generations of Massachusetts residents depend on our actions today,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “This legislation sets Massachusetts on a path towards an even cleaner energy portfolio and invests in the future of our children and their environment. I would like to thank Senators Pacheco, Barrett, and Chairwoman Spilka for their tremendous contributions to this bill, and to the rest of my members for their commitment to clean energy and climate preparedness.”

The legislation raises renewable portfolio standards, lifts the cap on solar net metering, authorizes additional hydropower and offshore wind procurement, establishes market-based greenhouse-gas emission limits, and implements statewide energy storage goals.

“This bill sets aggressive goals to increase the use of renewable energy in Massachusetts and support our state’s innovative clean energy workforce,” said Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “As one of the original sponsors of the Global Warming Solutions Act a decade ago, I am especially proud that this bill continues the important work of meeting our legal and moral commitments to ensure a sustainable future.”

“The Senate has constantly taken major steps to move us forward in advancing our state’s energy policies and we have done so again with this bill,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “The adoption of the bill reflects our desire to develop a diversified and renewable energy portfolio, strengthen the well-being of our citizens by controlling pollution, and supporting the needs of residential and commercial electric consumers, while paving the way for more jobs in a growing sector of the economy.”

“It is urgent that we move as quickly as possible to mitigate the worst effects of Global Climate Change.  The quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, and the number of extreme weather events that we experience will depend on what we do at the local, state, and national level. The legislation that the MA Senate has passed today promotes a clean energy future that will protect public health, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create thousands of new clean energy jobs that will continue to benefit Massachusetts and the New England economy,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton).

“Climate change is relentless, and ‘putting a price on carbon’ is the single most effective thing a state government can do to fight it. But this isn’t about the Legislature forcing one design, and one design only, upon a governor. We’re firm on timing because the problem is urgent, but we don’t mandate the method,” said Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington).

Specific policy changes include:

  • Increasing the percentage of Class I renewable energy that must be purchased by retail electric suppliers under the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard from an additional 1% annually to an additional 3% annually.
  • The legislation requires the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs to establish market-based compliance mechanisms to maximize the ability of the Commonwealth to achieve its greenhouse gas emission limits for: (i) the transportation sector not later than December 31, 2020; (ii) the commercial and industrial building sectors not later than December 31, 2021; and (iii) the residential building sector not later than December 31, 2022.
  • Requiring the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs to adopt statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits for the years 2030 (35% and 45% below the 1990 emissions level) and 2040 (55% and 65% below the 1990 emissions level), and a plan to achieve those reductions.
  • Requiring the 2030 emission limit to be adopted no later than 2021 and the 2040 emissions limit to be adopted not later than 2031.
  • Requiring the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs to issue a plan to achieve the 2050 emissions limit.
  • Requiring the Department of Energy Resources to establish an energy storage system target program to achieve a statewide energy storage deployment target of 2,000 mega-watts by January 1, 2025.
  • Removing the net metering cap for non-governmental solar net metering facilities.
  • Eliminating the current sunset date of December 31, 2020 for the regulations promulgated under the Global Warming Solutions Act.
  • Creating a joint procurement taskforce consisting of the Department of Energy Resources, the Attorney General and representatives of the distribution companies, to conduct a review of the clean energy procurements.
  • Allowing the Department of Energy Resources to recommend solicitations and procurements for more than 9,450,000 megawatts-hours of clean energy generation, and to recommend offshore wind energy generation solicitations and procurements of up to 5,000 megawatts of aggregate nameplate capacity by December 31, 2035.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.



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