State Rep. Natalie Higgins
The Massachusetts Legislature passed a sweeping clean energy bill, “An Act driving clean energy and offshore wind,” bolstering green transportation, green buildings and clean power production, including offshore wind, solar, storage and networked geothermal, while creating thousands of new jobs and economic benefits in the process. This builds upon the Next Generation Climate Roadmap bill, which passed earlier this session and overhauled the state’s climate laws, putting Massachusetts on a path to reach net-zero limit on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
To incentivize the development of the offshore wind industry, this legislation establishes a Massachusetts Offshore Wind Industry Investment Program. It also creates the Massachusetts Offshore Wind Industry Investment Trust Fund, which can be used to promote the manufacture, fabrication, and assembly of domestic supply chain components of the offshore wind industry; stimulate increased financing for permanent manufacturing facilities; advance clean energy research, technology, and innovation; and prepare individuals for offshore wind careers by supporting workforce training at a range of educational institutions and through regional employment boards.
To support the advancement of solar power, the bill permits agricultural and horticultural land to be used to site solar panels as long as they do not impede the continued use of the land for agricultural or horticultural use, eliminates the so-called “doughnut hole” for on-site solar energy net metering to promote residential solar, and loosens the so-called single parcel rule to help expand solar on sites where it already exists. In addition to wind and solar power, the bill addresses other innovative sources of clean energy such as fusion energy and geothermal power.
The legislation also modernizes Massachusetts’ electrical grid and energy storage infrastructure. It requires utility companies to proactively upgrade the transmission and distribution grid to improve reliability and resilience and accommodate the anticipated significant shift to renewable forms of energy.
As the transportation sector is the largest source of fuel emissions in Massachusetts, the bill takes steps to encourage the use of electric vehicles, including expanding and codifying the state’s MOR-EV electric vehicle incentive program into statute. Under the bill, the rebate amount will increase by $1,000, to $3,500, for passenger cars and light-duty trucks. Moreover, electric vehicle purchasers who trade in their emission-producing vehicles will be eligible for an additional incentive of $1,000.
To tackle the difficult issue of emissions from the building sector, the bill creates a 10-municipality demonstration project allowing all-electric building construction by local option. The bill also makes targeted enhancements to the Mass Save program, which provides rebates and incentives for owners and renters related to efficient appliances and other home energy improvements.
Thank you for taking the time to read this month’s column. If you have an issue you want to connect with us on, please reach us by phone (978-227-5278) or email (Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov). We continue to host our weekly office hours — Monday nights and Friday mornings by appointment. Please email or call to sign up.