December 13, 2018

Baker energy plan hinges on changes transportation, building

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Gov. Charlie Baker

A first-ever energy plan released Wednesday by the Baker administration found that Massachusetts must step up its efforts around energy efficiency in the transportation sector and building, heating and cooling if the state is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower costs for ratepayers and ensure energy reliability.

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Energy Plan released Wednesday by the Department of Energy Resources analyzes the state's energy supply and demand, and outlines priorities and strategies state policymakers could pursue to get to a future where energy is cleaner, cheaper and more reliable. The plan was required by an executive order Gov. Charlie Baker signed in 2016.

The plan estimates that Massachusetts will achieve a 35 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2030 -- a reduction of 61.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (MMTC02) -- if it just successfully implements its current energy policies, including offshore wind and hydroelectric procurements that are still in their early stages.

Under the 2008 state law known as the Global Warming Solutions Act, Massachusetts is required to reduce its emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

With an increase of 50 percent more clean electricity in 2030 on top of the successful rollout of current energy policies, the state would see an additional reduction of just one MMTCO2, the report said.

What will drive greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the plan said, is leveraging state investments in clean energy to lower costs and reduce emissions by electrifying more of the transportation sector and using electricity more frequently to heat or cool buildings with more modern technologies like air source heat pumps.

"It has become clear to us that we need to look at not only how we supply energy and have more clean energy supply but also really look at how we're using energy as well," DOER Commissioner Judith Judson said. "Things we can do in terms of energy efficiency and reducing peak demand can have huge benefits to our entire energy system."

The plan estimates that increasing the renewable energy supply and increasing electrification in transportation can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 3.8 MMTCO2 on top of the 61.3 MMTCO2 reduction already anticipated.

"The recommendations and analysis produced in this plan illustrate a changing energy landscape that will require a focus on energy efficiency improvements and the utilization of electricity to heat our homes and power our transportation sector," Baker said in a statement. "The Commonwealth will use this plan to build upon major advancements like securing cost-effective, large-scale clean energy procurements of hydro-electricity and offshore wind energy and implement policies to help keep Massachusetts competitive in the region while ensuring residents and businesses have access to clean and reliable energy options."

Judson said energy efficiency, conservation and peak demand reduction will become even more essential if the use of electricity for heating and transportation grows. Efficiency will be particularly important in thermal conditioning, she said, because even under a model in which the state adopts "aggressive electrification," 93 percent of thermal sector consumption is forecast to be met through fossil fuels in 2030.

The commissioner said the state is projected to have sufficient electric generation capacity to meet the needs of the proposed increased electrification.

Judson said the state can push market and consumer demand for energy efficiency measures by educating consumers about the benefits of efficiency. The plan suggests the state establish a "Home Energy Score Card" program as a market incentive for consumers to invest in energy efficiency home improvements.

"Enabling homeowners and prospective homebuyers to have access to information about the anticipated energy efficiency characteristics of residences and recommended cost effective energy efficiency improvements will help families be better informed about their homes' energy performance and how they can reduce costs through incentivized energy efficiency upgrades," the plan said.

The plan found that the reduction of energy consumption at peak periods and cost-effective procurements of clean energy can lower electricity rates to below predicted levels, and that policies that support energy supply diversity in the winter, like the procurement of offshore wind energy, "demonstrated significant cost and emission benefits during cold winter days."

It also encourages the state to support grid modernization efforts, develop strategies to promote fuel switching, and invest in research and development for clean heating fuels.

"This plan provides a smart, clear blueprint for Massachusetts and New England to follow over the next decade to reduce emissions, improve reliability and ultimately lower consumers' fuel costs," Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton said.

The plan was developed by DOER using models of potential clean energy and energy efficiency scenarios between now and 2030. It is designed to contribute to larger planning efforts, like the 2030 Clean Energy and Climate Plan, DOER said.

"By regularly projecting our energy consumption and maintaining a plan to meet those needs we can develop and implement strategies to reduce consumer costs, create economic opportunity, and meet our goals for reducing the release of carbon emissions," Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, who championed the idea of a comprehensive energy plan in the Legislature before Baker made it happen via executive order, said.

Massachusetts's energy demand was 1,074 trillion British thermal units in 2016, according to the plan. The transportation sector accounted for 44 percent of the demand, the built environment accounted for 39 percent and electric generation was responsible for the remaining 17 percent.

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