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Baker Shook By Home Energy Conversion Cost

23 August 2022

A few months ago, Gov. Charlie Baker said he wanted to test the "mythology out there" that heat pumps aren't a realistic heating alternative for single-family homes in a cold weather climate like Massachusetts has by having his home evaluated as a potential electrification candidate.

The "mythology" that the governor was talking about in April is more about whether a heat pump, which transfers heat from the ground or air indoors, can effectively warm old New England homes like the 140-year-old one that Baker owns in Swampscott. But when he had experts out to take a look, he saw first-hand another one of the barriers to electrification -- the cost.

"Our house was all radiators when we moved into it; it was built in 1880, OK? We've converted more than half of it to forced hot air, OK? I had people come to tell me what it would take to sort of replace the rest of the radiators with heat pumps -- it was eye-popping," Baker said Thursday on GBH's Boston Public Radio after co-host Margery Eagan mentioned the cost of a heat pump.

Massachusetts has committed to reduce carbon emissions by at least 33 percent by 2025, at least 50 percent by 2030, at least 75 percent by 2040 and at least 85 percent by 2050, with tag-along policies required to get the state to net-zero emissions by the middle of the century. Getting electricity from renewable sources and switching things that run on fossil fuels to use that cleaner electricity is the state's primary strategy for meeting those requirements.

The governor made a pitch on GBH for one of the main features of his most recent climate legislation -- a massive energy innovation fund seeded with American Rescue Plan Act money -- and said he thinks the clean energy world needs to take a page from the COVID-19 response playbook to speed up technological advances that will help bring down the costs of electrification.

"The simplest comparison I can make to this is what really got us out of COVID wasn't rules and regulations and requirements and orders, OK? It was vaccines, right, built off of years of people studying and figuring out how to do [mRNA] and getting it done in a very short period of time," Baker said. "Innovation has to be part of the answer here." - Colin A. Young/SHNS | 8/22/22 9:52 AM

Boston wants to ban fossil fuels in new buildings

16 August 2022

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu addresses an audience during swearing-in ceremonies for Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, in Boston.

The city of Boston is seeking state permission to ban fossil fuels from new construction, a step toward reducing climate-harming emissions on a large scale, Mayor Michelle Wu announced Tuesday. 

Days after Gov. Baker signed a new climate law allowing 10 cities and towns in Massachusetts to implement such a ban, Wu said she is pushing for the state’s largest city to be included in the pilot project. 

Bans of fossil fuel in new buildings, forcing them to rely on alternative forms of heat, chiefly electric heat pumps, has been seen as a way to begin a larger-scale transition away from fossil fuel in homes and commercial businesses. If chosen for the pilot program, Boston would become one of a small handful of major U.S. cities to enact such a ban, along with New York City, Seattle and Washington, D.C. 

“Boston must lead by taking every possible step for climate justice to achieve our carbon reduction goals,” Wu said in a statement. “Fossil fuels, including natural gas, are known polluters that have negative implications on the environment and public health, particularly within our environmental justice communities. 

Wu announced that the city will file a so-called “Home Rule Petition” with the Legislature, which will make it eligible to take part in the pilot, which exempts labs and medical facilities from a ban. The Wu administration will also start the process of talking with the community, business interests, environmental groups and others to define what a ban would look like in Boston, including setting the bounds of a multi-year timeline to phase out fossil fuels. 

Banning fossil fuels from new buildings would help Boston to take a bite out of its biggest source of emissions. The on-site burning of fossil fuels accounts for more than a third of greenhouse gas emissions in Boston, according to the city. And compared to getting existing buildings off of fossil fuels, which represents a logistical—and expensive—challenge, ensuring that new buildings are built climate-friendly is considered low-hanging fruit. 

Wu’s announcement was met with enthusiasm from climate advocates. “We must target new buildings as some of the lowest hanging fruit, to achieve zero emissions through equitable electrification,” Michele Brooks, lead Boston organizer with the Massachusetts Sierra Club, said in a statement. 

But that’s only if the state chooses Boston to be included in the pilot. 

The bill signed last week by Baker gives priority to the first ten communities to file home rule petitions, and ten communities have already taken that step: Cambridge, Newton, Brookline, Lexington, Arlington, Concord, Lincoln, Acton, Aquinnah, and West Tisbury. 

According to state Sen. Michael Barrett, who was a lead negotiator of the climate bill, the city of Boston was asked to file a petition months ago, as the climate bill was being crafted, so it could secure a spot in the pilot. The city opted not to, according to a spokesperson for Wu, because it wanted to see the final bill before proceeding. 

Slashing emissions from buildings represents a “real leadership opportunity” for the city — one that will be harder to achieve because of Boston’s hesitation in starting the process earlier, he said. 

There is still a chance that Boston will be able to join the pilot, though. The climate bill requires that communities meet an affordable housing requirement, and it’s unclear if all of the 10 communities that have filed so far will be able to do so. They will have 18 months to meet the requirement, and if it doesn’t happen, they lose their spot. 

After that, any town or city that has gotten local approval for a ban via town meeting or city council and has filed a home rule petition can try to join the ban. The state Department of Energy Resources will get to decide which communities get spots, regardless of the order in which they apply. 

Boston may find itself with some competition, according to Lisa Cunningham, a Brookline architect and co-founder of ZeroCarbonMA, a group working with towns to pressure the state to enact more aggressive climate policies. 

“Environmental justice communities very much want to move forward on this, and we have a few that we are working with” that could file home rule petitions, Cunningham said. There are several others working on this as well, she said.

By Sabrina Shankman Globe Staff - Boston Globe

NEHPBA Coalition Letter to Governor Baker on the MA Climate Bill

1 August 2022

This is what NEHPBA is doing regarding the MA Climate Bill. We are working with the Massachusetts Coalition of Sustainable Energy (MCSE). The letter we sent to Governor Baker can be seen here. The bill was passed by the House and Senate on Friday and sent to Governor Baker's desk. Baker sent the bill back with his amendments and late Sunday, July 31, a compromise bill was sent back to Baker for his signature. We are still waiting... NEHPBA will let you know if this bill is signed or vetoed.

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