A homeowner is learning how to improve the efficiency of his home as part of an Energy Department program that assists homeowners weatherize their homes.

Massachusetts’ Next Energy Efficiency Plan Could Bring Unprecedented Savings to the Commonwealth

Acadia Center's Senior Attorney shares an assessment of state efforts to create an energy efficiency plan that provides energy savings and benefits for every Massachusetts resident.

Every three years, Massachusetts refreshes its strategy for improving its energy efficiency programs to benefit people and the planet. The latest three-year plan covers 2019-2021 and includes many positive developments for energy efficiency in the state. Here are some highlights:

Substantial Savings & Benefits

The plan will achieve high levels of energy savings and benefits. It proposed statewide electric savings levels of 2.7% of annual sales (enough to power over 583,000 homes through savings). For natural gas, it proposed savings levels of 1.25% of annual sales (enough to heat over 112,000 homes through savings)—the highest natural gas savings goal ever set in Massachusetts, which becomes even more significant when considered year over year. The 2019-2021 Plan will also provide 8.6% higher dollar benefits than the 2016-2018 Plan.

Significant Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Reductions

The 2019-2021 Plan is expected to reduce more carbon emissions than ever—2.6 million short tons of CO2 or as much pollution as 500,000 cars on the road.

The plan also increases the significance of greenhouse gas emissions in determining cost-effectiveness for energy efficiency, meaning more reductions will be prioritized going forward. The Massachusetts legislature recently allowed the efficiency plans to integrate renewables and clean energy technologies, bringing the potential for additional GHG reductions.

New Tools to Reach Underserved Populations

While Massachusetts’ energy efficiency programs have historically been some of the best in the nation, they have often failed to meet the needs of those people who would most benefit from their services. As our allies, Eugenia Gibbons of Green Energy Consumers’ Alliance and Khalida Smalls of Community Labor United, described in a blog post, utilities have been unable to show that they are reaching low-to-middle income residents, communities of color, and environmental justice communities at the same rates that they are reaching wealthier communities. There are disparities in access to services that all residents pay for through their electric bills. The 2019-2021 Plan has taken a big step to address this issue, thanks to collaboration among advocates, organizers, and other stakeholders.

For the first time, the plan includes a metric designed to incentivize and track energy efficiency services in these communities, by capturing service to renters. Utilities must collectively serve at least 100,000 rental units over the next three years to receive a corresponding bonus, a portion of $3 million earmarked for this purpose statewide.

Everyone deserves access to the benefits of #EnergyEfficiency. Acadia Center shares highlights from Massachusetts' new plan to reduce carbon emissions, ensure more equitable service, and save consumers money. Tweet This

Reducing Cost & Reliance on Fossil Fuels

Reducing peak electricity demand on the coldest and hottest days can save ratepayers significant amounts of money and avoid running coal and oil power plants that create more pollution. The 2019-2021 Plan introduces the programs’ first full-scale active demand management offering, including a small winter program for natural gas. The electric demand program also includes additional incentives for storage technologies and permanent demand reduction targets of 665 MW in the summer and 500 MW in the winter.

New Incentives for Modern Heating Solutions

This three-year plan will include new educational and incentive programs for homes with all kinds of heating. This expansion will improve access to weatherization, air sealing, and high efficiency equipment for customers who choose efficient electric heat pumps. It will also increase the number of heat pumps operating in the state, thanks to targets for 62,000 new installations and incentives to switch to clean heating, particularly from oil and propane. Furthermore, a new program will enable more passive house construction, which will overwhelmingly utilize heat pumps as well.

Process and Next Steps

In October, the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council (EEAC), which oversees the development of the three-year plans, unanimously approved a resolution supporting the plan. As the environmental representative on the EEAC, Acadia Center led the charge to improve this plan from original proposals, with many stakeholders contributing their voices and priorities.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) will issue its decision on the plan at the end of January. Once finalized, the plan will be administered by utilities through Mass Save programs. Acadia Center urges that the DPU pass the plan to lock in the benefits mentioned above.

Final Recommendations for the DPU’s Decision

Even with these positive developments, there are several opportunities that remain unaddressed in the plan. The DPU could remedy these issues in the final decision, and Acadia Center urges them to do so.

  1. Utilities should strive to achieve more uniform goals and savings. Every customer in Massachusetts should have access to the same energy efficiency opportunities at comparable costs—but some utilities serve half the proportion of residents for double the cost, meaning that where customers live could dictate the access to or depth of efficiency services available.

  2. The DPU must lay out a specific process and standards to govern formal studies on potential efficiency savings. Otherwise, it is very difficult to compare them, verify that they are accurate, or aggregate them into a statewide goal.

  3. Finally, the DPU should require the plan to increase transparency of Mass Save’s data and create a common data platform across utilities. Access to data will improve accountability, customer service, and engagement.

With this decision, Massachusetts can solidify its leadership on energy efficiency by tackling some of the most persistent barriers to further improvement. Energy efficiency is the lowest cost energy resource available. It lowers energy bills while contributing to a stronger economy and healthier future, and everyone deserves access to these benefits.

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