New Climate Law Will Help Massachusetts Meet Emissions Reduction Deadlines

Massachusetts gained a new climate law on August 11th when Governor Baker signed H.5060, An Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind. The governor vetoed a prior version of the bill in July of 2022, but the House and Senate worked quickly to send him updated legislation before the end of the session only two days later. Now that it has become law, H.5060 will help Massachusetts achieve the greenhouse gas emission limits it enacted last year. The state committed to net zero emissions by 2050, with the intermediate goal of a 50 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2030.

To achieve these emissions reductions, Massachusetts will need to rapidly expand its supply of clean electricity while simultaneously improving energy efficiency and electrifying end-uses such as transportation and space heating. While the state already has various emissions reduction programs in place, it will need to strengthen and expand them to achieve net zero by 2050. H.5060 represents an important step in this process, helping to ensure that Massachusetts can meet its statutory emissions deadlines.

The major provisions of H.5060 by sector are as follows:

Electricity Sector

  • Update the bidding process for offshore wind procurement. By law, Massachusetts utilities must procure 5,600 MW of offshore wind by 2027. H.5060 does not change the quantity of offshore wind procurement. Rather, the bill updates the bidding process by eliminating the price cap, which required each successive procurement to offer lower prices than the one before. The bill also encourages projects that promote economic development within the state, minimize negative environmental impacts, and benefit low-income and environmental justice populations. 
  • Increase support for the Massachusetts offshore wind industry. The bill creates a wind industry investment program at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC). The program will promote offshore wind turbine manufacturing and assembly within the state through tax incentives, grants, loans, and workforce training programs. This will help Massachusetts further develop as a hub for offshore wind construction along the East Coast. 
  • Develop assessment of grid modernization needs. Plentiful low-carbon electricity is only useful if there’s sufficient transmission infrastructure to transport it to consumers. H.5060 creates a working group to analyze necessary transmission upgrades for clean energy, authorizes the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to seek proposals for connecting offshore wind to the grid, and directs utilities to create plans for proactively upgrading distribution and transmission infrastructure. It also directs DOER to study the potential role of mid- and long-duration grid energy storage and recommend a future procurement requirement.

Transportation Sector

  • Formalize 100% ZEV sales starting in 2035. Under H.5060, all new vehicles sold in Massachusetts must be zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) starting in 2035. This formalizes a goal that the state established in 2021.
  • Update structure for ZEV incentives. One of the Commonwealth’s cornerstone programs for addressing transportation emissions is MOR-EV, which provides rebates for ZEV purchases. H.5060 updates MOR-EV by increasing the size of the rebates (from $2500 to $3500), making used vehicles eligible, and adding bonuses for both low-income purchasers ($1500) and those trading in an internal combustion engine vehicle ($1000). It also suggests a point-of-sale structure for the rebates and creates an outreach program to underserved communities.
  • Require smart charging programs. The bill requires utilities to establish a rebate for off-peak electric vehicle (EV) charging and a residential time-of-use rate for EV owners. These measures will make EVs more financially appealing to consumers and will help to maintain grid reliability as generation from wind and solar increases.
  • Add EV charging to statewide building code. Electrification of the transportation sector will be smoother if the state has comprehensive charging infrastructure in place. H.5060 alters state building and electrical codes to require EV chargers in newly constructed residential and commercial buildings. The bill also creates an intergovernmental council to coordinate EV infrastructure deployment.
  • Electrify all MBTA buses by 2040. Starting in 2030, all new passenger buses purchased or leased by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) must be ZEVs. All MBTA passenger buses must be ZEVs by 2040. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is required to assist the other regional transit authorities in developing plans for bus electrification.

Buildings Sector

  • Allows for a fossil-fuel-free communities demonstration program. The bill allows up to 10 towns or cities to ban fossil-fuel-burning appliances in new construction. Several Massachusetts municipalities had previously attempted to enact this type of ban but were unable to proceed without state legislation. Only towns meeting the 10 percent affordable housing target (under chapter 40B of the Massachusetts General Laws) are eligible to participate in this demonstration, and new research laboratories and health care facilities are exempt.
  • Ends rebates for fossil appliances. The bill ends Mass Save subsidies for fossil appliances (except as a backup for heat pumps). It also aims to increase participation by low-income households and renters.
  • Requires the publication of building energy data. The bill requires DOER to gather energy consumption data for all buildings 20,000 square feet or larger and make this information publicly available. 
  • Align the future of the gas system with the Commonwealth’s clean energy goals. The bill instructs the Department of Public Utilities to convene a working group that will assess how to align future development of the gas system with state greenhouse gas emissions goals.