When Massachusetts officials look into the not-so-distant future of 2030, they see 1 million homes across the state comfortably heated and cooled by sleek, efficient heat pumps, their old oil- and gas-burning systems — and the climate-warming emissions they spewed — relegated to the scrap heap.

But they are woefully behind pace to reach that lofty goal, and the more time that passes without an urgent response, the further out of reach it gets.

According to the state’s own plan, Massachusetts should be converting 100,000 homes a year from fossil fuels to electricity for heating and cooling. The reality is much different: Just 461 homes made the switch last year, according to data reviewed by the Globe.


Of the 461 full-electric conversions in 2020, fewer than half were facilitated by Mass Save. The rest came from programs sponsored by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Department of Energy Resources. Both departments have offered programs that help homeowners purchase heat pumps. Though there may have been some additional electric conversions that year, experts in the field said that number is likely to be small.

Critics who have been watching the slow progress in Massachusetts are coming to the conclusion that, in its current form, the Mass Save program, which for 20 years has been effective at increasing energy efficiency, may no longer be the best vehicle now that the program’s directive is shifting to helping fight the climate crisis.

“It’s difficult to build new imperatives onto old programs,” said Matt Rusteika, who leads the buildings initiative at Acadia Center, a clean energy advocacy organization.


Ben Butterworth, a Melrose homeowner and the senior manager for Climate and Energy Analysis at Acadia Center, said that out the five contractors he spoke with, only one was comfortable fully converting his oil-burning heating system to heat pumps. Because he works in the field and is well versed in the technology, he knew to look around for a more amenable contractor to help him make the switch. But others might be more likely to take the first contractor’s advice and keep a fossil fuel system for backup.

Read the full article in the Boston Globe here