Massachusetts has long been at the national forefront for its ambitious climate and clean energy goals. The state’s educational and high-tech industry drive technological innovation and inspire other states to make similar commitments. Acadia Center has been a leading climate and clean energy voice in Massachusetts for over twenty years. Our work has led to policies and programs that contributed to Massachusetts taking a leadership role on energy efficiency investments. We have worked to advance clean energy like offshore wind procurements, influenced numerous climate goals adopted by the state, shored up Massachusetts’ leadership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), and are working in partnerships and coalitions to advance reforms to the state’s transportation and energy systems.
In 2020, the Baker administration updated the state’s 2050 carbon reduction goal to net-zero and released the Clean Energy and Climate Plan (CECP) for 2030. With the passage of the Next-Generation Climate Roadmap law in March 2021, the state’s climate plan will be based on a stringent, science-based 50% economy-wide emissions reduction target for 2030 and targets for all major carbon-emitting sectors. As Massachusetts embarks on the road to net zero, Acadia Center will provide cutting-edge data and policy analysis and thought leadership to state agencies developing energy policies to reach the 2050 net-zero target.
Since the enactment of provisions in the Green Communities Act that Acadia Center initiated, Massachusetts’s energy efficiency programs were ranked #1 in the nation for almost a decade but (slipping to #2 in 2020). These programs have produced significant economic, health and emissions-reductions benefits. Acadia Center has served on the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council (EEAC), including as a member of the Executive Council, since it was established in 2009. Acadia Center is at the forefront of the efforts to continually raise the bar for program performance. We are currently seeking to improve program delivery to low- and moderate-income and language-isolated residents who have more obstacles to accessing the benefits of the energy efficiency programs; expand program services to embrace whole-house electrification; and ensure that the programs do even more to reduce climate and air pollutants and benefit all consumers.
In Massachusetts, over 65% of the energy used by buildings comes from fossil fuels. In addition, roughly 85% of the residential buildings that are expected to exist in 2050 have already been built. Buildings account for nearly a third of the Commonwealth’s annual emissions, and rapid building electrification, especially of existing buildings, is the only reasonable way to eliminate these emissions. Decarbonized commercial and residential building stock will play a critical role in reducing overall emissions in Massachusetts through large-scale investment in programs to retrofit, weatherize, and replace fossil fuels use in these buildings.
Acadia Center is advocating for policies that will lead to investments in home weatherization and electrification of heat, hot water and stoves. Acadia Center has advanced building electrification by leveraging its leadership role on the EEAC. Examples include our ongoing work to update the standard definition of cost effectiveness to account for contributions to carbon goals and to end incentives for fossil-fueled heating system upgrades. Electrifying buildings will avoid investments in fossil gas infrastructure that could lock in energy use patterns for decades to come. Our research supports building upon technological advances in heat pumps, water heaters, and induction cooking appliances that have made fossil fuel combustion obsolete in buildings.
Meeting Massachusetts’ ambitious climate targets will require substantial emission reductions from the transportation sector, which was responsible for nearly 50% of the state’s emissions in 2017. Acadia Center’s work to deliver a cleaner and more equitable transportation system involves replacing polluting fuels with electric-powered transportation, improving public transit and other alternative mobility options, and putting a price on tailpipe pollution to help fund much-needed transportation investments. As a member of the state’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Commission, Acadia Center is advocating for Massachusetts to adopt a suite of clean, modern transportation policies. Acadia Center is also focusing on the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P), an innovative regional cap-and-invest program that would reduce tailpipe pollution and fund investment in clean transportation and mobility strategies like transit improvements, vehicle electrification, and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure.
Working in partnership with Transportation for Massachusetts and the Green Justice Coalition, Acadia Center launched the MA TCI Table in early 2019. This effort has created a space for unlikely partners to work together to advance an equitable TCI design and advance a broader vision for a just and sustainable transportation future. The MA TCI Table conveners have partnered with MA state agencies to host “Transportation and Climate Community Engagement Workshops” and launched an Equitable Investment Subcommittee to facilitate deep-dive discussions and strategy and policy to ensure equitable outcomes. The MA TCI Table has been serving as a model for advocacy and inclusive engagement in other TCI states. Similar efforts have taken root across the region, including in Connecticut, Maine and Rhode Island, where Acadia Center state-leads serve in leadership roles.
Clean Power & Utility Innovation
Acadia Center plays a leading role in Massachusetts’ efforts to increase the use of renewable energy resources such as offshore wind, rooftop and large-scale solar. A successfully decarbonized electric grid will serve as the backbone of economy-wide decarbonization efforts in the building and transportation sectors. Acadia Center has successfully advocated for Massachusetts’ ambitious clean energy policies including the clean energy procurements from offshore wind and other renewable sources as a means for reaching the state’s carbon reduction goals.
Acadia Center’s clean energy advocacy also includes participating in regulatory proceedings at the Department of Public Utilities with the goal of reforming the traditional utility business model to put customers’ needs first. As well, Acadia Center is engaging with Massachusetts decision-makers to push for reforms that will transform the electricity grid to a modern system that can support an electrified, low-carbon economy.
which produces nearly 40% of the state’s GHG emissions, posing major human health and climate risks. Natural gas is an extremely explosive fuel, and Massachusetts residents have learned from tragic experience about its dangers. A disastrous series of explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley in September 2018 caused a fatality, numerous injuries, extensive property damage, and extended disruptions which cost more than $1 billion and cost the gas distribution company its franchise. Front line communities in Lawrence suffered extensive displacement and losses that linger today.
Beyond the safety issues, natural gas distribution infrastructure is also expensive and dangerous to repair, leaving Massachusetts residents vulnerable to supply disruptions, price shocks, and heating outages. The use of natural gas in buildings for space heating, water heating and other uses contributes to 20% of the state’s emissions as of 2017. Even with ambitious climate targets for the state, gas companies continue to build new pipelines and solicit new customers, and install new gas equipment, which in turn increases emissions, damages public health, and locks in more stranded assets each year. Acadia Center is working to ensure that the state’s clean energy plans address the need to phase out the use of natural gas.
In Massachusetts, Acadia Center is currently an organizer, member, partner or supporter of the following groups or coalitions (and many other ad hoc collaborative efforts):
- Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions (ACES)
- Avoided Energy Supply Costs Study (AESCS) Group
- Beyond Gas Coalition
- Global Warming Solutions Project (GWSP)
- Implementation Advisory Committee (IAC) to the MA EEA
- Massachusetts Offshore Wind Power Coalition
- Northeast Smart Heat Collaborative
- Transportation for Massachusetts (T4MA) Coalition
- Massachusetts Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) Table
- Massachusetts Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Coalition
- Massachusetts Power Forward (MPF)
- Massachusetts Campaign for a Clean Energy Future