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Rep. Driscoll Files Clean Heat Standard Legislation

FEBRUARY 6, 2023 – Boston, MA – This session Representative Bill Driscoll Jr. (D-Milton) is sponsoring legislation to implement a Clean Heat Standard in Massachusetts. This bill, An Act relative to the clean heat standard uses the same mechanisms from the Renewable Portfolio Standard which have helped the Commonwealth increase the amount of renewable energy on our electric grid since 2003. By extending these strategies to homes and buildings, the Clean Heat Standard incentivizes the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This action plan outlines strategy to promote upgrades of heating and cooling equipment and technologies utilized in buildings and homes with safer, healthier, and more cost-effective heating technology.

The clean heat standard approach is meant to provide a clearer path with achievable thresholds to meet the thermal sector standards of the Global Warming Solutions Act. The Global Warming Solution Act was passed in August 2008 and mandated that we cut greenhouse gas emissions 80% statewide by 2050; in 2021 when the Next-Gen Climate Roadmap was passed, this goal was increased mandating net-zero by 2050 in Massachusetts.

The Clean Heat Standard will be implemented strategically to enhance social equity by ensuring that all customers have equitable opportunity to adopt and benefit from clean heat options. MA Department of Energy Resources (DOER) will have the power to prioritize low- and moderate-income customers helping to minimize negative impacts and provide support so that these customers are prioritized and benefit early on in the process. 40% of all credits that obligated parties will be required to retire will need to come from low- and moderate-income households. Creating accountability for these mandates, DOER will establish a Clean Heat Standard Equity Advisory Group.

The Driscoll proposed legislation, H.D. 3309, comes on the heels of the Massachusetts Commission on Clean Heat’s November 2022 report that recommended strategies for efficient reduction in heating fuel emissions. Additionally, the Clean Heat Standard is already a law in Colorado, and a similar bill has traction in Vermont.

"In 2021 we passed a road map with goals related to decarbonization and combatting the climate crisis. The components of this legislation provide a way to intentionally meet our goals and phase out harmful fuel sources in a clear and coordinated fashion," said Rep. Driscoll.

If adopted, this legislation will be enforced through tradeable clean heat credits established by DOER, meaning, through the usage of clean heat measures entities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be rewarded. This standard will be applicable to any person, organization, or company (the obligated party) that completes projects that reduce a building's emissions with clean heat credits. For example, a HVAC company which replaced a customer’s oil heater with a heat pump would earn a certain number of clean heat credits based on the expected greenhouse gas emissions avoided by this action. A gas utility could earn credits by switching a community to networked geothermal heating.

Demand for these credits would be driven by a mandate that gas, oil, and propane fuel heating sellers retire an increasing number of credits every year based on the emissions of the fuels they sell within the state. They could earn credits to retire either by directly decarbonizing buildings or by buying credits from others. This would create a system where heating fuel sellers are incentivized to reduce their overall emissions, help their customers cost-effectively decarbonize their buildings, and/or subsidize homeowners who reduce their own emissions by buying their credits.

This credit system will map out specific thresholds of emission reduction aiming to significantly decrease the usage of fossil fuel, requirements would then increase overtime seeing that projects that reduce emissions generate credits for as long as they continue to reduce emissions. For example, an installed heat pump could still be earning credits a decade after installation. The clean heat standard approach incentivizes long-term emissions reduction solutions. The required rate of reduction will set a sufficient pace that is consistent with the building sector limits in the Next-Gen Climate Roadmap beginning in 2025 with the first emissions limit.

Implementing the Clean Heat Standard requires installation of equipment that limits carbon emissions. Proponents of the Clean Heart Standard view it as a necessary step toward net-zero emissions. Common strategies include weatherization, ensuring energy efficiency, electrical heating options, and decreasing the use of carbon fuels. The standard will be successful through widespread strategies that involve the commitment of both businesses and residents to phase out fossil fuels, and implement safer, healthier, and more cost-effective electric options.



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