Climate Bills Long on Deadlines, Short on Solutions
| February 3, 2020
By: Robert Rio
Massachusetts has a clear blueprint for when it must become a carbon-neutral state, but none of the tools necessary to make those plans a reality.
The state Senate last week passed An act setting net generation climate policy, which would require the secretary of energy and environmental affairs to establish interim greenhouse-gas reduction benchmarks, beginning 2025, to meet the state’s overall 2050 carbon reduction requirements. It would also require the secretary to establish specific reduction goals for the power, transportation and building sectors.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives, which is expected to forge its own plan for reducing greenhouse gasses.
AIM supports a reasoned transition to renewable power that will not harm a Massachusetts economy that suffers from some of the highest energy prices in the country. The state’s experience to date with offshore wind and hydro power shows that competitively bid contracts for carbon-free power have the potential to meet much of the commonwealth’s energy needs without unnecessarily raising rates for businesses and homeowners.
But the Senate bill is long on deadlines and short on ways for Massachusetts to meet them. That’s why AIM has concerns about the measure in its present form.
The electricity generation sector is already on track to be nearly 100 percent supplied by clean energy by 2050 under existing laws and regulations. However, despite widespread support from AIM and others, significant offshore wind projects and hydro power from Canada through Maine remain stuck on the drawing board. These projects have not yet begun construction and their in-service dates are uncertain.
Establishing goals and timelines does not get these projects built faster. State and federal governments must work to make these projects a reality.
In the transportation sector, the Senate legislation allows the state to develop a market-based mechanism to reduce greenhouse gases from cars, buses and trucks.
AIM already supports such a market-based compliance mechanism called the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI). TCI, supported by Governor Charlie Baker, will establish a multistate cap-and-invest program that will reduce greenhouse gasses from the transportation sector – now the largest source of carbon emissions. Lawmakers here in Massachusetts and in the other 12 states considering TCI must act now to make the regional plan happen.
Governments must also take real steps to encourage development of solar energy. AIM supports a bill that makes it financially advantageous for businesses to install solar panels, reduce energy use and produce carbon-free power. But the solar provision was not included in the Senate bill.
The establishment of sector-level greenhouse-gas reduction goals by the Senate bill is unnecessary. Sector-level objectives often lead to inefficient spending on technologies that do not provide the best return. Overall carbon reduction objectives, by contrast, are not wedded to particular sectors or technologies and create the largest immediate reductions at the best cost.
AIM looks forward to working with the Senate, the House of Representatives and the Baker Administration to put some tools in the climate-change toolbox.