Senate energy bill passed

(BOSTON—06/25/2024) Today the Massachusetts Senate passed comprehensive climate legislation to make systemic changes to the state’s clean energy infrastructure that will help the state achieve its net zero emissions by 2050 goals, expand electric vehicle (EV) use and infrastructure, and protect residents and ratepayers. The bill passed the upper chamber by a vote of 38-2.

The climate bill will allow Massachusetts to develop infrastructure essential for the fight against climate change, including new solar, wind, and storage facilities. It will also enhance the electric grid to support getting clean energy to residents efficiently and in the needed capacities to power homes, businesses, and vehicles. 

Enhancements to the clean energy grid will be paired with measures to keep costs down for ratepayers across the state.

“We are in a climate crisis. The Senate has heard loud and clear from residents, advocates, and clean energy leaders that we need systemic infrastructure changes to deliver on our net zero by 2050 emissions goals,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Today we are taking action to make it easier and more efficient to build clean energy infrastructure so that Massachusetts can deliver on our climate commitments and leave our kids with the green state and planet that they deserve. This bold action is the direct result of the work of Majority Leader Creem, Chair Rodrigues, Senator Barrett, and each senator who has contributed to this bill. I am grateful to each of them.”

“I’m thrilled the Senate has again taken the lead on advancing the climate by crafting a bill that reduces overall fossil fuel emissions by making substantial investments in electric vehicle operations,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “The passage of this legislation keeps us on pace to meet the requirements of the landmark legislation calling for zero emissions by 2050. Our clean energy future really is today, and we now have a platform to streamline the permitting process for all solar, wind, and clean energy storage projects in the Commonwealth. I thank Senator Barrett for his unswerving commitment to environmental justice.”

“Today’s vote isn’t just a step toward reaching our net-zero emissions mandate. It’s a leap toward a greener, cleaner future. The gas system reforms in the Senate climate bill make Massachusetts the national leader in the transition from gas to clean forms of heating, and they also protect residents’ wallets,” said Senate Majority Leader Cynthia S. Creem (D-Newton), Chair of the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change. “I’m extremely proud of the legislation we passed today, and I am fortunate to have had the support of my colleagues in including the bottle bill amendment, which modernizes the bottle deposit system to reduce litter, slash emissions and save cities and towns millions of dollars.”

“To deal with climate change, we need to build up the power supply without swamping the household budget,” said Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington), Assistant Majority Leader and Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy. “People want to keep the electricity coming and they want to be able to pay their bills. Sounds pretty reasonable. This legislation is about both. Big tip of the hat to President Spilka and Chair Rodrigues. They shoulder the burden of setting priorities for the Senate and finding the staff hours. They come through for the climate every time.”

The comprehensive climate legislation modernizes laws related to cost control for ratepayers; siting and permitting; decarbonization; electric transportation incentives; clean tech innovation; emissions reduction in state operations; and natural gas infrastructure.

Protecting Ratepayers from High Costs

To save residents’ money and protect residents from unfair and deceptive practices, the bill would ban competitive energy suppliers from enrolling new individual residential customers. According to the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), data analyses show that consumers lost more than $577 million to competitive electric suppliers between July 2015 and June 2023. The Senate previously adopted this policy in April.

Consumers will see relief in a number of other ways as well. The bill would lower utility rates for consumers with low- and middle-incomes by directing utility providers to offer lower rates to eligible consumers. Utility companies would also gain more flexibility to negotiate the lengths of basic service contracts with electricity providers. By negotiating longer-term contracts, residents are less likely to see cost spikes.

Partnering with Communities to Expedite Siting and Permitting

The siting and permitting provisions, modeled on the work of a commission of diverse stakeholders established by the Healey-Driscoll administration, will consolidate the review of clean energy siting and permitting and expedite the timeline of projects. Large projects that require state, regional, and local permits will be consolidated into a single permit that must be decided upon in 15 months. Small projects with multiple local permits will also be consolidated into a single permit and must be decided upon in one year.

Robust community review processes will be paired with new permitting. The legislation formally establishes the Office of Environmental Justice and Equity (EJE), the Office of Public Participation at the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB), and the Division of Siting and Permitting at the Department of Energy Resources (DSPDER). Each office would be charged with engaging with communities and applicants in their respective areas to ensure a thorough and community-centered review.

To protect ratepayers from bearing the cost of new construction, the state will require the EFSB to first consider enhancing current technologies before looking to new construction. An online clean energy infrastructure dashboard would also be created to promote public accountability in real time.

Making EVs Accessible and Expanding Infrastructure

Gas-powered vehicles are one of the highest emitters of carbon, and incentivizing EV usage is critical to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

The legislation would expand the state’s MOR-EV program through 2027, which gives residents $3,500-$6,000 for the purchase of new or used electric vehicles. It would allow residents who own parcels within condominiums, homeowner associations, and historic districts to install EV chargers, and authorize condo boards to install EV chargers on community parcels.

It will bring coordination to EV infrastructure expansion, by centralizing the deployment of resources with the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Coordinating Council (EVICC), and directing DPU to make it easier to install pole-mounted chargers that often are used in parking spots and on streets.

The bill would also make it easier for cities and towns to procure electric school buses and EV charging equipment for their municipalities.

Decarbonizing Buildings

An Act Upgrading the Grid and Protecting Ratepayers makes it easier to decarbonize buildings across the state, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. It would authorize condo association boards to install energy efficiency devices and EV chargers in common areas and make heat pumps more efficient by allowing installers to use the most up-to-date refrigerants.

Leading the Way on Clean Technology and Innovation

Already leaders in clean technology, the state’s innovators will receive even more support from this legislation to make sure that the next generation of technology is built in Massachusetts.

The legislation would boost the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) by expanding their mission to include carbon removal, embodied carbon reduction, and nuclear power. MassCEC would also be directed to promote carbon removal and embodied carbon activities, and study opportunities for future carbon removal.

Leading by Example

The Commonwealth will take an in-depth look at its own operational climate impact under this legislation.

It would revise Massport’s enabling statute to prioritize reductions in greenhouse gas emissions alongside the promotion of commerce and growth. It would direct the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) to evaluate the energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions of state buildings, as well as seek options for reducing future emissions. The mission of the Board of Building Regulations and Standards would also be expanded to include the pursuit of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Curbing Over-reliance on Natural Gas

Ensuring the electrical grid is on an equal playing field as the natural gas system is crucial to reducing dependency on fossil fuels and reaching the state’s net zero carbon emissions goals.

The bill reins in a statutory provision that for decades has given gas companies a preferential ratemaking advantage over providers of other heating sources.

Under An Act Upgrading the Grid and Protecting Ratepayers, the DPU will be directed to consider greenhouse gas impacts when it weighs a petition by a gas company to expand its territory. Gas companies will be allowed to pursue geothermal projects and networked heat pump systems, new opportunities that are undergoing successful testing in communities in Framingham and Lowell.

As the gas system needs continued upgrades, the legislation will shift the system from automatically replacing leak-prone pipes, to instead considering more targeted repairs, or decommissioning the line altogether if a more climate friendly alternative exists. Payments for new gas lines are often financed over 30 years, beyond the 2050 goal of reducing fossil fuels. By repairing or decommissioning pipes instead of replacing them, costs shifted to ratepayers are reduced, and the clean energy transition is accelerated.  

During debate, the Senate voted to adopt an amendment modernizing the ‘bottle bill’, adding noncarbonated beverages, wine, and spirits to the list of containers eligible for a bottle deposit, and increasing the deposit amount from 5 cents to 10 cents.

Having passed the Senate, the legislation now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Statements of Support:

“I applaud the Senate for passing a climate bill that includes big wins for consumers and our communities, marking a significant step toward an equitable transition to clean energy,” said Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell. “Today’s legislation proposes a new intervenor compensation program that will give communities the resources they need to help shape our clean energy future. I am also grateful that the Senate included provisions that would ban the predatory competitive electric supply industry and wind down the costly Gas System Enhancement Plan program.”

“S.2829 includes a package of landmark reforms that will streamline permitting for clean energy infrastructure, a crucial step toward achieving our climate mandates,” said Jessica Robertson, Director of Policy & Business Development New England, New Leaf Energy. “This bill, which is based on the recommendations of a diverse group of stakeholders on the Commission on Clean Energy Infrastructure Siting and Permitting, strikes a balance by preserving local control while providing for more consistency and predictability in the permitting process. With the Senate, House, and Administration all committed to improving how we permit clean energy infrastructure in the commonwealth, I am hopeful that these reforms will be enacted this session, and we can get to work building the clean generation, storage, and grid infrastructure needed to power our future.”

“We celebrate the opportunity this bill presents to scale the Gas to Geo pathway HEET pioneered, and we are deeply committed to ensuring that means both growing good jobs and expanding access to affordable clean energy,” said Zeyneb Magavi, Executive Director of HEET.

“Mass Audubon is proud that our legislative climate and energy leaders and the Healey Administration have delivered an omnibus climate bill which reflects so many of the recommendations of the Commission on Clean Energy Infrastructure Siting and Permitting,” said Michelle Manion, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at Mass Audubon. “An Act Upgrading the Grid and Protecting Ratepayers will accelerate clean energy while also recognizing the importance of nature – our forests, wetlands, and farms – in the climate fight, and that our towns and cities are essential partners in delivering on the solution set.  This bill is the Commonwealth’s next best step in addressing the climate crisis.” 

“The Nature Conservancy is thrilled with the Senate’s passage of a robust and impactful bill to address the causes and impacts of climate change,” said Steve Long, Director of Policy and Partnerships at The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts. “We are especially pleased with the strong support for reforms recommended by the Commission on Energy Infrastructure and Siting and Permitting, on which we served, to accelerate the deployment of clean energy infrastructure while avoiding impacts on nature and people. Massachusetts again leads the nation on rapidly advancing the decarbonization of energy with requiring earlier analysis of site suitability, engagement with residents, and avoiding and mitigating impacts. This integrated approach will provide a collaborative process to inform the siting and design of energy infrastructure and lead to more consensus and fewer conflicts for a more equitable and efficient process.”

“Yet again, the Senate has put together a strong energy and climate bill. They’re doing the right think for consumers by banning retail electricity suppliers,” said Larry Chretien, Executive Director of Green Energy at the Consumers Alliance. They’re supporting EV adoption. And they are giving the Department of Public Utilities authorization to regulate gas utilities in alignment with our climate mandates.”

“The Massachusetts Senate continued to display its bold leadership on climate with the passage of this ambitious bill today,” Kyle Murray, State Program Implementation and Massachusetts Program Director at the Acadia Center. “This legislation is another critical piece in the puzzle of how our Commonwealth can meet its strong greenhouse gas emissions reduction requirements.”

“I’m here today to congratulate the Massachusetts Senate leadership and particularly to Senator Barrett, my Senator Cynthia Creem, and Senate President Spilka’s team,” said Mark Dyen, a part of the Steering Team of Gas Transition Allies at Newton 350. “While the bill has many important provisions, there are a few critical sections that facilitate the essential transition off the greenhouse gas emitting fuels we use to heat our homes and buildings: heating oil, propane and natural gas. The sections turn general plans for decarbonization into actionable, annual plans that Massachusetts gas companies must submit and follow. The bill also offers gas companies and their workers a pathway to participate in the clean energy future of the Commonwealth by installing and selling non-emitting thermal energy through networked geothermal systems and other technologies.”

“ELM commends the Massachusetts Senate for their ongoing commitment to meeting our climate and conservation challenges with strong legislation aimed at deploying renewable energy, protecting nature, and reducing polluting waste,” said David Melly, Legislative Director for the Environmental League of Massachusetts. “The net-zero transition represents a watershed opportunity to improve the way we engage with communities, protect valuable land and water, and address disproportionate burdens when we site, permit, and plan infrastructure. And comprehensive action on waste reduction will both support our climate goals and reduce damage to the very same natural resources we’re working to protect.”

“At a critical time in the Commonwealth’s fight against climate change and at Governor Healey’s request, stakeholders, involved with or impacted by energy siting and permitting came together and developed thoughtful solutions to accelerate the deployment of clean energy,” said Mark Sylvia, Chief of Staff at Bluewave Solar. “These recommendations have been included in comprehensive legislation under consideration by both the Senate and House of Representatives.  I applaud Senate and House leaders for incorporating the Commission’s work into broader climate legislation this session   The General Court and Governor Healey and her team at EEA will yet again show through action that Massachusetts leads the way in combatting climate change and growing our economy at the same time.”

“Updating the bottle bill is a win/win/win proposal,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG. “Putting a deposit on water bottles, sports drinks and more will reduce waste, improve recycling, and save cities and towns money in trash and litter pick up. The nickel deposit, set in 1982, would be 16c today if we tracked inflation–this bill gets it to a dime, long overdue.”


Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

8 replies on “Senate energy bill passed”

  1. It is a step in the right direction. I applaude the Senate for passing the bill. Now it’s up to the House to move forward

  2. Congratulations, Will, on your large contributions to this effort, and others you have so eloquently and diligently kept us up-to-date on. We are so lucky to have you and the other senators who worked so hard on this!

  3. Congratulations, Will, on your large contributions to this effort, and others you have so eloquently and diligently kept us up-to-date on. We are so lucky to have you and the other senators who worked so hard on this!

  4. It is a good start but clearly there is more work to be done. I would like to see strict requirements on ALL energy companies with regards to carbon footprint calculations that include the manufacture of required use components (such as solar panels or lithium mining for batteries) that are not part of their actual energy production. The holistic and total impact of energy production and use needs to be clearly understood and considered before incentivizing one method over another. I would also like to see additional safeguards for consumers against seasonal rate changes geared towards increasing company profitability to the detriment of consumers, such as requiring that rates remain consistent across the net solar production months and later net consumption months. I would also like to see rate protection for ALL income bands not just the lower income bands, otherwise it is in essence another form of welfare that places additional burden on already strapped tax payers, and contributes to the problematic flight of needed taxpayers from the State. Thank you for your continued hard work in this important area.

  5. Raise a graduated rate on alcohol castoffs:
    wine box: zero.
    water, beer and alko-fizzy can/bottle: 10c
    wine bottle: 25c
    spirits: 40c
    1.75 handle: 50c.

  6. Thank you as always, Will, and the Mass. Senate for it’s fine work toward a clean energy future. I look forward to my next opportunity in offshore wind power. We need more jobs now!

    Best, Lauri

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