By Grey Lee
On Tuesday, May 19th, the Global Warming Solutions Project hosted a policy briefing on legislation that addresses climate change. Much of the conversation around climate change involves state energy policy and much of that affects buildings. The USGBC MA is party to these discussions as they relate to our priority advocacy issues and also our broader concerns. In the legislative arena, things can move fast and something that has been on a back burner can suddenly arrive to the fore. Our advocacy volunteers and staff are dedicated to tracking issues and enabling our members and other stakeholders to participate in a more informed manner.
The morning's presentations were led by Josh Craft, Program Director of the Environmental League of Massachussetts. ELM summarized the event recently (thank you ELM!):
ELM hosted an energy policy briefing for legislators and their aides Tuesday, focusing on opportunities for the state to save customers money and curb greenhouse gas emissions by reducing energy waste. Rep. Ehrlich (D-Marblehead), a major leader on energy and environmental issues, and members of ELM's Global Warming Solutions Project (GWSP) shared their views on policies that will build upon Massachusetts' success in improving energy efficiency.
– Rep. Ehrlich provided an overview of her efforts to fix natural gas leaks, which cost Massachusetts gas customers almost $40 million each year. Her legislation, HB 2870 (Protecting Consumers from Leaked or Unaccounted for Natural Gas), would require the gas utilities to account for leaked natural gas from its pipelines and discount the value of those leaks from customers' energy bills.
* Jim O'Reilly, of Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP), discussed the value of energy efficiency as an energy resource, meeting customers' energy needs without costly new power plants or transmission lines. He then focused on the benefits of SB 1761 (Relative to Home Energy Efficiency), sponsored by Senate Energy Chairman Downing (D-Pittsfield). SB 1761 is a top legislative priority for ELM this session. It would create a “first in the nation” home energy label so that home buyers can understand the energy costs of a home they may buy as part of their purchasing decision.
* Mark LeBel, of the Acadia Center, shared their vision for solar and locally owned energy resources as central to our energy generating system, finding that solar photovotaics offer significant economic and societal benefits to Massachusetts customers. LeBel encouraged lawmakers to preserve the current net metering policy while making smart changes to our solar incentive programs. Such changes will reduce program costs while allowing all customers to participate in these vital programs.
You can read more of the materials from the event here. (This is a real treasure trove about energy policy in Massachusetts!)
One topic that came up was the labeling of homes and buildings in order to help market participants better evaluate the value of an assett. We are actively tracking this legislative initiative.
And this is a good one, justifying support for local renewable generation – each dollar spent on carbon-intensive fossil fuels and distant transmitted hydro power means money leaving the economy of the Commonwealth. We can make better investments in local, renewable power for numerous economic advantages.
It was good to see some USGBC MA members in the audience and we will continue to work and collaborate with our colleagues in the intersection of climate justice, economic growth, energy, and buildings.