By Cherie Ching, Advocacy Fellow
Renewable energy is the fastest-growing component of our economy's energy portfolio and buildings that generate the energy they need on-site are a wonderful new niche that is becoming bigger with each passing month. USGBC promotes the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for the planning of design, construction, operation, and maintenance in green buildings. The Massachusetts Chapter supports Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB) legislation to increase the deployment of on-site renewables and to improve energy efficient construction, both residential and commercial, to attain net-zero energy capacity. NZEB goes beyond LEED, striving for 100% renewable energy generation for the building’s total energy consumption. This important step signifies a transformation toward a more sustainable and green market in the built environment. Financing options for NZEB are expanding at the State level, providing programs such as The Pathways to Zero Net Energy Program. This $3.5 million initiative by the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) is designed to facilitate a transition to the next generation of high-performance buildings in Massachusetts.
Bill S-1771 (Senator Eldridge) would advance building codes to reduce energy consumption from residential and commercial buildings. This bill designates the Board of Regulations and Standards (BBRS) to establish definitions of residential zero net-energy buildings and commercial zero net-energy buildings. In addition, Bill S-1632 (Senator Eldridge) would require new construction or major renovation projects in state buildings to measure the energy implications of all resources used and a total life cycle energy analysis of such buildings, including electricity, water, transportation, materials, heating and waste separate from the life cycle cost analysis. We are in anticipation of Massachusetts Net Zero Energy Building Council’s (Task Force) recommendations to move the Commonwealth toward NZEB construction by 2030.
Statewide net metering caps on renewable energy and distributed generation also pose a problem for developers and investors to commit to NZEB projects. With solar energy reaching regional state utility district limits for new projects to qualify to earn income from the net-metering scheme, investors are unable to commit to more solar projects. USGBC MA supports Bills S-1770/H-2852 that address the limitations of the current caps, particularly on solar.
The Chapter collaborates with organizations and companies who also support NZEB legislation, providing educational materials to chapter members, legislators and the public, and also preparing to testify, or organize testimony at legislative hearings. Net Zero Energy Building Code is one of the key advocacy priorities for 2015 and the Advocacy Committee continues to expand our network of support around this issue. Through education, collaboration, and advocacy, USGBC MA enables a socially responsible, healthy and prosperous environment by encouraging you to go beyond just replacing your bulbs.
Keep an eye out for some of the current NZEB Projects in Massachusetts:
Division of Fisheries & Wildlife HQ (open 2014)
Lowell Trial Court (under construction)