By Cherie Ching, Advocacy Fellow
July 31, 2015
The Green Breakfast Forum: What's Cooking With Current Advocacy Efforts?
Our Advocacy Committee hosted a successful Green Breakfast Forum yesterday to highlight the recent Advocacy efforts made in our Chapter. With six Advocacy Priorities and six enthusiastic presenters, our forum turned out to be an exciting touchstone in our Chapter's momentum supporting many hot bills at the State House, and for continuing awareness and education on these issues. Starting with a brief introduction and history of USGBC Massachusetts Chapter, Cherie Ching kicked off the forum and encouraged questions and open discussion throughout the event.
Net Metering Improvements– David Bliss continued the Green Breakfast with the complicated and pressing issue of net metering. Giving a brief background on the origins of energy regulation of Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) enacted in 1978, David explained how net metering has become such an essential element for energy generation and renewable energy nationwide! The recent Bills S.1770 and S.1973, with Senator Downing's amendment, to lift the limits to net metering known as solar caps, triggered interesting comments and dialogue throughout David's presentation. The feedback that we received truly confirmed the complexities of net metering and that continuing this conversation with those of various fields from supporting and opposing sides is the most important. We also look forward to working in collaboration with Acadia Center and allied organizations.
Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB) Codes– Kate Bubriski kept the advocacy energies flowing by diving into Net Zero Energy Building codes and how Massachusetts, although maintaining decent progress, still has a long way to go to reach NZEB goals. Bill S.1771 would act as a dragnet for residential and commercial buildings to achieve net zero energy performance by 2020 and 2030 respectively. This bill also designates the Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) to establish definitions of zero net-energy for residential and commercial buildings. Kate emphasized the interconnectedness of supporting NZEB and the movement of the other Chapter Priorities, such as net metering and PACE. Although there are success stories already in the Commonwealth, such as with the Cambridge Net Zero Task Force, there was discussion about organizations in opposition to NZEB, such as NAIOP. We will continue to look towards NZEB as our priority by collaborating and learning from the steps taken by allied organizations.
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing– With John DiModica, PACE Issue Captain on the conference line and unable to present, Kate also spearheaded the PACE financing priority by explaining the role of PACE for property owners and project developers. Bill S.1774 would expand the current PACE legislation by allowing 100% project funding as a voluntary property tax assessment, not a loan. The assessment remains part of the property regardless if the property is sold or there is a change of ownership. Giving MassDevelopment state-wide bonding authority, this bill would encourage more energy efficiency and resiliency projects and renovations to commence. The presentation led to interesting discussion on the role of municipalities, which properties and buildings would be included in the bill, and the difference (and complications) of Residential PACE (which is not part of S.1774 and a significantly different policy issue). The MA PACE Coalition continues to work on a more aggressive advocacy approach to pushing PACE to the top of the priority list in the legislature.
Home Energy Assessment– Craig Foley took center stage in addressing many issues on Home Energy Assessments with much enthusiasm as he played devil's advocate on the pros and cons of Bill S.1761, An Act relative to home energy efficiency.” His presentation triggered many questions and concerns about the energy rating systems and requirements, how realtors would be affected, the benefits homeowners would receive, and the inherent energy characteristics v. occupancy energy consumption. Although net metering is taking away much attention from this important priority, we can voice our support for this bill to the legislature to push action.
Energy Efficiency Education– Celis Brisbin highlighted the importance of Energy Efficiency Education for our Chapter, as well as for our State, in order to create more awareness and regularity of the green building certification process. Celis pointed out the many educational programs our Chapter offers such as LEED Credential Maintenance; LEED Green Associate Exam Prep Workshops; GPRO for Operations & Management; Construction Management, and other modules; Green Building tours; and Outreach & Education to the general public to support our advocacy agenda. Through Bill H.2857, USGBC MA can create more of a presence in the standardizing of green education in MA with the educational programs we already provide to our members!
Green Tax Incentives– Jerome Garciano finished off the Green Breakfast with a brief description of his research on green tax incentives through his Green Tax Incentive Compendium of July 2015. While Jerome further explained about the benefits and availability of these Federal and State tax incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency, he passed around an impressive 131-pg. booklet detailing the tax incentives by jurisdiction, statute, technology, and amount. The discussion was directed to what Massachusetts would have to do to address expiring or expired tax incentives and what LEED-specific tax benefits would be available for our State. Jerome went further to describe New Mexico and Connecticut as being success stories for green building tax credit. The Advocacy Committee looks forward to continuing the dialogue on green tax incentive opportunities for our State in order to incentivize more property owners to choose the green building path!
Our Green Breakfast Forum came to a close a little later than expected, but surely our participants were going leaving with full stomachs and satisfied minds! Our loyal green participants took advantage of this opportunity to stick around, make connections, ask questions, as well as plan for the beach party, SOAK UP THE SUN rally to the State House happening right up the street in the next hour. Thank you for your participation, contribution, and interest in our Green Breakfast- Advocacy Forum. We look forward to continuing our advocay movement and hope to see you at the next Green Breakfast on Thursday, August 20 on Architecture + Human Subconscious Responses to the Built-Environment!
We are currently editing our recorded-audio version of the Green Breakfast and it will be up on the GBCI website soon!
Please check out our slideshow presentation.