Baker is leaving Healy, state with a new emissions plan | Daily News Byte

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BOSTON – By 2050, the Baker administration predicts that nearly all of the state’s more than 5 million light-duty vehicles will run on electricity instead of fossil fuels, 80% of Massachusetts homes will be heated and cooled by electric heat pumps, and the state’s electric infrastructure will be able to bear two and a half times greater loads than in 2020.

Those are some of the key benchmarks in a new climate and clean energy plan Gov. Charlie Baker’s office announced Wednesday, outlining sector-specific emissions reduction goals and policy steps that will help Massachusetts reach its legally mandated goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions in the whole country by the middle of the century.

The 2050 plan, released by the Baker administration on its way out of state government, seeks to formalize and expand a number of tactics already in play, relying heavily on the electrification of the transportation and construction sectors and the expansion of clean energy sources such as wind On the sea .

Energy and Environment Secretary Beth Card said the 192-page document “sets out the Commonwealth’s comprehensive and aggressive plan to effectively and fairly achieve net zero costs”.

“To successfully achieve net zero in 2050, it is essential that we transition our power system to clean energy and make transportation and buildings in Massachusetts more energy efficient and electrify those sectors,” Card told reporters. “This effort will have significant implications for our economy, which is why we must work closely with other state agencies, municipalities, businesses and residents.”

“Really, this plan is kind of a comprehensive capture of what we think needs to happen next,” Card added later.

State law requires Massachusetts to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by at least 85% below 1990 levels by 2050, plus offset any remaining emissions by removing an equal or greater amount of carbon dioxide or its equivalent from the atmosphere.

The Baker administration’s plan sets specific sub-limits for reducing emissions by 2050 for several sectors: 86% in transportation, 95% in residential heating and cooling, 92% in commercial and industrial heating and cooling, 93% in electricity, and 72% in distribution of natural gas and services.

Those sub-limits are slightly tighter than they would need to be to achieve the 85% economy-wide reduction necessary to achieve net zero emissions, and the administration said the approach offered “margins for error.”

Embedded in those target figures is the expectation that policymakers, industry and individual Bay Staters can achieve major reforms in the two decades between 2030 and 2050, particularly in the transportation and heating and cooling sectors. For example, the Baker administration previously set the 2030 emissions cap for transportation at a 34% reduction below 1990 levels, 52 percentage points below the new 2050 target.

Card said the transportation policy in the plan includes continued investment in building electric vehicle charging infrastructure and incentives to encourage more consumers to buy electric vehicles. The MOR-EV program will provide rebates of up to $3,500 for the purchase or lease of an electric vehicle priced at $55,000 or less, Card said, adding that the Department of Energy Resources will soon add rebates for low-income households and medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. as permitted by the 2022 Act.

The plan also takes into account vehicle standards previously adopted by Massachusetts that require all light vehicles sold in 2035 and beyond to be either zero-emissions or plug-in hybrids.

Linking the changes to transportation is a broad effort to reduce Bay Staters’ reliance on personal automobile travel. Instead, policymakers will work to encourage greater use of walking, biking and public transportation, including building more housing near transit stations.

On the building side, the plan calls for the creation of what Card called a statewide “measurement and labeling program” that would make public more information about emissions from buildings, as well as the development of a “statewide climate finance accelerator” to spurred greater investment in buildings that want to eliminate carbon emissions.

It also implements the recommendations of the Clean Heat Commission, which Baker formed by executive order. That panel released its final report last month, recommending steps such as developing “clean heat standards” to encourage electrification of buildings and cleaner heating technologies.

Another area of ​​focus is soil conservation. The administration has set a goal to ensure that at least 40% of Massachusetts lands and waters are permanently preserved and protected from development by 2050, an increase from the 27% the plan says are now “legally protected in perpetuity.”

Card said the plan also calls for policies to limit deforestation for solar development and to plant at least 64,400 hectares of trees in the coming decades.

“Achieving net-zero will require significant changes in the way land is used across the Commonwealth, including energy and transportation infrastructure, housing development and land conservation,” Card said.

Undersecretary for Energy Judy Chang presented the new 2050 plan as a longer-term complement to the Baker administration’s 2025 and 2030 plans, saying it “really explores all the other pathways beyond 2030” necessary to reach net zero emissions by mid-century.

“We need to increase communication about climate in general in the state and reach people who have to make individual decisions,” Chang said. “He’s talking about investing in workforce education and increasing investment in the workforce.”

Card said the Baker administration has modeled its 2050 plan “to be flexible enough to respond” to new technological developments, federal policies and global trends, infrastructure deployment or any other changes that might emerge over the next 27-plus years. year.

The Executive Office of Energy and Environment also launched an online dashboard on Wednesday that the public can use to better understand how Massachusetts is progressing toward its greenhouse gas emissions goals.

“With climate impacts already at our doorstep, now is the time to take action for the future,” said Kaitlin Peel Sloan, vice president of the Human Rights Foundation. “This plan is on track, especially when it comes to phasing out fossil fuels in our homes and on our roads.” But we must do more on environmental justice to make sure no community is left behind in the years ahead.”

Wednesday’s announcements come about two weeks before Baker and his Energy and Environment Secretariat are slated to give way to Gov.-elect Maura Healey, who is planning a staff shakeup that includes hiring U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Chief Deputy General Counsel Melissa Hofer as the new Cabinet – climate boss level.

One challenge Healey may have to tackle sooner rather than later is the fate of one of the largest offshore wind developments in the state’s pipeline.

Commonwealth Wind filed a motion last week asking the Department of Public Utilities to throw out its power purchase agreements with utilities and then reopen the process to procure the 1,200 megawatts of clean energy the project represented.

Card said on Wednesday it was unclear whether the DPU would decide how to deal with the upheaval in the next two-plus weeks or instead wait until Healey takes over the executive.

“I don’t think we know yet if and how they’re going to respond in the next few weeks,” Card said as he briefed reporters on the administration’s 2050 climate and clean energy plan released Wednesday afternoon. “Certainly, this will be an issue that we will continue to address and I see that it will continue to be a topic of discussion and focus as we move into 2023. We will see if the DPU takes any action in the coming weeks.”

The company said its wind farm “cannot be financed and built” under the current terms of the contract and will submit a new bid if regulators allow, although there is no guarantee the investor will be selected a second time.

While Card said she was “disappointed” by the development, she expressed optimism about the overall state of the nascent offshore wind industry, which is expected to play a key role in transitioning the state’s power grid to clean energy.

“There’s still a lot of good things happening, and sure, there may be some twists and turns as we go, but I think we’re on the right track to continue to make progress in offshore wind,” Card said.

Avangrid, the project’s developer, on Wednesday applauded the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for releasing a draft environmental impact statement on Commonwealth Wind and its affiliate Park City Wind that plans to provide offshore wind power to Connecticut, but the company did not mention in its announced its efforts to abandon Commonwealth Wind’s power purchase agreement and launch a new bid.

“The release of the DEIS is another milestone that marks strong momentum for the projects, and as New England faces both an energy and climate crisis, we recognize the urgent need to continue through the federal permitting process and bring this critical power to the grid as would help the region meet its collective, ambitious clean energy and climate goals,” the company said.

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