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Mass. Senate passes 100% renewable mandate by 2047

The Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed a clean-energy omnibus bill that sets a 100% renewable energy mandate target for utilities in 2047. The law would also lift net metering caps for solar generation and boost the state's energy storage procurement to 2,000 megawatts, among other provisions.

In a June 14 vote, Massachusetts' Senate approved S. Bill 2545, titled "An Act to Promote A Clean Energy Future," which seeks to boost the amount of new "Class I" renewable energy that utilities are required to buy from a current 1% annual increase to a 3% annual increase. The steeper renewable portfolio standard would require utilities to go from a current level of 13% in 2018 to procuring 49% of their electricity from renewables in 2030, 79% in 2040 and 100% in 2047. If SB 2545 is passed by the House of Representatives and signed by the governor, Massachusetts would join Hawaii as the only U.S. states with 100% renewable energy targets. The California legislature tried and failed to pass a similar measure in 2017. The bill is expected to come up again later this year.

In addition to eliminating net metering limits for solar and expanding access to solar for low-income and publicly housed consumers through credits tied to solar projects located elsewhere, the bill would expand state procurement of offshore wind to an additional 5,000 MW by 2036, on top of an already authorized 1,600 MW by the end of July 2027. The bill would also require the development of 2,000 MW of energy storage by 2025 and direct the state pension fund to divest from the coal industry.

According to Massachusetts outlet Wicked Local, the legislation would establish new interim greenhouse gas reduction limits of between 35% and 45% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 55% to 65% by 2040. To meet these goals, the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs would set market-based compliance mechanisms to cut emissions for the transportation sector by 2021, the commercial and industrial building sectors by 2022 and the residential building sector by 2023.

The bill also would direct the state Department of Transportation and the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs to develop and implement a program to promote electric vehicle ownership, with the goal of ensuring that 25% of motor vehicles owned or leased in Massachusetts are electric by 2029.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives voted 143-3 on June 13 in favor of H. 4599, a $2 billion environmental bond bill that would direct state agencies to develop a statewide climate adaptation plan to cope with climate-change impacts and to update the plan at least every five years. H. 4599 would also allow the state government to borrow up to $300 million to help cities and towns shore up aging and vulnerable seawalls and dams against storm surges, sea level rise and heavy rainfall.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker proposed the legislation following two devastating storms in March that caused historic coastal flooding. The Associated Press reported that the legislation would also create a director of environmental justice that would ensure that low-income and ethnic minority neighborhoods receive sufficient funding and attention for pollution cleanup and other environmental matters. The bill now goes before the House for consideration.