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Renewable energy legislation gains momentum

In an effort to expand the alternative energy portfolio across the Commonwealth, a bill has been introduced that would make renewable heating and cooling systems eligible for financial credit.

A hearing was held on July 16 at the Statehouse for MA Senate Bill 1593. This legislation, sponsored by Sen. Barry Finegold (D – Andover), would award financial credits to homeowners and businesses that use renewable fuels in heating and cooling.

According to David O’Connor of ML Strategies, who is on the executive committee supporting the bill, the hearing produced a very large turnout of people in favor or the proposed legislation, including an endorsement from the Patrick administration. Barbara Kates-Garnick, the governor’s Undersecretary of Energy, testified in favor of the bill.

Alternative energy credits are already available to individuals and businesses that produce electricity from renewable sources, but little attention has been paid to energy used for heating and cooling, the majority of which is still fossil fuel-based. If passed, the bill would make these credits available for renewable heating and cooling technologies.

Examples of renewable heating/cooling technologies that would qualify for financial credit under this bill include solar hot water, geothermal heating, wood pellet and wood chip boilers, ground and air source heat pumps, liquid biofuels, renewable natural gas from landfills, and forest-derived biomass.

According to the Solar Energy Business Association of New England (SEBANE), Massachusetts produces more greenhouse gas emissions annually from heating and cooling than from generating electricity. By replacing fossil fuels with renewable heating and cooling systems, Massachusetts can make progress in moving towards its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goal of up to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, as outlined by the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008.

Besides the obvious environmental benefit, another advantage of expanding credits to renewable heating/cooling systems is that it would promote economic development in the Commonwealth.

“When we substitute these technologies and these fuels for fossil fuels, we’re keeping money here in Massachusetts,” said Mr. O’Connor.

A third benefit is that it would reduce costs for electric ratepayers. As Mr. O’Connor explained, because there is currently a shortage of credits on the market, retail electricity suppliers have been making payments to the Commonwealth to compensate for the credits they should be buying but can’t find (called an alternative compliance payment).

If this bill is passed, it would expand the technologies that qualify, more thermal energy would be produced, and more credits would be made available. As a result, the price of credits would go down, and retail electricity providers could avoid the relatively high costs of alternative compliance payments.

The hearing for the bill was held before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, chaired by Sen. Ben Downing (D – Pittsfield) and Rep. John Keenan (D – Salem). The Committee is expected to vote on the bill this fall.

Based on the benefits the program would provide, and the support for the legislation shown at the hearing, Mr. O’Connor is hopeful that the bill will pass.

“I think the prospects for this are pretty good,” he said.

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Posted by on August 1, 2013. Filed under News,State News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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