As the world discusses climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building renewable energy systems in Paris, Massachusetts is considering a plan that calls for the most aggressive power-saving strategy in the U.S.
The state’s investor-owned utilities have proposed the plan for 2016 to 2018 and expect to secure more than $2.1 billion from various sources to fund the initiatives. The group of utilities, collectively working together under the brand Mass Save, have been working since 2008 to make energy usage in the state more energy efficient. For five years in a row, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has named Massachusetts as the No. 1 state in the nation for policies that encourage efficiency, partially because of Mass Save.
The new targets under Mass Save’s plan are to cut electrical retail sales 2.93 percent per year and natural gas sales by 1.24 percent per year from 2016 to 2018. Pulling from ACEEE data, the group wrote in its proposal that those targets would be the most ambitious in the nation.
Achieving that level of energy savings could, according to the group’s proposal, get a little trick just by virtue of how much work the state has already done to reduce its power consumption.
“Sustaining very high savings goals becomes increasingly difficult in each subsequent year as markets become saturated, ‘easy’ savings no long exist and rising baselines continue to reduce claimable savings,” the proposal reads. “Over the next three years, the program administrators will need to find ways to mine savings from more difficult, costly, and challenging projects and market segments.”
The strategy, then, becomes widening the program’s net. The 2016-18 proposal includes plans to advertise energy efficiency programs in Spanish and Portuguese, as well as English, targeting renters to install instant-impact efficiency improvements and creating new jobs to support initiatives in multi-family units.
According to the Acadia Center, a clean energy-advocating nonprofit with offices in downtown Boston, wrote in a Nov. 30 statement that energy efficiency is a better investment for a state to make than other greenhouse-gas reducing power projects.
“Energy efficiency is a resource just like energy from Brayton Point, Pilgrim Nuclear, or other centralized power plants,” Acadia Center Senior Attorney Amy Boyd said in the press release. “But energy efficiency is much cheaper, cleaner and lower risk. Approving this plan would be the best way to help customers save money.”
According to the center, savings from energy costs tend to be spent locally, and every dollar invested in cost-effective energy efficiency increases the state’s gross product by about $6.40.
The state Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs estimates that the Mass Save plan would create $8 billion in economic, environmental and energy benefits.
The Acadia Center expects the Department of Public Utilities to make a decision on the plan by the end of January.