The Energy Consumer's Bulletin- a New England energy news blog

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Energy efficiency

How to Get Trusted Advice on Heat Pumps for your Home

Converting our heating systems from fossil fuels to electric heat pumps is an urgent step in our process of cleaning up our act in the face of mounting climate catastrophes. Both Massachusetts and Rhode Island have ambitious goals and generous incentives to speed that transition, but figuring out when and how to make the switch for your own property remains a complicated question.

Loie Hayes

Phasing out Fossil Fuels at Home: A Step by Step Family Journey

The science is clear. We all must phase out fossil fuels, the sooner the better, but no later than 2050.  But there is no one path for us all on the journey to zero carbon. Each family’s situation is different from their neighbor’s. In my family’s case, we are not all the way to zero yet, but we are making good progress. Hopefully, this story will generate some ideas for your household.

Picture of Larry Chretien Larry Chretien

Victory in New Building Decarbonization at the Eleventh Hour!

Late into the last night (early morning on June 16, actually) of session, the RI General Assembly passed S855 Sub A requiring the RI building code commission to adopt the 2024 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) within 3 months of its publication, which is expected this Fall. Rhode Island is now set to become the first state to adopt the 2024 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). This legislation was one of Green Energy Consumers’ top priorities this legislative session, especially since the state currently uses only the 2018 IECC with weakening amendments. Adopting this code will mean that new buildings in Rhode Island will be more energy efficient and have much lower emissions than ever before.

Picture of Amanda Barker Amanda Barker

Public Housing Needs Climate Funding: A Clean Heat Standard Will Help

Through the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), Massachusetts is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the entire economy, including the transportation, electricity, and building sectors (45% by 2030 and net zero by 2050). The building sector includes about 73,000 public housing units for the most vulnerable people in society. Rents are pegged to 30% of the residents' incomes. Public housing has been chronically underfunded for decades, leading to a multi-billion dollar capital backlog that reduces building efficiency and dramatically impacts tenants’ quality of life. So naturally, if we want to reduce the energy consumption of public housing and improve conditions for its residents, we need to be serious about where the funding will come from.

A Clean Heat Standard Ought to be About Electrification — That Means Lowering Electricity Rates

Decarbonizing buildings means putting an end to burning stuff in order to stay warm – whether methane, oil, or propane. The sustainable way to keep ourselves warm is through high-efficiency heat pumps (air-source or ground-source). That’s not just us talking, that’s the conclusion that Massachusetts has come to with its Clean Heat Commission report and Clean Energy and Climate Plans for 2030 and 2050. It’s also now policy for the state of New York. But this blog is not about whether we should electrify the heating sector. It’s this: People will switch to heat pumps and away from fossil fuels faster if we reduce electricity rates to make heat pumps more affordable.

Picture of Larry Chretien Larry Chretien

A Clean Heat Standard Would Bring Flexibility to Home Electrification

Most of us still burn fossil fuels to heat our buildings, make hot water, cook, and dry our laundry. But recently, there’s been a welcome surge of interest among consumers in ways to switch to cleaner, more efficient heat pumps, induction stoves, and electric clothes dryers. To reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, we have to keep it up until we zero out our use of methane, oil, and propane. Towards that end, we have been giving many presentations on how federal and state incentives can make home electrification more affordable and how a Clean Heat Standard (CHS) would set us on a steady path toward zeroing out those emissions. In this blog, we want to highlight one particular benefit of a CHS: the flexibility it gives consumers in when and how they get off fossil fuels.

Picture of Larry Chretien Larry Chretien

Building Decarbonization & Building Decarbonization

In Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and most other states, the building sector is second only to transportation in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. For states that have already passed laws committing to serious GHG reductions, there is no way to avoid making a timely transition to clean heat (i.e. switching from methane, heating oil, and propane to electrification).  

But what’s a decarbonizer to do, exactly? Let's assess some of the options that are on the table for state governments. Spoiler alert: These are all excellent policies, but each one is insufficient. None of them are capable on their own of reducing building sector emissions 50% by 2030 or to net zero by 2050. But together they can.

Two states & their Decarbonization challenges

Rhode Island and Massachusetts both have mandates to reduce statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels: 50% for Massachusetts and 45% for Rhode Island. Let’s take a look at the approaches they’re taking in the building sector, specifically – what they have in common, what’s different, and what might work.

Picture of Larry Chretien Larry Chretien