Massachusetts Funds Seven New Energy Programs

As the winter heating season continues, Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Rick Sullivan recently joined other Patrick Administration officials to celebrate $32.5 million in funding for seven programs aimed at reducing heating and cooling costs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and creating clean energy jobs across Massachusetts.

“In Massachusetts, we are all familiar with the cost of heating and cooling our homes, businesses and public buildings,” said Secretary Sullivan. “Governor Patrick's clean energy policies and programs like these are saving municipalities, businesses and residents money, cutting greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the amount of energy we import from out of our state and region.”

The programs were highlighted during an event at the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) Quabbin Reservoir Visitors Center where the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) funded the installation of a biomass wood furnace in 2008. The system, which is fueled with a wood pellet renewable heating source, has since reduced DCR’s fuel oil usage and costs at the visitor’s center by more than 60 percent, an average of $30,000 in annual savings over the last three years.

”We’re planting seeds to grow the renewable thermal energy sector and learn what works,” said DOER Commissioner Mark Sylvia. “With these programs and incentives, more businesses, institutions and municipalities will be able to pursue clean, renewable, local and sustainable energy to heat and cool their buildings. That’s a very good thing for this and future generations.”

“As communities and individuals continue to adopt clean energy solutions through these programs, the Massachusetts clean energy economy grows. It’s a vibrant sector already that employs 80,000 workers and grew by 11.8 percent from 2012 to 2013,” said Massachusetts Clean Energy Center CEO Alicia Barton.

"As the steward of more than 450,000 acres of parkland and thousands of buildings across the Commonwealth, DCR facilities have a variety of energy needs." said DCR Commissioner Jack Murray "Improving their energy efficiency is vital to our agency's continued success."

Heating and cooling make up approximately one third of Massachusetts’ total energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. The average Massachusetts household spends $1,700 annually on heating, with the majority of that money flowing out of the region for fossil fuel energy sources such as oil, propane, and natural gas.

Renewable heating and cooling technologies, including solar, biomass, and advanced biodiesel heating, and high-efficiency heat pumps and district heating and cooling systems, can reduce harmful emissions and support economic growth by keeping energy dollars in the Commonwealth.

The programs below fund renewable energy or energy efficient heating and cooling projects:

The Schools and Public Housing Integrating Renewables and Efficiency (SAPHIRE) Program is funded by a $715,000 federal U.S. Department of Energy grant to provide K-12 public schools and state public housing with feasibility grants for biomass and solar thermal heating, heat pumps and district heating and cooling projects.

SAPHIRE projects can then leverage $10M in federal, low-cost bond financing and Mass Save® energy efficiency rebates. SAPHIRE projects can also supplement financing with Alternative Compliance Payments (ACP) grants through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) and the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).

ACP funds are paid by electric retail suppliers if they have insufficient Renewable or Alternative Energy Certificates to meet their compliance obligations under the Renewable and Alternative Portfolio Standard programs. DOER establishes the plan for use of these funds to support clean energy development in the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth Solar Hot Water program, funded with $9 million from MassCEC provides grants for solar thermal hot water heating projects. The grants are available for residential, commercial, non-profit and public building projects.

The Low-Income Energy Affordability Network (LEAN), funded with $1 million from the MassCEC, provides grants to funding assistance to renewable thermal projects at low-income housing facilities.

Renewable Thermal Commercial Pilot Grants, funded with $4.3 million in ACP funds and administered by MassCEC, provide funding for commercial biomass, geothermal heat pumps, and district heating and cooling projects.

District heating and cooling systems use a single heat source to heat and cool multiple buildings through a system of pipes and can provide space heating, air conditioning and hot water. Ideal locations for district heating and cooling are college and school campuses, and municipalities or businesses with multiple closely-situated facilities.

The funds are available to municipalities for public buildings, K-12 public schools, non-profit businesses and greenhouses. K-12 public schools participating in the SAPHIRE program are eligible to leverage grant funding from this program.

The Renewable Thermal Business Investment Financing program, funded with $3 million in ACP funds, will provide financial support to establish or expand distribution, manufacturing or marketing of renewable thermal technologies in Massachusetts.

Leading by Example (LBE) Clean Energy Grants, funded with $2.5 million in ACP funds, will fund biomass, heat pumps, solar hot water, and combined heat and power projects. The grants are available to state agencies, authorities and public colleges and universities.

The Clean Energy Program at state public housing authority facilities was launched in 2012 with $2 million in ACP funds. This DHCD program is underway and has spurred numerous renewable heating and cooling projects throughout the Commonwealth.

“DHCD has a solid track record working with the state’s local housing authorities advancing energy efficiency and reducing the climate footprint of state-aided public housing,” said DHCD Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein. “To date, we have focused on leveraging state housing bond spending with utility-funded energy efficiency programs.  Our collaboration with DOER is helping us find renewable thermal demonstration projects and measure results.”

"We can and should lead, not just on cleaner electricity, but also with cleaner forms of heating and cooling. I am thrilled to see the Patrick Administration use the tools provided by the Legislature to advance these goals and to keep Massachusetts out in front on clean energy matters, creating jobs and protecting our environment,” said Senator Benjamin B. Downing, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy.

“With winter quickly approaching this is the perfect time to highlight these important programs,” said Senator Stephen M. Brewer. “These grants provide opportunities for residents, communities and businesses to save money on energy costs while moving towards more environmentally friendly and effective ways to heat and cool.”

“These programs will support the continued development of renewable and distributed energy technologies in the Commonwealth,” said Representative John Keenan, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy.  “With the state’s focus on promoting renewable sources of electricity, it is only natural to help advance new renewable thermal technology as well.”

“I am proud of our Governor and this administration for their steadfast commitment to investing in renewable energy technologies,” said Representative Denise Andrews. “Heating and energy costs are a significant factor for companies doing business in this region, as they are for the wallets and household budgets of my constituents. I am very excited by today’s announcement and the significant additional resources to push us even further.”

The Patrick Administration’s aggressive clean energy initiatives have made Massachusetts a leader in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and emissions reductions. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has named Massachusetts number one for two years running. This year, Governor Patrick set a new solar goal after reaching the previous goal of 250 megawatts four years early. The Commonwealth now aims to install 1,600 megawatts of solar capacity by 2020. The clean energy revolution is yielding economic benefits as well, with 11.8 percent job growth in the last year and 24 percent growth in the last two years; nearly 80,000 people are employed in the clean tech industry in Massachusetts.