With 27 years to go, Massachusetts lays out its plan to overhaul everything from cars to home heating, all in hopes of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Released last week, the “2050 Clean Energy and Climate Plan” provides details on the steps the state will take to achieve its lofty goal.
Acknowledging the “unique and potentially irreversible threat” of climate change, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Bethany Card wrote in her introduction that the report “underlines the Commonwealth’s collective plan of action for a future in which the Energy used to heat our homes and businesses, power our vehicles, and generate electricity is cost-effective, equitable, and relies primarily on clean, renewable resources.
To reach net zero by 2050, the state plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 85% from 1990 levels and rely on carbon sequestration to absorb and store the remaining emissions. .
Here are some highlights of the plan:
Over the next few years, Massachusetts plans to electrify 97% of light vehicles on the road, or about five million cars. According to the plan, 93% of medium and heavy vehicles – more than 350,000 in total – would also be electrified or non-emitting.
In 2021, there were just 26,101 all-electric vehicles registered in Massachusetts, according to the state’s Clean Energy and Climate Dashboard.
The plan includes previous vehicle emission standards, which ensure that all new cars sold in the state by 2035 – and the majority of new medium and heavy vehicles as well – will be electric.
To ease the transition, Massachusetts will stop offering incentives to those who buy electric vehicles and instead encourage car owners to retire their gas-powered vehicles, according to the report. The state is also working to improve public transportation, invest in housing near public transportation, and develop a plan for public electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
The report acknowledges that some sectors of the economy – including planes, ships and long-haul trucks – will be difficult to electrify, and clean alternative fuels could play a role in reducing emissions.
The state’s vision for 2050 will also change how Bay Staters heat and cool their buildings.
“The majority of residential and commercial buildings will have airtight building envelopes, be weatherized to optimize energy efficiency, and be heated and cooled by efficient electric heat pumps or other zero-emission technologies,” the report states.
The plan calls for a 95% reduction in emissions from residential heating and cooling, as well as a 92% reduction for commercial and industrial buildings.
If all goes as planned, 80% of Massachusetts homes – more than 2.8 million – will be heated and cooled using electric heat pumps by 2050. By comparison, a total of 33,210 heat pumps were installed using incentives in 2020 and 2021, according to the state’s scorecard.
The plan also addresses the development of a building decarbonization clearinghouse and a “green bank” to provide financial and technical assistance to those making the change.
And all that electricity?
To power all those cars and homes, Massachusetts will need to “increase the amount of clean energy on its electric grid through investments in offshore wind, hydroelectricity, transmission systems, solar PV, distribution and storage of energy,” according to the report.
By 2050, the state plans to increase its electrical load by 2.5 times compared to 2020, with 97% of electricity consumption coming from clean and renewable sources.
The 2050 roadmap comes just days before Governor-elect Maura Healey takes office, bringing with her a new “climate chief”, Environmental Protection Agency veteran Melissa Hoffer.
“The creation of this position sends a clear message that Massachusetts is a global leader in the fight against climate change and will be at the heart of all the work we do in the administration,” Healey previously said.
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