EFFICIENCY BILL BURNS BRIGHT IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
BY JONAH KURMAN-FABER, MAY 24th, 2018
Massachusetts residents and business owners may soon find another way to cut back their utility bills. “An Act Relative to Expanding Resource Efficiency in the Commonwealth”, filed by Representative Frank Smizik of Brookline, promotes increased energy and water efficiency standards and saves both residents and businesses serious money. Here’s the quick bill breakdown:
- The bill establishes efficiency requirements for certain products sold in Massachusetts
- These standards are based on the federal ENERGY STAR program, EPA’s WaterSense program, and the California Energy Commission.
What products are covered?
These changes will provide massive savings and emission reductions. The Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP) finds that the requirements would save residents, businesses, and governments over $160 million annually and reduce electricity consumption by nearly 3 percent by 2025, not to mention nearly 5 billion gallons of water (equivalent to 75,000 households annual usage) that will be saved yearly.
Using efficient products has huge benefits for the environment. According to ASAP, this bill will save over 173,000 metric tons of CO2 per year by 2025, which is the equivalent of taking nearly 40,000 cars off the road.
Broad support for the bill, including Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) and the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), makes sense given Massachusetts’ exceptionally high energy prices. Residential rates are 70 percent higher than the national average. Commercial rates aren’t far behind, sitting at 60 percent above average. Industrial electricity, however, is a whopping 120 percent more expensive than the national average. Considering that most electricity payments go to out-of-state entities, the potential savings and returns on the local economy for efficiency measures are massive.
“This bill makes sense from an industry, consumer, and political perspective,” says Frank Smizik, Chairman of the House Committee on Climate Change. Adding, “it has the potential to save money, cut emissions, and help industry with new product development. We’re feeling optimistic.”
However, a critical question looms – will these standards increase the cost of appliances in the commonwealth? The answer is no. Compliance across most of these product lines is already cost-competitive and will yield savings from day one. Virtually all products covered yield net savings for consumers within two years. These efficient products are already sensible purchases – the bill simply relieves the burden on consumers to do the math when shopping for appliances and fixtures.
“It’s a no-brainer,” comments Marianne DiMascio of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. “We have support from utilities, environmental organizations, consumer groups, industry trade associations, and manufacturers. Such widespread support for a bill is rather unusual.”
States must make an effort now in order to keep pace with new energy and water saving technology, which has significantly progressed since Northeast states updated their efficiency standards between 2005 and 2011. As the federal administration has missed legal deadlines to set new standards of their own, it is up to states to lay the groundwork.
Similar legislation was signed by Governor Scott of Vermont earlier this week. Rhode Island has filed efficiency standards legislation as well, and manufacturers in the Northeast are on board. Much like the auto industry’s current scramble to preserve national auto fuel standards, manufacturers recognize that when key economic states create their own standards, it’s in their interest to have the rest of the country follow suit. Uniform policy is good for business.
For seven years, Massachusetts has maintained a #1 rank in the country for energy efficiency. However, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) scores Massachusetts 0 out of 2 on appliance standards, whereas California, who is a close second in national ranking, has already passed many of the efficiency standards proposed in the bill. Rep. Smizik’s legislation will go a long way in ensuring that we maintain our position at the forefront of energy efficiency policy.
The bill currently sits in House Ways and Means Committee after favorable reception in the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. Similar provisions are also included in the Senate clean energy omnibus bill, which sits in Senate Ways and Means.
JONAH KURMAN-FABER POLICY AND RESEARCH ASSOCIATE