Energy Efficiency Bill Gains Traction on Beacon Hill

BOSTON, Mass.—The state legislature’s Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight has favorably reported out a bill filed by Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) that aims to increase energy efficiency in state buildings. The bill measures the energy implications of all resources used. Increased interest in energy efficiency and carbon reduction plans in the Hub make this a hot topic as the bill—MA S1479, An Act Promoting the Use of Total Energy Impact Analysis—remains with the Senate Clerk awaiting review. From there it will move on to other committees.

“This legislation is the next step in making Massachusetts government truly sustainable by measuring all aspects of the construction or renovation of state buildings that impact energy use,” said Senator Eldridge. “Looking beyond the mere details of what kind of energy source powers a building, Senate Bill MA S1479 will require an analysis of variables such as construction materials, architectural design and water use to help Massachusetts continue to meet the ambitious carbon emission reduction goals of the Global Warming Solutions Act.”

The Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), signed by Governor Patrick in 2008, created a framework for reducing heat-trapping emissions to levels that scientists believe give us a decent chance of avoiding the worst effects of global climate change. It requires it requires all sectors of the economy to reduce their emissions in order to cut total greenhouse has emissions by 25 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

According to the 2013 GWSA progress report, the Commonwealth is on track for its initial goals, but some shortfalls still remain. However, the GWSA does not yet take publicly owned buildings’ total lifetime emissions into account. Sen. Eldridge’s bill aims to fix that.

“When the GWSA passed in 2008, I don’t think the idea of a comprehensive energy analysis of public buildings was considered,” the senator said. “The GWSA was more focused on encouraging the development of new alternative energy than about conserving energy in buildings.”

Currently regulations require the Division of Capital Asset Management to perform a life cycle cost analysis (LCCA) to estimate the true cost of a building or its components over its anticipated lifetime. That means DCAM needs to consider the life-cycle cost of implementing energy efficient and water conserving technologies, including the use of renewable fuels, in new construction or major renovation projects.

However, resources like electricity, water, transportation, construction materials, heating and waste management also have climate impacts alongside their environmental costs. MA S1479 would require the state to measure the energy implications of all the resources it uses in new construction projects or major renovations to state buildings.

“On a legislative trip to Israel to learn more about water infrastructure, I became friends with an Israeli entrepreneur who had recently started a business in Boston that was performing energy analyses for government agencies, companies, and educational institutions, and he suggested the idea to file this bill,” Eldridge explained.

The senator hopes his bill will help make the state aware of the total energy impact such projects have and establish benchmarks to improve sustainability.

“S1479 ensures that a proper analysis looks at all of the factors that result in the how sustainable a building is,” said Eldridge. “For example, if a certain type of material is used to construct a building, where did that material come from? If it was imported from another country, thousands of miles away, then you have to factor in the fossil fuels used to transport that material, which would make the building as a whole less sustainable.”

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