BOSTON (SHNS) – Gov. Maura Healey thinks changes need to be made to the Mass Save program that conducts home energy assessments and offers rebates to help Bay State residents save money on energy bills.
Climate Chief Melissa Hoffer wrote in a report released Tuesday that the program “continues to support fossil-fuel heating systems” and that “there are inefficiencies in the collaborative decision making, staffing, and leadership structure,” and recommended major reform.
Healey told the News Service on Thursday that “from what I’ve read” Hoffer “is really onto something in terms of reforms that need to be put in place.”
Mass Save is a collaborative of Massachusetts’ natural gas and electric utility providers meant to increase energy efficiency in residents’ homes.
“The Mass Save program currently is administered by electric and gas utilities,” Hoffer wrote in her report. “It has become increasingly clear, particularly in light of the successes of sister-state entities Efficiency Maine and Efficiency Vermont, that, under the current statutory framework, the Mass Save program is failing to take the steps necessary to achieve the transformative levels of building decarbonization required.”
Vermont and Maine, which Hoffer references as examples of success, run their energy efficiency programs with an independent program administrator, acting separately from electric distribution utilities.
Asked Thursday if she believes utility companies should be removed from the helm of Mass Save, Healey said “I think it involves a host of measures, and I think it’s something we’re going to look at.”
The governor said she saw Hoffer’s recommendations as a way to improve Mass Save and save money for consumers.
On its website, Mass Save says Massachusetts is one of the most energy efficient states in the country and that its programs “empower residents, businesses, and communities to make energy efficient upgrades by offering a wide range of services, rebates, incentives, trainings, and information.”
Hoffer’s report says program administrators “are not directly subject to” the state’s building decarbonization goals, the program operates with a “short term” three-year planning and operations horizon, and Mass Save suffers from “inefficiencies in the collaborative decision making, staffing, and leadership structure.”
“Any reform of Mass Save will need a transition period to ensure that existing markets for energy efficiency services are not disrupted; that said, there is an urgent need to transform Mass Save and that work should occur on a parallel track with more incremental measures to be implemented in the three-year planning cycle,” the report said.
Labor is a part of any major effort and the governor also singled out some of the recommendations around workforce development and engaging young people.
“We know that when it comes to this clean energy transition, and climate tech and climate in particular, there are so many workforce opportunities, so I’m excited about the conversations we can have with our Secretary of Education and others about how to grow that much needed workforce pipeline,” Healey said.
The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center estimates the state’s clean energy workforce will need to grow by an additional 29,700 full-time workers to meet the state’s statutorily-mandated greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals by 2030. The offshore wind industry alone is projected to grow by 724 percent in Massachusetts by 2030.
Hoffer suggested a May 2024 deadline for the state to develop “a comprehensive, cross-agency plan to build the clean energy, climate, and resilience workforce that includes measurable targets and goals” as she said current efforts “remain insufficient to prepare the Commonwealth workforce for the unprecedented energy system changes that are taking place and will continue over the next several decades.”
“When you think about the number of electricians, for example, who we’re going to need to employ in the coming years. It’s an exciting opportunity to work with our community colleges, to work with their vocational programs, to work with the trades, for example, to grow the number of electricians,” Healey said.
The governor said she was excited about the idea of a Youth Climate Corps. The Climate Office suggested creating a corps to provide volunteer opportunities and youth-focused programs to prepare young people “for good-paying jobs in clean energy and climate resilience.”
“I’m excited about what that means for engaging our young people who have made really clear that they need action now on climate,” Healey said.