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The Patrick administration is announcing a couple more initiatives to get the state onto more efficient, renewable energy. From their press release:
Governor Deval Patrick has set two new goals for energy efficiency and renewable energy: making all new malls and “big box” retail stores energy efficient and powered in part by solar energy by 2010 and offering a super-efficient building code as a local option for municipalities looking to take the lead in combating global climate change.
With the U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild International Conference under way at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Governor Patrick directed Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs to initiate a dialogue with the development community to put together the technical assistance, financing support, and regulatory standards to facilitate the universal adoption of solar power and super-efficient buildings for large retail stores and malls, typically greater than 50,000 square feet in size.
Secretary Bowles noted that there are already substantial financial incentives in place for solar power, but that only a few large retailers have taken advantage of them. These incentives include Commonwealth Solar, the state’s rebate program, which provides as much as 40 percent of the cost of a solar energy installation, and federal investment tax credits for solar installations, which were recently extended for another eight years.
“We want to work with the development community to make them aware of the opportunity they have before them in energy efficiency and solar energy, and work with them to find out what they need to take advantage of that opportunity,” said Secretary Bowles. “Malls and big box stores have big flat roofs that are naturals for solar power, and Governor Patrick wants to see them put to use generating clean, renewable energy.”
In addition, Governor Patrick has asked staff at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Department of Public Safety to develop a super-efficient energy code for consideration by the Board of Building Regulations and Standards as a local option for municipalities that want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from development in their communities.
Under the Green Communities Act, the comprehensive energy reform bill signed by the Governor in July, Massachusetts is required to incorporate the latest version of the International Energy Conservation Code in its building code within one year of its adoption. The IECC approved its 2009 standards in September, and the BBRS is expected to update the Massachusetts energy code to include these standards sometime next year.
The new law also allows the BBRS to adopt standards event more stringent than the IECC, and Governor Patrick proposes the Board do so by creating a second, super-efficient code that local officials could adopt as a local option.
“The state is already adopting the highest standards of energy efficiency for its building code, but some municipalities would like to go further,” said Governor Patrick. “An alternative code that is 20 to 30 percent more efficient they can adopt as an option will give cities and towns the tool they are looking for to reduce their community’s carbon footprint as development moves forward.”
This “stretch” code, which will be presented to the BBRS for adoption in the coming months, will be based on established national voluntary above-code efficiency standards that have shown themselves to be cost-effective in producing energy savings, such as the Energy Star For Homes program and the New Buildings Institute’s “Core Performance” program for commercial properties. As an optional addendum to the state building code, the stretch code would be voted on by the BBRS following a public hearing. Once approved by the BBRS, any municipality choosing to adopt the stretch code would have to do so by a vote of town meeting or city council.
So, if there’s more solar going up on all new big retail and mall buildings, adding energy to the power grid, and many cities and towns adopt the more stringent building codes, there’s no need to build more polluting power plants. If we can reduce our usage in this state (and there are a lot of low-hanging fruits to achieve this quite quickly), then this state should have to host NO NEW traditional power plants ever again. Maybe even start thinking of closing some older, seriously carbon-polluting dinosaurs. Right?
This myth that “well, the future isn’t here yet so we still need to build CO2-producing power plants in the interim in order to sustain the current system” is bull. Don’t listen to it. You’d be surprised how rapid the tipping point towards lessening our dependence on fossil fuels will come with the right initiatives in place. I mean, do you like paying more every year for natural gas to heat your home? I sure as hell don’t. The fault for that lies at higher demand for supplies…because more natural gas power plants like the one proposed in Billerica are being built. I say it’s high time to stop the insanity.
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