Massachusetts’ new $668 million three-year energy efficiency plan is awaiting approval from the state Department of Public Utilities. This plan include provisions to increase outreach and expand eligibility in underserved communities and pay utilities for providing services in these neighborhoods.
Massachusetts’ energy efficiency programs have been hailed as some of the most progressive and effective in the country. One element of their efforts is Mass Save, which is a collaborative of electric and gas utilities that provides no-cost energy audits, rebates on efficient appliances, discounts on weatherization, and other energy efficiency services, funded by a small fee on consumers’ utility bills.
Advocates have long said these programs fall short when it comes to serving members of environmental justice communities. A 2020 study by the utilities showed that residents in communities with more people of color, fewer English speakers, more renters, and lower household incomes received services from Mass Save at significantly lower rates than those in more affluent, whiter areas.
To address this, the plan proposes a performance incentive for achieving benefits for moderate-income customers and for residents of 38 communities across the state designated as environmental justice areas. Nearly $24 million is budgeted for electric utilities and $15 million for gas utilities. These totals represent rates that are 20% higher than standard for electric services and 55% higher for gas. The plan also earmarks $136 million to provide services for what it calls moderate-income residents. Existing programs offer certain benefits, such as no-cost insulation and heating system upgrades, for households defined as low-income. However, some families earn too much to qualify for these offers, but would still struggle to afford the upfront cost of energy efficiency services.
Sarah Shemkus, "Massachusetts’ new efficiency plan puts a priority on underserved communities", contributed by Morgan Sarao, The Energy Rights Project, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 15 December 2021, accessed 10 December 2023. https://energyrights.info/content/massachusetts’-new-efficiency-plan-puts-priority-underserved-communities