Governor Baker could embrace electric power, as state pushes to cut emissions

BOSTON (State House Press Service) – To achieve the required 50% reduction in statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, the Baker administration says about one-third of Massachusetts homes will need to be heated and cooled with electric heat pumps, and Governor Charlie Baker is exploring whether it makes sense for his Swampscott home to be among them.

“I’m actually going to ask someone to come and see my house and see what they think about it,” Baker said Tuesday morning, adding that his communications team would be mad at him for sharing the details. “But I think there’s like a mythology that heat pumps won’t work in self-contained single-family homes in a cold climate like this. Well, I’d like to put that to the test. And I think given the advancement in technology out there, that’s probably not true anymore.”

The governor’s response came during a discussion with Boston Globe climate reporter Sabrina Shankman about the steps needed to trigger a widespread shift from fossil-fuel home heating and gasoline-powered cars to efficient heat pumps. for residential and zero-emission vehicle heating and cooling.

Last week, the Baker administration detailed a little more about what it will take to achieve the statewide 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by the end of the day. end of this decade. Specifically for the residential heating sector, the administration’s Clean Energy and Climate Plan proposes to target reductions of 27% by 2025 and 44% by 2030.

“For residential and commercial buildings, we want one-third of homes to have tighter building envelopes and to be heated and cooled by electric heat pumps,” the Undersecretary for Energy and Climate Solutions said. Judy Chang last week at a public hearing on the administration’s proposals. for the 2025 and 2030 Clean Energy and Climate Plans.

While the switch to heat pumps is seen as a key cog in the state’s energy transition, most Massachusetts homeowners aren’t as interested as Baker in seeing if the technology might work for their own homes.

Read more: Boston College opens studio for new history podcast

A new survey by the MassINC Polling Group has revealed that 48% of homeowners never plan to install electric heat pumps or have no intention of doing so.

Thirteen percent said they had already installed an electric heat pump, five percent said they planned to install one next year, another five percent said it would happen within the next two years, six percent said they planned to install a heat pump in three to four years, and another six percent said it would take them five years or more before installing a heat pump.

Another key part of the state’s climate and energy policy is to connect large-scale offshore wind generation to the grid. Massachusetts already has approximately 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind energy under contract and the acquisition of an additional 1,600 MW is nearing completion. But Baker said on Tuesday that the Maine referendum that has so far sunk the New England Clean Energy Connect transmission project has him worried about whether the promise of offshore wind will be realized.

“If you really want to electrify a lot of things that aren’t electrified right now, you have to be prepared to recognize that it’s going to take quite a lot of investment in what I call a kind of courage to get there, and a lot of it. It’s transmission,” the governor said. “It makes me very worried. To tell you the truth, the Maine thing – which is still in play, OK, it’s in court – but it makes me very nervous whether we’re actually going to get all the offshore wind that we’re talking about, because it’s hundreds and hundreds of transmission connections that, all along the East Coast, we’re going to need to get this done.”

Many Massachusetts residents have similar feelings of concern when it comes to climate change. The MassINC/Globe poll found that while Bay Staters are anxious, sad, compelled to act and stressed by climate change, the issue some equate with the fate of life on Earth is not among the top five areas facing they want Beacon Hill to prioritize.

The survey of 1,890 Massachusetts residents found that less than half of respondents (47%) think climate change should be a high priority for the Massachusetts state government. Five other issues topped climate change on residents’ list of priorities: health care (73%), education (70%), jobs and the economy (68%), energy and fuel (64%) and taxes (51%).

Climate change was the only one of six issues surveyed that a double-digit percentage of residents (19 percent) said should be a low priority for Beacon Hill. But residents also seem to understand the issues: 77% of respondents said climate change would be a very serious or somewhat serious problem for Massachusetts if nothing is done about it.

When a similar survey was conducted in 2019, 54% of residents said climate change should be a high priority for the state government. Richard Parr, director of research at the MassINC Polling Group, attributed some of the decline to the emergence of other concerns, such as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

“Massachusettsians are still concerned about climate change, but other pressing concerns weigh in on them as well. News about the need for climate action can also struggle to break through,” Parr said.

Asked about the poll results Tuesday morning during a Boston Globe virtual chat, Baker said it made sense to him that other issues topped climate concerns on the public’s list of immediate priorities.

“I’m not surprised that, at the moment, there are other things that they’re more concerned about. That doesn’t mean they’re less concerned about that, they’re just more concerned about some of those things that are right in front of them,” Baker said. “And if you’re having trouble paying your rent because it’s gone up 50%, or your property taxes on your house, or you’re having trouble filling your tank, I I’m not surprised that right now in relation to these things, something that is a concern and has been a concern and will continue to be a concern for people might be set back a bit at the moment.”

The results of the survey, sponsored by the Barr Foundation and conducted in conjunction with the Boston Globe, come from live telephone interviews and online interviews in English and Spanish between March 23 and April 5.

Written by Colin Young/SHNS.