Baker clean heat commission faces time squeeze
New commission would seemingly report too late
This story has been updated with a comment from the Baker administration.
A LITTLE OVER a month ago, the Boston Globe reported that the Baker administration was woefully behind in one phase of its overall plan for addressing climate change. The plan called for converting 100,000 homes a year to heating and cooling with electricity instead of fossil fuels. In fact, the Globe reported, just 461 homes made the switch last year.
The story was a direct hit to the administration’s climate credibility, and raised questions about whether it was up to the challenge of reorienting the energy underpinnings of the state’s economy. Equally concerning, there was no one from the administration quoted in the story explaining why the program was lagging and what’s being done about it.
Then earlier this week, the administration leaked to the Globe information on an executive order the governor was signing creating a first-in-the-nation Commission on Clean Heat, whose job it will be to ramp up home conversions using emission caps and financial incentives – tools already deployed in the electricity sector and possibly soon in transportation.
The order indicated the commission would consist of up to 22 people from diverse backgrounds and have until November 30, 2022, to come up with a set of policy recommendations.
But that date doesn’t square with the requirements of the climate change law that took effect in June. The law sets statewide emissions targets at five-year intervals through 2050 and also calls for binding targets in six key industry subsectors along the way, including two that would be the focus of the new commission – commercial and industrial heating and cooling and residential heating and cooling.
The initial targets in the industry subsectors are supposed to be set by July 1, 2022, months before Baker’s new commission will even report.
Craig Gilvarg, the director of communications for the executive office of energy and environmental affairs, said the late reporting date won’t matter. “While the commission’s tenure will extend through the end of 2022, its work will play a critical role in informing the administration’s work to finalize the Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2025 and 2030, which is due July 1, 2022.”
Gilvarg said the Baker administration “is a national leader on climate change.”The governor was never a fan of the binding targets for the industry categories. In the back and forth maneuvering over the bill on Beacon Hill, he first tried to eliminate them and then tried to designate them for planning purposes only. Each time the Legislature insisted on binding limits.
Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, the co-chair of the Legislature’s Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee and one of the architects of the climate change law, said he is troubled by the administration’s slow pace of action and apparent disdain for the deadlines set in the law.