Environment Mass. Outlines Ways State Can Get On Emission-Cutting Track

Aug 17, 2015

A pairs of reports by the advocacy group Environment Massachusetts highlight what it calls “game-changing” opportunities that can rapidly cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Environment Massachusetts says the commonwealth is not on track to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050, a goal set in the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act. To get back on track, the group outlines 10 potential solutions ranging from solar and offshore wind power to urbanization and transportation behaviors. In conjunction with the “Cool Solutions” report, the group highlights companies working in the clean energy or energy efficiency fields, defining them as “Cool Innovators.” During a conference call with reporters, Ben Hellerstein of Environment Massachusetts said one of the ways to reduce carbon emissions is through carsharing opportunities.

“One of the companies that we profile in ‘Cool Innovators’ is Zipcar which folks may know is based out of Boston,” Hellerstein said. “They estimate that each of their carsharing vehicles on average can eliminate the need for 15 individuals to own private cars. They’ve also found that when folks sign up for Zipcar they tend to reduce their driving on the whole. So it actually leads to an overall reduction in vehicle miles traveled.”

Hellerstein says a transition to electric vehicles and investments in public transportation systems would also reduce emissions. Environment Massachusetts cites a 2014 report from the Global Warming Solutions Project estimating the commonwealth will fall 20 percent short, or 4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, of the emission cutbacks needed to achieve the 2020 target of 25 percent reduction. Environment Massachusetts is proposing that Governor Charlie Baker’s administration adopt an interim target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

The innovators report also notes that the clean energy sector employs more than 88,000 people in Massachusetts. That’s up by about 28,000 since 2010. Geoff Chapin is CEO of Next Step Living, a Boston-based company that helps homeowners in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York implement energy-saving solutions. He spoke in support of the recently released federal Clean Power Plan using Massachusetts as a model.

“Gross state product has increased 68 percent since 1990 and population has gone up 10 percent at the same time that energy use has actually gone down by 1 percent, total greenhouse gas is down 16 percent and power sector gas is down 41 percent,” Chapin explained. “We feel that this is a very powerful model for what the Clean Power Plan will do across the country.”

Founded in 2008, Next Step Living has grown from 15 employees to more than 650 along with 500-plus subcontractors completing work in 110,000 homes, according to Chapin. He and other business leaders on the conference call praised Massachusetts for its incentives in the renewable energy sector and called for consistency and predictability going forward. Chapin says his company also adds new products to its offerings.

“One of those is a product called EcoThermal which works in restaurants,” Chapin said. “Restaurants have stoves running 18 hours a day with flames. All that heat is typically exhausted and wasted. The best use we’ve heard for it so far was they use it to melt snow in the parking lot. Now this product captures all that heat and uses it to heat the hot water for restaurants. This product is unique. It’s patented globally. We acquired the company because we knew we could get it out there. It saves restaurants $4,000 to $6,000 a year.”

Chapin says EcoThermal saves 19 tons of carbon for each location where it’s installed. He added that if every restaurant in the U.S. used the product it would reduce the nation’s emissions by 0.32 percent.